Peter Rhodes on fat-shaming, a shortage of democracy and the Chancellor who could be PM

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Sunak - PM in waiting?
Sunak - PM in waiting?

Most Tory MPs are said to be pleased with Rishi Sunak's Budget. Or are they simply pleased with him, the Chancellor who looks suspiciously like a prime minister in waiting? The Budget was a rare opportunity to see Boris Johnson and his Chancellor together. What a contrast. Johnson looks weary, scruffy and washed out. Sunak, lean-jawed, focused and polished, delivered a speech shot through with inclusiveness and patriotism. He looks and sounds like a statesman.

No surprises in the latest research proving a link between serious Covid-19 and countries with high rates of obesity. It stands to reason that a respiratory infection such as this will spread quickly, and lethally, among people who are so fat they are wheezing even before the virus gets them.

The NHS spends billions of pounds curing sick people but nowhere near enough on keeping the nation fit. And it shies away from the modern crime of “fat shaming.” Why? The battle against smoking, the most successful public-health offensive of our age, relied heavily on casting smokers as Dog Breath Dan or Fag Ash Lil. Embarrassment worked, and many smokers who quit the weed were, with hindsight, delighted to have been shamed into stubbing 'em out.

I suggested last June that some members of the Black Lives Matter campaign with its talk of “white guilt money,” were aiming to extract “colossal sums” in reparations for charities, nations and even individual citizens blighted by the legacy of slavery. Sure enough, Bristol Council has now voted for an "atonement and reparations" plan, recognising the city's role in the transatlantic slave trade. Councillors are urging Parliament to set up a committee to work out how reparations could be delivered. This could run and run.

For a start, how could anyone put a cash price on the alleged disadvantages suffered by a black Briton today caused by something that happened to a distant ancestor sold into slavery 300 years ago? Are we talking a nominal £500 or a life-transforming £1 million?

And who pays? If the descendants of the slave traders, both African and European, could be traced, would it be fair for them to be bankrupted for the long-past sins of their forbears? But if the reparations instead came from general taxation, we'd have the strange prospect of black taxpayers contributing to their own compensation. It's a can of worms.

In the wee small hours of the morning a BBC World Service reporter was attempting to demolish the Chinese government's vicious assault on democracy in Hong Kong. He had the misfortune to confront a spokesman for Beijing who calmly pointed out that democracy comes in many forms. For example, he explained, Americans never directly elect the President of the United States, British citizens are not allowed to vote directly for the Prime Minister, and nobody ever voted for the House of Lords. When you put it like that . . .

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