How to make public policy these days

The TL:DR version of how to influence public policy these days. Ride hobby horse, spout piffle, invent targets then shout loudly.

You might think we are joking but sadly not. For this is exactly what is happening over sugar.

The hobby horse is, as we have mentioned many a time, the insistence that it is sugar which is causing all that obesity out there. This cannot be true given that calorie intake and sugar intake are both down on the levels of the past. It cannot be rising consumption which is the cause as consumption hasn't been rising.

The spout piffle part is to insist that it is:

 Many believe sugar is the biggest contributor to the obesity epidemic crippling the NHS, and the results, published on Friday, reignited criticism of the failure by the government to take a stronger line in its childhood obesity strategy.

It isn't, as we've been saying. The inventing targets:

Britons are advised that sugar should account for no more than 5% of daily calories, but from 2012-14, the average was 13.4% for those aged between four and 10, 15.2% among 11- to 18-year-olds, 12.3% for adults under 65 and 11.1% for those aged 65 and over, the national diet and nutrition survey (NDNS) found.

This is a particularly cute one because the target itself, that 5%, was only invented after the period being described. It was only invented last year:

Dietary sugar should account for no more than 5% of daily calories consumed, half the previous recommended limit, the UK’s official nutrition advisers have said.

Note again, it's not just that the target is entirely pulled from some nether region it's that it didn't even exist, let alone apply to, the time period being examined. And then finally the shouting louder:

The Action on Sugar chairman, Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said: “Today’s NDNS data shows that children are still consuming almost three times more sugar than the daily maximum recommendation. Theresa May must urgently rethink her pathetic childhood obesity plan that lacks restrictions on the marketing of, and promotions on, products high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

“The strategy must include the implementation of the soft drinks industry levyand a mandatory reformulation programme, as the failed responsibility deal has already proven that a voluntary system does not work.”

We're not meeting an invented target, one that we've only just invented, which shows that compulsion is required to get everyone doing as we wish.

We really don't think this is a sensible way to run a country if we're honest. If it were possible we'd insist these campaigners spend more time with their train sets - there is at least an acknowledged role for the Fat Controller there. In the absence of that being possible we feel they should best be left to howl in the wilderness - and certainly not taken seriously.