RISHI Sunak made a memorable speech to the Tory faithful in Manchester this week. Under the slogan ‘Long-term decisions for a brighter future’, he captured the very essence of what being a Conservative means. His wife Akshata gave a heartwarming and intimate talk on what her husband believes in. The couple, on the Sunday Times Rich List with a combined fortune of £730million, can speak with confidence on behalf of underprivileged and hard-pressed families up and down the land.
Despite making several hugely significant policy announcements, it was the Prime Minister’s decisive action on smoking that drew most attention. The majority of the public saw it for what it is, a sensible and well-thought-through initiative that will save the NHS millions. What a pity some short-sighted naysayers mistakenly called it illogical, illiberal, ill-conceived and infantilising.
The issue of public health has very much been at the core of Conservative values. With almost 8million waiting for treatment on the NHS, shifting the onus to individuals to take elementary care of themselves is a sensible measure.
Cigarettes are just one part of this. While attempts to address the massive harm done by alcohol abuse would guarantee losing millions of votes, the PM recognises that there are other areas where the Government can make positive interventions. One such theme relates to obesity, and the malign role sugar-loaded cakes and biscuits play in this complex picture.
TCW spoke to the PM straight after his speech and asked him for his thoughts on banning foods that were contributing to the harm of the nation.
I started by asking him if he will ban cakes next.
RS: ‘Absolutely not, who doesn’t like a nice slice of cake? In our house a cake spreads joy and love and in a small way is an embodiment of who you are, your desires and dreams. That said, though, one cannot ignore the fact that certain cakes and biscuits, not consumed in moderation, can have a very negative impact on health. That is why I asked a committee to investigate the possibility of taxing certain cakes and biscuits that would in turn help the NHS.’
Has he examples that he could share?
RS: ‘We need to be extremely careful here, accusations of the nanny state could be levelled at us if we didn’t address this difficult issue sensitively. There are certain cakes that should be subject to a higher level of taxation, I am thinking that those with the broadest shoulders, such as an upside-down pineapple cake or possibly a lemon drizzle, could and should pay more. This is by no means prescriptive; there are many other examples such as Victoria sponges, marble cakes and obviously chocolate cakes where people would feel it only correct that they paid their fair share of cake tax.’
Is there a possibility that these taxes could lose Tory votes in the hotly contested red wall boroughs?
RS: ‘Again, this is being examined closely and one suggestion is that we look at exempting certain comestibles that have strongholds in areas where the Conservative message has not yet got through. I would include delicacies such as Dundee Cake, Selkirk Bannocks, Bakewell Tarts, Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, and parkin.’
That is all well and good when it comes to UK cakes and biscuits, but how would this tax be collected on cakes from around the world?
RS: ‘We would need to differentiate between cakes arriving in the UK from the EU and those arriving from farther afield. In the first case, cakes such as Financier, Donauwelle, Bienentisch or Sachertorte would be subject to a type of Windsor Framework agreement. Overseas cakes, such as Ice Cream Cake or Devil’s Food Cake, we have not looked at yet, but there might be some type of double exemption duty that would be easy to apply. One thing I should make clear is that Space Cakes, enjoyed by younger people in the Netherlands, would still be deemed illegal.’
With such clear and popular policies, it is hard to see Sir Keir Starmer making inroads into this impressive and well-organised party.