In this week’s Spectator I have a rant about all those pressure groups you see quoted in all the papers pretty much every day. Some are small, obscure and marginal – Bright Blue, the think tank for Lib Dems who want to play at being Tories, comes to mind – while some sound superficially respectable – the British Medical Association, say. What they all have in common is that they tend, on the whole, to lend far, far too much credibility to a hardcore of professional activists whose tedious and unhelpful opinions we would most of us do better to ignore completely.
Christopher Snowdon is very good on this. In the last month, he has been fighting mano a mano against the health campaigners who think we’re experiencing an “obesity epidemic”, the meddlers who – on no solid evidence whatsoever – would have us impose a minimum price on alcohol, and Action On Sugar, the hysterics who argue that “sugar is the new tobacco” and who previously (under the name Consensus Action on Salt and Health) tried to stop food tasting of anything.
Can you imagine campaigns as ludicrous as this being launched, say, in the 1970s or 1980s? No you can’t because not even the most extreme killjoy zealot would have dared. With bans, as with so many of the fascistic gestures you associate with the authoritarian left, it’s a Pastor Niemoller thing:
First they came for the smokers, but I said nothing for I thought (like Jeremy Clarkson did) it might help me give up; next they came for the boozers and I thought “well I can always drink at home”; next they came for the salt and the sugar and anything deep fried…
Or to put it another way, it works according to the same principles as the “thin end of the wedge” or the “slippery slope.”