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A lightweight response to child obesity

It's early days of course, but it's not often that you find yourself describing new Prime Minister Theresa May as wishy-washy

It’s early days of course, but it’s not often that you find yourself describing new Prime Minister Theresa May as wishy-washy. Like her or not, she comes with an undoubted clang of Sturm und Drang. In the hands of, say, Michael Gove her catchphrase, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, would be a mere tautologous evasion. Ms May makes it sound like an intractable law of the universe.

But if you want to see a less sure-footed side to Ms May, you need only look to the Department of Health’s new Childhood Obesity strategy. Trailed heavily by her predecessor David Cameron, its many delays made it start to resemble a mini-Chilcot report. But there the comparisons end. Compared to Chilcot’s heft, the strategy offered an ironically skinny nine pages. And its launch was timed not just for parliament’s recess, but also for Ms May’s own summer holiday: the policy equivalent of dumping someone by text message.

A new document released this week by Public Health England, detailing its role in its implementation, is even thinner gruel. Although after highlighting breakfast cereals as the chief sugary menace to children, PHE might take that as a compliment. It promises to set targets for, and engage with manufacturers. And that’s it. If the latter don’t like it, they can walk away.

But a problem of this scale needs legal sanctions. Bans on advertising near schools, and enforced cuts in the levels of sugar and salt would be a start. A rethink would give this new Iron Lady a chance to show some of her mettle.

Mike Shallcross, acting editor, Independent Nurse