Archived: Waste Not, Want Not!

Originally published as a FB Note, on 7 July 2008 at 22:27

"If you don't eat it all up, you'll have it again for breakfast"
“If you don’t eat it all up, you’ll have it again for breakfast”

Rampantly rising oil prices, a swathe of unchecked knife murders, the credit crunch, falling house prices, rising inflation, international terrorism, overflowing prisons – the list of the UK’s current woes goes on and on.

Yes, it’s no fun being Prime Minister right now but Our Charismatic Leader continues to march on where others fear to tread by insisting we all throw less food away. Now, I have no problems with the sentiment here – I hate wasting food, myself – but do we really feel that this is the issue that should be most taxing the man who runs our country?Moreover, by taking on such an issue, one that most of us associate with memories of our childhood, exasperated parents and threats of not being allowed to leave the table, Brown risks becoming seen as the physical embodiment of the Nanny State, surely a public perception that very few leaders would willingly embrace.

I once read an article (which as far as I could tell was apolitical) which claimed that wars and economic crises apart, every Conservative government would eventually fall because after continual cuts in public service, aimed at creating tax cuts would eventually wear out public goodwill. Conversely, every Labour Government, having been elected on a ticket of reform and reinvestment would eventually run out of things to reform or ideas that work. In time, the higher taxes and increased obsession with ever-decreasing improvements would also exhaust public patience.

In other words, so the theory goes, after a number of years, the two main British parties revert to stereotype and almost legislate themselves out of power.

I don’t know if Gordon is familiar with this notion, but it seems as if he is single-handedly trying to prove it, especially with his very earnest insistence that such wastefulness costs each family about £420 a year.

Official National Statistics figures show that the UK has around 17.1m families. Imagine each paying out £420. That’s £7.2bn. Coincidentally, that’s exactly the figure that the Commons Public Accounts Committee accused ministers of spending on private consultants between 2004 and 2007, a practice they described as “sheer profligacy”. It seems, Mr. Brown that miscalculating our own grocery requirements is not the only way we can all cost ourselves £420, is it? And he has the gall to lecture the nation about “unnecessary purchases”!

When times are hard, it’s even harder to countenance waste. With every quarter-point rise, I suspect the nation’s household freshness threshold lowers a little further. We all become a little less extravagant and a little more prudent. The thing is, Mr. Brown, that ethos applies to our vote as much as it does to our shopping basket.