Latest Covid-related mess overshadows the PM’s plan to curb obesity 

© UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
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Cue the Rocky montage. The PM wants us all to get super fit and healthy. Today sees the unveiling of the government’s plan to curb obesity in the UK, with evidence suggesting that those who are overweight are at greater risk if they contract Covid-19. The proposed plan includes GPs being encouraged to prescribe exercise and a new consultation on banning junk food adverts on TV before 9pm. Labour has slammed the government for kicking the ad ban into the long grass again with a consultation – pointing out that the Tories first announced restrictions on advertising in 2018. On Sunday, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for a “wider approach” to combat obesity, urging the government to “tackle the circumstances in which people live” and focus on the link between poverty and health inequalities.

However, this announcement has been largely overshadowed by the government’s latest Covid-related mess. With no notice, the government announced on Saturday the introduction of a 14-day quarantine period for all travellers coming from Spain – blindsiding those in the country, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, or those booked to go soon. Lots of questions remain unanswered, especially as it seems the government is simply relying on the goodwill of employers to support those workers forced to quarantine. Dominic Raab has claimed that “you cannot be penalised in this country lawfully for following the rules”, but this is a patently naive statement – ignoring the many workers in casual employment; that employees don’t generally have unfair dismissal rights with less than two years in a job; and the fact that the government has not made any changes to statutory sick pay – meaning those facing two weeks of house arrest will officially be entitled to nothing.

Elsewhere, a host of Labour MPs have joined a 48-hour boycott of Twitter over its failure to take action following a string of antisemitic tweets from Grime artist Wiley. Although the party as a whole won’t be joining, figures including shadow cabinet members Kate GreenJonathan ReynoldsLuke PollardLisa Nandy and lots of others have – and many others will be. The protest follows a suspension of the artist’s account by the social media giant after a series of tweets on Friday and Saturday. Some of the posts have been removed, but Twitter has been widely criticised for leaving others visible and for not removing his account altogether. Using the hashtag #NoSafeSpaceforJewHate, Labour MPs have joined the two-day action taking place on Monday and Tuesday this week.

In other labour movement news, the race is underway to replace outgoing UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis after his two decades in the top job. The trade union boss announced earlier this month his intention to retire at the end of 2020. Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea is expected to formally launch her campaign today – pledging to listen to members, back a “new deal for workers” and a national care service. Her fellow assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie launched his campaign last week, while UNISON national executive council member Hugo Pierre has also joined the contest, saying that he is “looking to be the candidate of the left”. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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