'I'm up for the fight': Starmer vows to fight critics over 'nanny state' toothbrushing in schools and vape crackdown

10 January 2024, 22:46 | Updated: 10 January 2024, 23:46

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to fight critics who say he’s too “nanny state”.
Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to fight critics who say he’s too “nanny state”. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to fight critics who say he’s too “nanny state” as he launched Labour’s fresh child health crackdown.

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The Labour chief insisted that it was the job of government to intervene in families because the health of the nation – and taxpayer’s cash – was at stake.

He promised that if he wins the next election he will help bring up the healthiest generation of children ever.

Labour has promised to bring in a 9pm watershed for junk food advertising, launch breakfast clubs in primary schools, and ban vapes being advertised to kids.

They will also bring in a supervised toothbrushing programme for younger kids, and have pledged to slash mental health waiting lists.

Ahead of a visit to Manchester to flesh out his health mission, Sir Keir said: "We want to encourage good parenting, but I don't think we can just turn our back on this.

"One of the proposals we put out there was supervised tooth brushing for three to five-year-olds, and lots of people say 'oh that's nanny state'.

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"When I first read the statistic that for 6-10 year olds the biggest cause of admissions to hospital is decayed teeth, I was really struck, that is shocking.

"I don't think you can simply say 'well that's none of our business' - it is our business because it's the health of the child, but also once you've got a child admitted to hospital, it's costing the taxpayer a fortune.

"I'm not saying it's the state and not parents, it's got to be both. I'm up for that fight if people want to say to me "well I don't think you should be doing that, just let it happen'.

"We need to take on this question of the nanny state. The moment you do anything on children’s health, people say ‘you’re going down the road of a nanny state’. We want to have that fight."

Fresh Labour stats show that British kids are not growing as tall as before, are fatter than many other nations, and less happy too.

OECD data shows the height of the average British five-year-old girl has fallen by 27 places in international rankings over the last three decades, with the average British five-year-old boy falling by 33 places on the height league table.

And the UK is estimated to have more obese children than France, Germany, Poland and Slovenia.

More than 200,000 children on an English mental health waiting list. 

Labour also revealed that their supervised toothbrushing plans for kids would take place inside their breakfast clubs – in a bid to avoid a row with teaching unions.