Warning: This post was published more than 8 years ago.
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Some years ago, when I used to be involved in public speaking and debating competitions, I relied heavily on one strategy: Choose the most ridiculous point of view, and argue forcefully for it.
Thus, over a time, I ended up arguing in favour of littering, staunchly defending the poaching of endangered species in Africa, and strongly advocating the bypass an upcoming election and the simple investiture of me as the next Prime Minister.
This strategy always served me well. It allowed for wit, a re-examination of issues from a completely new perspective, and – ultimately – the chance to guide people down a seemingly sensible path to a position where the most absurd solution suddnely becomes the most logical.
This is actually something that’s really quite simple to do, and it always attracts attention – and, in my context, often attracted prizes.
Having seen today’s Daily Mail, I’m beginning to wonder whether Amanda Platell is employing the same strategy to boost her fledgling career. Unfortunately for her, she’s terrible at it.
In an admittedly arresting column, Platell tries to argue against preventative medicine. There are many well rehearsed arguments against preventative medicine, not least that the logical conclusion is that everybody is in need of some form of ‘treatment’, the cost of which will ultimately be unsustainable within the NHS.
But Platell tries to be provocative, by picking on ‘fat people’. She suggests that fat people should not be supported by the NHS to lose weight, as the money would be better spent on Herceptin and Aricept.
She’s comparing the furore surrounding the delayed provision of drugs whilst evidence about them is weighed against their cost effectiveness with the provision of weight loss treatments which are not only proven to work, but allow a person to improve their physical wellbeing to a point that they are likely to use fewer NHS resources in future.
This would possibly be passably illogical – after all, one has to skirt around the logic of an issue to convince people that something ridiculous is right – had she not then gone and pointed out the flaw in her theory in the fourth sentence, where she points out the long term costs of providing knee replacements, hip replacements, back pain treatments, and mobility aids to fat people. But Amanda! If we stop the people being fat, those costs disappear!
She points out that the patients of her friend who works in an NHS weight-loss clinic – a ‘friend’ she evidently wants to see sacked – don’t know what foods are healthy and unhealthy, and then suggests that withdrawal of services advising them on healthy eating would ‘shock a huge number of the overweight’ into losing weight.
She talks about her childhood in “post-war, food-scarce, ration-booked Britain”, despite growing up in Perth, Australia, and being born three years after rationing ended.
Right at the end of her column, she slips in that alcohol and tobacco are equally ‘the result of individuals choosing an unhealthy lifestyle”, and we should only treat the malignant results of these aberrations rather than stop the original cause.
There was a time when I liked Amanda Platell’s writing. Back in her New Statesman days, her column would be a must-read. I rarely agreed within anything she said, but in a strange way, that made it all the more compelling.
So why is she wasting her time writing sub-standard articles for the Daily Mail – not quite spiteful enough to be Melanie Phillips, not quite outraged enough to be Richard Littlejohn, and not quite far enough up her own backside to be Quentin Letts?