Another week, another proposal from a local government think thank scapegoating the fat. Some Tories somewhere want to introduce a new system to monitor obese people who are allegedly sitting at home all day filling their faces with squirty cheese, rather than getting their bloody trainers on, working off some of that excess baggage and finding themselves a job.
The plans include smart cards to track whether obese housing and council benefits claimants have been to the gym or not, and cutting said benefits if they don't go. Is that taking government surveillance to a whole new senseless, intrusive, Daily Mail level? A genuine attempt at helping very fat, unhealthy, unhappy people improve their lives? Or a ruse so that we don't have to spend large chunks of our tax paying for treatments for heart disease and all the other medical afflictions you end up with if you spend your entire day eating industrial vats of mashed potato?
We went and asked the public a question to find out: Should the government monitor fat people?
Billy, 25, barber: It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, really. I don’t think people should be allowed to sit about and be fat and lazy, but – at the same time – they shouldn’t be forced to go to the gym.
The system is too easy to play and people are playing it.
Which I suppose is why the government are trying to make overweight people go to the gym, so we don't have to pay for their heart disease treatment in our taxes.
It’s all about health, isn’t it? There’s trying to help somebody and then there’s forcing somebody by saying that you’re not going to get your money by not doing it, which I don’t agree with.
Do you like fat people?
Not particularly. Here's something that annoys me about fat people: I’ll go to Topman – I’m a 28 waist – and I’ll pay £40 for a pair of jeans. I’ll look at the back and there’s a pair of 38 waist jeans for £40.
Yeah, they really should add an extra few quid for every inch.
Felicity, 21, works at a magazine: They’re making them go to the gym? That's not right. I think it’s up to those people if they want to go or not.
But should they be receiving benefits if they’re sat at home all day, not trying to get healthier/a job?
What – as in their gym benefits?
No, their housing benefits.
Oh right. So their benefits should go towards making them go to the gym instead? I guess that makes sense.
If you were morbidly obese, would you go to the gym?
Yeah. I think it should be encouraged, but it shouldn’t be forced. I wouldn’t want to go to jail for not going to the gym.
Max (left) 27, sales and Anon, 19, marketing.
Max: They’re doing what?
Anon: That's so bad, man. It’s an absolute joke. If they’re overweight, who’s to say it’s not due to a thyroid problem? Who’s to say that there’s not any kind of medical reason for them to be that size? And now you’re going to discriminate against them due to size. Are there any more "isms" they can find? Like, will they be discriminating against the colour of your eyes next?
Yeah, it's a fucking conspiracy, man. But wait – what if the fat person has just eaten too much food?
Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with their weight. We should get them all off their bums and back into work instead of those with disabilities. I know so many people with disabilities who are getting put back into work when they physically can't work. People who really do have a problem are getting penalised by fat slobs who are just sitting on the couch.
What should happen to the "fat slobs"?
Their benefits should be cut.
That's the whole point. So you've come full circle since your initial outrage?
Max: It’s not just fat people who are doing that, though. You have crackheads who are just sitting on the couch, too. You can’t just discriminate against fat people because they have a big belly. Alcoholics spend their Jobseekers down the pub.
Good point. We should set up some kind of anonymous scheme to get people off alcohol.
Duncan, 23 and Rupert, 21, both work in travel.
Duncan: It’s a good plan, as long as it’s not going to make them unhealthier.
What do you mean?
I mean, if they’re physically able to go to the gym, then of course they should be going to the gym.
Should their benefits be cut if they don’t go?
If the reason they’re on benefits is due to indulgence, then they should be persuaded to go to the gym.
Rupert: What if it’s for another reason? What if they have an illness?
Duncan: If it’s because they have a mental illness, then it’s not a reason to cut their benefits.
Should a person who eats too much McDonald's be left to die in their home?
Rupert: No, they should go and get a job. You can still get a job when you're fat. Just because you’re overweight, that's no reason to not go and get one.
Sandy, 39, engineer: It’s cruel. If someone wants to be obese, let them be obese. Everybody is responsible for their own health. Obesity is a disability in itself.
Should our taxes go towards their benefits if they’re just sitting at home not trying to help themselves?
They’re disabled. Someone who has an accident on the street could be disabled, but we still pay for them to stay in bed. Life is about helping each other regardless of the situation.
But isn't it more helpful to get overweight people to go to the gym? That way they might actually get better.
Alexandra, 22, drama student: It’s brilliant!
Finally, some positivity.
I think it might change something at some point. It might not be the right thing to do right now, but over some years it might be good.
Do you like obese people?
I’m friends with some, yeah.
Would they go to the gym if forced?
I try to make them go all the time. But yeah, I think they will go.
Previously - What Would Jesus Do On New Year's Eve?