Jamie Oliver: “You don’t have to like me! I don’t want any more friends”

The celebrity chef tells Ben Dowell why he is so furious with Theresa May over child nutrition and what he plans to do about it – even if it means annoying people

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Jamie Oliver is all fired up again. The celebrity chef is furious with Theresa May’s Government for apparently failing to follow through on David Cameron’s pledge to tackle childhood obesity.

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He has described the battle to curb the problem of overweight children as a “war” following claims that promises to fight the issue have been watered down by the new Conservative administration.

“Obesity is killing huge amounts of people, well before their time. This is a war, if you are worried about the thing that hurts British people the most, it ain’t ISIS, right?” he tells tonight’s Dispatches on Channel 4.

The programme suggests that Theresa May’s government has actively dismantled David Cameron’s obesity strategy and Oliver wants us to know whatever the consequences. He is not, as he tells RadioTimes.com, in this to generate adulation and acclaim.

“I have been doing this for 20 years,” Oliver says. “The focus of all our energies is always at the youngest and most disadvantaged. All of the moments I have done anything that affects the general population has been driven through that lens.

“But you don’t have to like me! I don’t want any more friends!” he adds.

“I just hope you trust me and I hope if you were in the s*** and you wanted someone to look after your kid they will be those sort of emotions that will drive you and you say to me ‘you can take them for the night’.”

He is not starting up a babysitting service (not yet anyway) but he does realise that his campaigning may not always be in the best interests of his career as the roguish TV chef who burst into the public’s living rooms (and affections) with his debut BBC2 series The Naked Chef in 1999.

“If it goes pear-shaped for caring and being honest and telling the truth, then cool. Because ultimately if you’re asking me would I be happy working in a pub cooking lovely food and seeing my family a bit more I am in all the way.”

He adds: “I am used to people finding me really annoying because if you have got an opinion in Britain… I know I am like Marmite. But ultimately when the s*** hits the fan even for a****** you don’t like, even then you look back over 20 years and think, ‘Could he be right, maybe we should support him on this?’”

According to Dispatches, entire sections of David Cameron’s original plans to combat childhood obesity no longer exist under proposals now formulated by May’s government.

These include proposals to cut childhood obesity by half within the next ten years, which it was originally hoped would mean 800,000 fewer obese children by 2026. This pledge has now reportedly been abandoned, with a new plan promising to “significantly reduce” childhood obesity within the next ten years. The original plan to force restaurants, cafés and takeaways to put calorie information on menus has also been scrapped according to the programme.

Oliver is baffled why the plans have been watered down and suggests a combination of lobbying from big businesses, a lack of interest in Whitehall and a wish by the new regime to set their own agenda.

But he says he will continue to press the Government on this and urged RadioTimes.com readers to find their local MP using ‘findyourmp.com‘ and tweet them what they want to #TellTheresa.

Oliver did score a success earlier last year when then-Chancellor George Osborne announced as much as a 24p sugar tax on litre bottles of fizzy drink. Next, he is determined to press the government for legislation on school lunchboxes.

“Only 8 per cent of children in Britain have their five a day and 50 per cent of school lunches are lunchboxes. I know for a fact that that there are loads of kids going into schools with no legislation or guidance on lunchboxes. And it’s 190 days a year from 4 to 18.

“It should be law because it’s a fact that we compromise our primary school teachers who have to police that every day. And when they do take little Johnny’s Red Bull away and his Dad is not happy with that because he wants to have a ruck with the teacher, why? Because it’s personal. It shouldn’t be personal. It should be about the government which doesn’t think it’s great to load kids with this.”

He is keen to engage all politicians on the subject of childhood nutrition.

“I am completely apolitical. I am actively trying to see what the Labour opposition feel. This is the kind of thing if it’s done right, would have cross party support. I am desperate to hear from Corbyn where does he see this.”

He notes that Theresa May “did nothing” for the Sugar Tax bill and says Osborne told him that it happened because of the campaign he led (though Oliver adds, “I did it with institutions that had spend 20 years researching. I was only a voicing block for about 20 organisations”).

“I really want to work with Theresa. I’m sure she’s OK but there’s a fine line between collaborating and trying to make a noise about the issues that matter,” he said. “I could be her best friend and ally or I could go against her all the way and make sure at the next election that someone does come in and does care. There is nothing more important than child health. I don’t care about the party. But if child health is put at the centre of government this country would be happier and healthier and more profitable.

“And at the end of the day someone who does not put child health at the forefront of their policies should not be in power. End of.”

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The Secret Plan to Save Fat Britain: Channel 4 Dispatches airs on Monday October 31 at 8pm