Jayne Dowle: Leaders should eat their words if they overindulge

Do you remember the two fat coppers skit on The Fast Show? They spent their days sitting in a police car scoffing hamburgers and were so obese that they couldn't chase criminals.

A fifth of all people will be obese by 2025, according to scientists.

It was quite funny at the time, but it’s not amusing any more. The latest news from the national College of Police is that almost 2,000 police fitness tests were failed by officers in England and Wales in the space of 12 months.

The test, which must be taken by any police officer who might be required to handcuff or restrain a suspect, was taken 93,956 times from September 2014 to August 2015, and 1,863 individuals failed to make the grade.

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And guess what? The lowest pass rate was South Yorkshire police – five per cent flunked it.

“The public want their officers to be fit and able to protect them in the face of danger,” says assistant chief constable Jo Shiner, the national lead for fitness testing. Too right.

I’ve seen some of the reprobates on bikes that hang around near where I live in Barnsley – right in the middle of the South Yorkshire beat – breaking into cars and doing drug deals on the street corner.

They might be scruffy and skinny, but they can certainly move fast in their top-name trainers. I wouldn’t like to think I was running after them, but then I don’t make it my job to offer protection to the public.

Obviously, the vast majority of officers do meet the required standard and are up to the demands of their role. But what of those who struggle to perform?

The College of Policing recommends that officers are given the chance to retake the test twice.

A spokesperson said the College was unaware of anyone being sacked for failing the tests. Individual forces are at liberty to decide how to deal with officers who had failed.

Isn’t it time though, that we asked questions of all our hypocritical public servants who tell us how to behave, but fail to follow the advice they mete out?

Into this category I would like to put every doctor and health service professional who assumes it is their divine right to lecture us about healthy eating, alcohol consumption and exercise, and then evidentially fails to follow their own advice.

There are some honourable exceptions of course. Such as one of our family doctors, who looks as lithe now as he did 10 years ago. Then again, he is a vegetarian and cycles everywhere.

His dedication to healthy living is an inspiration every time I see him, but I admit I lack his resolve and ability to handle a bike. I trust though that he tries to set an example to his patients, many of whom wouldn’t even need a doctor’s appointment if they refrained from stuffing their faces with junk food and smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

I’m also pleased to see a group of ladies who work at the orthopaedic rehabilitation hospital up the road from me. Every lunchtime they come past my house at a steady trot, chatting and laughing as they enjoy the fresh air and cardiovascular work-out. I’m sure they do more talking than walking, but at least they are practising what they preach.

This is more than can be said for some of their colleagues, who clog up the public highway when they arrive in their cars every morning and just about manage to waddle across the road to work, suits straining at the waistband.

Is it any wonder that the UK population has such a problem with preventable diseases such as diabetes when those who are supposed to offer advice don’t even follow their own guidelines?

If I was being told to cut down on drinking wine and eating chocolate by someone who clearly enjoyed more than their fair share of both, I wouldn’t exactly be inclined to take heed. Yet some of these “health professionals” think that an NHS name-badge on a lanyard round their neck gives them the moral authority to lecture us lesser creatures into submission.

I’m sorry to sound draconian, but if you choose to work in a field which gives you the authority to tell others how to live their lives, your first priority should be to set a good example yourself.

Chief culprits in this of course are the politicians who tell us what to eat, when to eat and how to eat it, and clearly have absolutely no compunction about over-indulging themselves.

When they are wondering why every strategy to tackle the frightening national rise in obesity has so far failed – according to the NHS, one in four British adults is now officially obese – they should first gaze at their own expanding navels.

If they could find it in themselves to set a good example, this might well filter down to those at the sharp end of our public services who in turn, could impress the rest of us with their dedication.

It’s not going to be as amusing as two fat coppers eating hamburgers in a police car, but it might just save a few lives.