United Kingdom

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Step away from the deep-pan pepperoni pizza - you're nicked!

Five minutes ago, or so it seems, the Government was paying us to stuff our faces with pizza, as part of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

At the weekend, police in Manchester raided a pub to tell the landlord the pizza slices he was selling were against the law. 

They didn't 'fit the substantial food brief' laid down under the latest Covid rules. Consequently, the pub would have to stop selling alcohol, too.

Under Tier Three regulations, which apply in Manchester and elsewhere, booze can only be consumed as part of a 'substantial meal'. 

Plastic sheets are placed on 'non-essential' items at a Sainsbury's store in Cardiff, Wales

The 11in, 600-calorie slices being served up in the Common bar were considered too small by the Old Bill — despite being more fattening than a Big Mac or a bowl of spag bol.

So we've gone from Dishi Rishi's £500 million money-for-nothing-and-your-chips-for-free bonanza to 'Step away from the deep-pan pepperoni special, you're bleedin' nicked!'

The landlord was told he could only stay open if he served full 14in and 22in pizzas, not individual slices.

To be fair to the police (for once), even they're baffled by the latest insane rules coming out of central Government.

As one council officer said: 'We've been having some ludicrous conversations with bar owners about pasties, beans on toast, bowls of chips with gravy. What is a substantial meal? Surely that depends on the size of the person. What if they're skinny and like salads?'

Precisely. How would the new rules apply to Britain's fattest man, 50st takeaway food addict Jason Holton, who is in the news after a crane had to be used to hoist him out of his bedroom for hospital treatment?

Despite having never worked and receiving benefits of around £350 a week, Jason is able to use a taxpayer-funded credit card to order regular deliveries of kebabs, Chinese, burgers and chips, chocolate bars, crisps, pop tarts and gallons of Diet Coke.

No doubt Jason would consider an 11in sliver of pizza a mere amuse-bouche. 

Yet a Government which is more than happy to pay him to eat himself to death, along with hiring a crane to winch him to hospital in the middle of a pandemic, would also send in the Heavy Mob to feel the collar of any publican who served him a 'small' slice of pizza along with half a shandy.

At the weekend, police in Manchester raided a pub to tell the landlord the pizza slices he was selling were against the law. (Stock image)

The clothing aisles as a supermarket near Cardiff is cordoned off to shoppers as Wales enters a 'firebreak' lockdown

Madness, madness, they call it madness.

But this is the Looking Glass World we live in today. The plot hasn't been so much lost as strapped to a space rocket and the controls set for the heart of the Sun.

Having been fair to Plod, it's time normal service was resumed. Yesterday, we learned that forces all over Britain have decided arbitrarily to abandon bringing charges against people found in possession of heroin and cocaine, even repeat offenders.

Yet they can spare officers to troll round pubs measuring pizzas, break up church services and patrol the border between Wales and England like jackbooted East German guards at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin during the Cold War.

Actually, East Germany's Stasi seems to be our elected leaders' preferred political model these days — especially the Mickey Mouse Marxist rump running Wales.

Back in the summer, I warned you that the New Normal would be ten times worse than the initial lockdown, once the bureaucrats and jumped-up Toytown politicians discovered they could use a genuine health scare to expand their empires and throw their weight around.

But even in my wildest fantasies I couldn't have foreseen the kind of lunacy now being enforced west of Offa's Dyke, and documented brilliantly in Guy Adams's despatch in yesterday's Daily Mail.

If I'd have submitted a column predicting supermarkets in Wales would surround books and children's clothing with crime scene tape, would stop selling sanitary products and electric razors, would be banned from selling pumpkins and be invaded by men in their underpants — on the grounds that the Welsh government considers clothing 'non-essential' — I would have expected a discreet call from the editor.

'Sorry, Rich, but you've gone too far this time even by your own dismally low standards. We think a spell in The Priory might be in order.'

Forgive me if I sound flippant, but the mood I'm in can only be temporarily abated by hollow laughter. It's all that stops me wandering the streets with a sawn-off Purdey, firing at random. 

Shelves of books at a Tesco store in Penarth, Wales, are covered in plastic sheeting following a ban on the sale of non-essential items

Like most of you, I went along with the lockdown in March, thought of it as a civic duty, and gave the Government and 'the science' the benefit of the doubt.

But as we learned more about the virus, it became glaringly apparent most of those charged with protecting us haven't a clue, so they keep panicking and overreacting, subjecting us to ever more draconian and irrational restrictions.

In that famous 1980s TV advert, an insurance company promised not to make a drama out of crisis. Our modern political class have done the diametric opposite.

And while the Tory Government must carry their fair share of the blame, the Opposition and the devolved governments are equally culpable.

There's nothing they won't exploit for their own ends. 

How the hell did a public health pandemic end up in arguments about free school meals, cycle lanes, toppled statues, Scottish independence and a power grab by a two-bob Welsh Erich Honecker wannabe running an overblown parish council in Cardiff?

They're already looking forward to banning carol singing. Scots have been warned to prepare for a 'digital' Christmas and New Year. I can just imagine what kind of digital response Wee Burney can expect if she tries to prevent her constituents celebrating Hogmanay.

When news broke that a yodelling contest in Switzerland had been declared a 'super-spreading' event, I half expected the Government to ban the sale of Frank Ifield records and classify alpine horns as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

(For the benefit of younger readers, Ifield is an Aussie crooner who had hits with a few novelty yodelling songs in the Sixties.)

A couple of weeks ago, ministers said they were reaching a tipping point. I agreed, but not in the way they thought.

If 99 per cent of my emails and pretty much everyone I speak to has had enough of this insanity, then widespread civil disobedience can't be far behind.

At the weekend, the pubs and restaurants in my neck of the woods were all busy, despite whatever Tier they happen to be in this week. Yesterday, as half-term got under way, local parks were packed with parents and children denied a short break in the sun somewhere overseas, which has become seen as an entitlement in recent years.

No one I know is taking any notice of the regulations limiting contact between different households. And as I wrote here back in June, any government which thinks it can ban consensual sex between adults has lost all touch with reality.

There are darker days ahead. A middle-class jobs bloodbath is under way, especially in commuter towns. Suddenly, all that smug celebration of 'working from home' in the lazy, hazy days of summer doesn't look so clever.

(Yesterday it was revealed that since WFH began, golf clubs have reported a record increase in membership and you can't get a tee time for love nor money. Still, once all these new members lose their jobs they'll at least have plenty of time to work on their handicaps, if they can afford the fees.)

Tory MPs have at last woken up to the catastrophe coming down the pipe. 

But until Parliament rips up the ridiculous social distancing rules which allow no more than a handful of members into the Chamber, proper democratic debate will remain in short supply and ministers will keep getting away with the incompetence and intransigence which has become the hallmark of this administration's response to Covid.

Our cities are dying, our once-thriving businesses are filing for bankruptcy, our people who have done the right thing since March are being thrown out of work.

That infuriating pygmy Matt Hancock has hopelessly mishandled the health service, from the provision of PPE to the farce of our 'world-beating' track and trace system. 

He is now reduced to cynical gimmicks, such as recruiting Prue Leith to shake-up hospital food — presumably so the handful of patients on Covid wards can enjoy a 'substantial' meal.

As for the millions of others who have had their lives ruined, let them eat pizza.

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