Has the backlash against the nanny state begun?

On the one hand, we have Tony Blair admitting there is little the Government can do to force people to live healthier lives.

On the other, we have Health Minister Caroline Flint calling on supermarkets to hold in-store demonstrations teaching customers how to eat an apple.

Both comments are a response to the dilemma facing any government - that no matter how well it runs our hospitals and surgeries, the nation's health will continue to suffer if we insist on killing ourselves.

Tony Blair made his comments as he visited a community centre in east London, on a visit to tie in with the Government's latest health campaign.

He said it was important for more facilities like gyms and sports centres to be made available in Britain's inner cities.

He said: "Most people want to lead healthy and fitter lives, but they often find it very difficult to access the facilities they need.

"The Government cannot end up forcing people to lead more healthy lives. It is for us to make our own decisions and exercise responsibility.

"But all the evidence now shows that even quite small changes in diet and exercise make a major difference to the lives that people lead."

Mr Blair added: "We have to get away from the idea that health care is just about treating people when they're sick and encourage people to lead more healthy lives."

But Ms Flint, who launched a series of "health profiles" at the Department of Health's Whitehall office, took a different approach.

She argued that people were refusing to eat fresh fruit because they saw it as "scary food" - and suggested supermarkets should make more effort to sell it to us.

The so-called Minister for Fitness said supermarkets should teach shoppers how to eat fruit and veg.

She said: "Here's a fruit you have never seen before. What do you do with it? Do you peel it? Boil it? Chop it?"

What is clear from the figures released yesterday is that the public is reluctant to be told what to do.

Despite repeated exhortation not to smoke, drink too much or eat too many hamburgers, many of us refuse to stop. The spirit of defiance was perhaps epitomised by the Rotherham mothers who fed fish and chips to their children through the school gates.

But there's also a clear link between deprivation and unhealthy lifestyles.

The Department of Health report which raised concern about the state of healthcare in Birmingham also highlighted the extreme levels of deprivation, the lack of quality housing and above-average level of violent crime.

Jamie Oliver is hailed as a saint by the middle classes - as Tory MP Boris Johnson discovered to his cost. But working class folk don't seem quite so impressed.