NEWS: 280 pound minister for public health is accused of being too big to be ‘credible’ – but hits back saying ‘it’s what’s inside that counts’
Some politicians come under fire for being corrupt or incompetent, but Belgium’s new Minister of Public Health is the first political figure to come under fire for being too fat for the job.
Maggie De Block – who is Belgium’s most popular politician and was once tipped as a future premier – surprised many when it was announced she would take up the role of Health Minister in the centre-right coalition which has just taken office.
The 52-year-old, who weighs in at more than 20 stone, was not considered to be exactly setting a good example in a country where obesity is a growing health problem.
Prejudice? Maggie De Block, Belgium’s new Minister of Public Health. Her suitability for the role has been questioned because of her weight. The country is facing a growing obesity problem
Defiant: The politician has shrugged off the criticism, pointing to her experience as both a GP and a minister in the nation’s previous government
The anti-Maggie charge was led by Tom van de Weghe, a Washington-based correspondent for Belgium’s VRT television station. In a tweet he questioned whether she would be ‘credible’ in her new post.
NOS, a top Dutch TV channel, likened her to a larger-than-life figure from a Rubens painting and said her ‘obvious corpulence’ would cause ‘sniggering.’
But Ms De Block, who practised medicine as a GP for 25 years, has shrugged off the criticism.
Merit: Ms De Block urged her countrymen to look beyond her appearance when deciding if she was an able and effective politician
I know I’m not a model but you have to see what’s inside, not the packaging,
According to the World Health Organization data from 2008, a total of 47 per cent of the adult population in Belgium were overweight.
As Minister for Immigration in the last Belgian government she was praised for slashing the number of asylum requests by almost half, from 27,000 per year to 15,000.
She was unmoved by hunger strikes and sent in the police to end them and to ensure that expulsion orders were carried out.