Amid the hype over Labour's defeat in Glasgow East, I suspect the most important consequence of the by-election will not be the ejection of Gordon Brown.

Instead, it will be the "broken society" speech which David Cameron made in that impoverished constituency.

That's the one where the Conservative leader complained that society had become far too sensitive to other people's feelings, "morally neutral" and thus unwilling to make moral judgements about what is right and wrong, words we barely feel able to use in public debate.

The bit that got Mr Cameron into trouble with several cabinet ministers I bumped into - Alan Johnson joined in too - was the specific example he offered.

"We talk about people being at risk of obesity instead of talking about people who eat too much and take too little exercise. We talk about people being at risk of poverty, or social exclusion: it's as if these things - obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction - are purely external events like a plague or bad weather."

Cameron immediately went on to qualify it. "Of course circumstances have a huge impact… But social problems are often the consequence of choices people make," the Tory leader told his audience.

I have to say that seems fair enough to me, so it worries me when ministers accuse Boy David of a return to the judgemental climate of Queen Victoria's heyday. "You can't just condemn, you have to make fat people an offer which gives hope," one senior minister told me reproachfully.

Poor support

I agree, but so, I think, did Cameron. Unfortunately he was applauded by oafs like Rod Liddle, ex-editor of Radio 4's Today, who declared in The Spectator that "shouting abuse at fat people is not just fun, it's socially useful". He then described how he wanted to get out his Zippo lighter (still smokes, eh?) and set fire to a fat woman with a trolley full of junk in the supermarket queue. What a larf, eh?

You can guess where this is leading me. Health ministers have just launched fresh initiatives against obesity and excess drinking - and fitted in their department's summer party for the hacks (booze and fattening nibbles) between the two announcements, as Mr Johnson cheerfully noted in his welcome.

The health secretary used speeches and articles to spell out his position. "It's easy for politicians to stand on the sidelines, accusing the impoverished, the fat and the excluded of only having themselves to blame," he said. Ministers have a "moral duty" to help, but "not a licence to hector and lecture people" - not least because it doesn't work.

State micromanagement

"The state cannot and should not micromanage the choices people make in their daily lives," he said. Nor shout at fat folk in queues. The thing must be done more intelligently, not least by explaining to overweight people (who tend to think "not me, guv") that it's the damage they can't see that is hurting their kids - fatty arteries for example - he believes.

I don't have much trouble with that either. Probably neither would David Cameron. But the Cameron point still stands: a lot of people, actually most of us one way or another, make bad lifestyle choices which - almost for the first time in history - we can afford to make. We have the money and the NHS.

Ministers routinely set out the grim, and costly, consequences, from mass obesity to teenage cirrhosis. In their own way so did those two drunken British women who sought "some fresh air" by trying to open an aircraft door over the Med.

Bullying tactics

Knowing that I still sometimes drink more than a man with hypertension should, I checked the NHS Choices safe drinking website. All good stuff, it tells me I am "at increasing risk" of doing myself harm, which is true.

But is it enough? I doubt if prime minister Cameron will be any braver at bullying cynical supermarkets or the cut-price drinks industry. If they're serious, they should bully us all a bit harder too.

Alan Johnson showed the way forward in his party speech when he told a Jo Brand joke about dealing with an overweight boyfriend. "Get him to walk three miles in the morning and another three miles in the evening. By the end of the week the fat git will be 42 miles away."

It's a start.