Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Mask Slips (The Myth Of Democracy)

While dissecting Andy Burnham's break for New Labour glory was rather enjoyable yesterday, his daft proposals have been fairly well filleted from just about every political corner. It would seem that the more draconian Labour fuckwits become toward smokers, the more support is engendered - smoking isn't the universally-accepted evil after all, probably much to the surprise of blinkered cretins like Burnham.

As a result, I'll leave the grey packets, car/home smoking bans and vending machines etc for another time.

There is, though, one more truth ruthlessly exposed by Burnham's vindictive crusade, that being their irreconcileable divorce from any pretence of democratic process.

As VGIF pointed out yesterday, Burnham has admitted that the review into the smoking ban, planned for 3 years after implementation, is going to be nothing more than an exercise in propaganda.

Anyone familiar with the small clique of individuals and state-funded organisations who actually dictate policy in this area will suspect that the review will be nothing of the sort. They would be right. It will be a closed shop, with only the shrillest voices from ASH and the Department of Health allowed to be heard.

But even the most hardened cynic would at least expect them to wait until the review begins before publishing the foregone conclusion. Alas, that is not the case. Today's publication shows that it will only be a question of how far the ban is extended:

Smokefree legislation, introduced in 2007, continues to see high levels of compliance and public support. We have undertaken to review the impact of smokefree legislation in 2010.

That review will provide an opportunity to examine whether the legislation is working and where it can be improved, and will also enable assessment of what more can be done to extend protection.

Particularly, we will look to promote and support smokefree prisons and examine the case for extending smokefree requirements around building entrances.

Just to prove that the review has indeed not yet started, here is Gillian Merron, Minister for Health, in replying to a written question from Tory Bob Neill earlier this month.

We have given a commitment to review the impact of the smokefree law three years after its implementation on 1 July 2007. The review will take place in the latter part of 2010. In preparation for the review, the Department has commissioned a number of research reports. Once these reports have been completed and peer reviewed they will be published and will be given full consideration as part of the review.

So, no review yet, no completion and no peer review, yet Burnham seems to know - NOW - that it will show that further measures are required.

Yet there is plenty of evidence that the ban has failed in many ways and is not popular. Something a rational government should be taking into account, surely?

For example, leaving three years until conducting a review was almost certainly to take advantage of the availability cascade which Labour presumed would build up in that period. Simply put, they thought that the ban being portrayed as a done deal, that it would not be amended or repealed, would result in majority acceptance of the need for a blanket ban.

Because, you see, the official figures have always, but always, shown that the public didn't want that at all.

However, if that was their hope, it has failed to materialise. The majority, in fact, would still prefer some form of choice even after three years of Labour marketing, propaganda, and lies.

What's more, if Burnham's drive is to reduce smoker prevalence, that too has failed miserably, as was to be expected after the experience of Ireland and every other country which has implemented blanket bans (the latest was Italy this week).

It is a failure in Scotland.

The number of young people smoking in Scotland has returned to a level last seen nearly 10 years ago, according to a report by health officials.

The survey revealed nearly a third of people between 16-24 are smokers.

In 2004 the number of young smokers in Scotland had fallen to just 25% but by 2007 that figure was 31%.

It is a failure in England (official figures confirm an earlier study).

The latest annual lifestyle survey has found that the overall smoking rate among adults in 2008 remained at 21%, the same rate as in 2007. However, there was a small increase in smoking among people in routine and manual groups

And it ain't doing much good to lung cancer rates in Wales, either.

New figures show that the incidence of lung cancer in women is increasing at an alarming rate. There has been a 10% increase in the number of women diagnosed with the disease in the past four years.

And clinicians said they are seeing more younger women being diagnosed with the disease.

All of which points to a review which should be wide-ranging and imaginative if Labour's true motive is to reduce the number of smokers, to effect a reduction in health problems, and just as importantly, to be backed by their employers - ie, us.

Yet here we have the Health Secretary announcing that the review will lead to stricter legislation, on the back of some invisible unbridled success ... which is clearly not the case.

In the past I have mentioned that public consultations under this government are pretty shoddy, but what Burnham's pronouncements yesterday prove is that Labour are now completely abandoning the idea of consulting anyone except themselves.

On this basis, I'm afraid to say that one must conclude, yet again, that Labour's approach to smoking legislation has nothing at all to do with health ...

... and democracy can go hang as far as they are concerned.


Curmudgeon said...

I always think "smokefree" has distinct echoes of "Judenfrei"...

junican said...

Now that Burnham has admitted that the smoking matter is no longer (if it ever was!) a health matter, then the gloves are off, aren't they? It is now, definitely, a matter of freedom and liberty. It is not even a matter concerning democracy, directly - by that I mean that it is not a matter for the majority to decide - it is an 'individual choice' matter.

I suggested elsewhere that we smokers need a high-profile champion in the same way that climate change sceptics have Lord Lawson as a champion. I vaguely suggested Charles Clarke. The Scottish Wifey suggested maybe Kenneth Clark (if it were not for the fact that he is obviously intent upon remaining in Parliament, although I am not sure that that matters).

What I think is true is that, somehow or other, smokers need to be roused from their lethargy. It is all right for us few to whinge, but only if people start argue and compliant in great numbers will a reversal of the persecution gain ground.

Sam Duncan said...


“The government says more needs to be done to curb smoking and achieve its target”

So everything they've done over the last ten years has been utterly pointless, possibly even counterproductive, and the answer is to do more of it?


neil craig said...

"high level of compliance & publ;ic support" means we have all been to compliant (public support doesn't mean public support).

"smokefree requirements around building entrances" cannot possibly be justified on the theory that passive smoking is in some way injurious, it is simply puritanism - "the fear that somebody somewhere is enjoying themselves" Mencken.

It shows we should have had some serious public non-compliance which, even if it didn't stop the original ban would have prevented trying more. Non-compliance, if thought through, is easy. Just light up in any state building, including stations or if you are more law abiding than that just keep it in your mouth without lighting.