Sunday 17 July 2011

An Outbreak Of People Power In Stony Stratford

Having had a quick look around over a mid-morning cuppa, it appears I'm a bit late to the Stony Stratford blogging party. Not too surprising in light of the outstanding turnout yesterday, including many a blogger. My last article was written from the top deck of a bus, the last leg of a problematic return journey, before shooting straight out again while others penned their experiences.

Having very generously been offered a lift to Stony yesterday morning by Tom Paine - a true non-smoking gent - in his magnificent Maserati GranTurismo, Vittoria, I mentioned that the dreadful weather might discourage attendance. As we approached the venue at around 10:45, though, it was clear that it was going to be a successful day.

Posted sentry-like outside was a man Twisted Root holding a placard bearing the words "De-normalise Bartlett" (to which the Police would later raise mild objection), while under the cover of a gated passage between the two bars were approximately 30 hardy souls drinking tea and waiting patiently for the event to begin. Already we had the makings of something rather special.

Just two weeks ago, this blog had floated the idea of a visit to the historic town - post-scripted with "I'm serious, by the way" - and my good friend Gawain had got in contact offering to "try to get Farage". There followed a lively 14 days of arrangements; a venue; further speakers; media coverage; and most importantly of all, people to attend. After all the e-mails, Facebook and Twitter calls to arms, and media enquiries amongst other activity, to see our protest take a tangible shape was both thrilling and a blessed relief at the same time.

The BBC give the attendance as 200 and, although this is a tad high, it's not by any means a massive exaggeration. As the BBC cameras arrived, I counted 80 to 90 people and they were still turning up! The final total was in excess of 100 is the best I can estimate as I was to be rather busy for the next couple of hours.

There was one irritating inaccuracy in the Beeb piece, that being:

The meeting was followed by a "mass light up" by smokers opposed to the proposed ban.
Firstly, it preceded the speeches, and secondly it only happened at all after the reporter requested that we arrange it for them to film. It's worth getting that on record as you just know it could be eagerly misconstrued by some.

The speeches started late as we were desperately hoping Farage would get there in time. It soon became evident that an accident on the M1 had stymied that idea and the other speakers would have to begin without him.

And excellent each of them was too. Bill Etheridge with his Churchillian reference; non-smoking Patrick Hayes waving a Gauloise (which I later smoked) and emphasising the threat to wider liberty this posed; David Odell speaking passionately of his deep love for the town as a family-run business owner, and how Bartlett's plan threatens its prosperity; and Roger Helmer promising to smoke a cigarette on the High Street if Bartlett gets his way on Tuesday. When Nigel arrived 30 minutes later he was, well, Nigel. Passionate, articulate, direct, and still forthright in his view that anti-smoking legislation has almost become a parody of itself.

With the main part of the day completed, and the many press personnel having left to file copy and photos, the rest of the early afternoon was whiled away with a refreshing beer, a relaxing smoke, and good-natured conversation amongst like minds.

This was a day to cherish, with many believing it should not be a once-off; that successes like this should be built upon with action elsewhere should it become necessary; that a line in the sand had been drawn. I'll certainly be willing to go again the next time some petty dictator tries to enforce his personal preferences on others, and not just towards tobacco, either. Increasingly, other areas are being attacked by the same methods which are equally dangerous to our general freedoms.

Before leaving, I thanked the landlord of the Bull Hotel for his generosity in allowing us use of his premises (though I'm sure he was quite happy with the early Saturday takings), and he gave me an interesting snippet of info.

Apparently, Bartlett himself had popped by The Vaults bar on Friday night, bearing leaflets which hinted that he may be thinking of withdrawing the motion. He was given short shrift by the locals who "ran him out of the bar", I was told. Time will tell if Bartlett has really come to his senses but, if not, the locals of Stony Stratford who made up around 40% of the attendance have made their views perfectly clear for councillors prior to the vote. To a man and woman they angrily insisted that Bartlett should butt out.

I'd like to heartily thank all those who attended yesterday in the driving rain, you helped us make a stand - in our own little way - against the kind of mean-spirited miserablists who are increasingly making this country an intolerant and spiteful place.

Let's do it again sometime, eh?

- Top two images courtesy of Andy Roberts, AboutMyArea/MK11
- Video footage by Stony Stratford resident Paul King from 4Thought Productions Limited
- Bottom image courtesy of


Mark Wadsworth said...

Well done, keep up the good work, I was on Dad's tax duty yesterday, hence non-attendance.

Anonymous said...

Thank you and well done. I WILL attend the next one which is surely just a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

Most certainly, I reiterate many of the comments with regard to this event: well done Dick Puddlecote!

In similar vein, yes this event should be built upon and other similar events planned. I realise that for those that organised this, it was probably a lot of hard work - such events always are - but nevertheless, for an event that was still, in comparative terms, rather spontaneous, that made its success even more remarkable.

Many people involved in this war have been committed for some time (in my own case this is my eighth year) and as the fight is against bodies which are massively funded, it's a very one sided tussle. This often creates a sense of chronic fatigue. However, my belief is that direct action of this nature, in real as opposed to cyber space, is just the ticket as it demonstrates a growing confidence which both inspires and reenergises.

John Gray.

Twenty_Rothmans said...

That was my Gauloise, and I feel obliged to tell you that:
Rauchen fügt Ihnen und den Menschen in Ihrer Umgebung erheblichen Schaden zu

Ich hoff' dass sie Dir schmeckt :-)

It was a pleasure meeting you, and I doubt that anyone underestimates the sacrifices you've made for what was a splendid, if wet, day out.

Let's do it again sometime, eh?

If the Australian (and now, NY, Cal) experience is anything to go by, you won't need to wait long. They'll go after beaches and parks. Smokers, I beseech you, prevent your fellows from throwing their butts on the ground, or tidy up (not Bartlettesque, on your hands and knees with gloves) after them. Tell them off if you're hard enough.

We're all in this together, to coin a phrase.

Anonymous said...

Applause - a well-organised success with lots of coverage. I hope to get to the next one - there are plenty of tinpot dictators further north.

I wonder if Bartlett realises that he is a laughing stock throughout the land.

I so like Farage - no beating about the bush.


Twisted Root said...

Ok. I'm going to out myself as the 'man with the placard'. The policeman did only mildly object and listened to my reasons for using the word denormalise and how it has been applied to smokers. He did note my name and address but I don't think that it means we're engaged or anything like that.

Anyway, well done Dick, it takes a lot of effort and a huge amount of time to organise something like that and if/when there is a next time I promise to behave myself.

Smoking Hot said...

Seems an excellent day was had and very positive too.

One thing Dick, have you had any input from any of the other Stony Stratford councillors?

Well done,that man!

Unknown said...

Dick, you are a star for pulling this off and all the attendees are little starlets.

I will drag my rather large member through broken glass to attend something similar in the future.

Gawain, have you still given up smoking?

Visigoth, glad you got that lift from the Moose and were able to attend in leu of us in the frozen north who couldn't make it. Hope you didn't harrass Mr DP or others with your wild, wild ways lolol.

Oh, did I say you are a star DP?

Twisted Root said...


While I was doing sentry duty yesterday two local town councillors turned up and introduced themselves as smokers. They didn't stay long though.

Tom Paine said...

You have done well, Dick. You also did good. Congratulations.

Tom Paine said...

You have done well, Dick. You also did good. Congratulations.

Ed said...

Spreading the word, see the comments on this link.

Ed said...

The news even reached Belfast.

timbone said...

"Apparently, Bartlett himself had popped by The Vaults bar on Friday night, bearing leaflets which hinted that he may be thinking of withdrawing the motion. "

Could this be another case of an over enthusiastic fanatic believing that the majority of the public (including smokers according to ASH) would support his idea, only to find to his dismay, that all the propaganda is wrong. Is it possible that he is both shocked and indecisive in the light of this revelation, maybe he never imagined a protest of this nature.

Anonymous said...

Dp,F2C, Nigel Farage and everyone else that went. Im sorry I couldnt be there.Totally brilliant.
Please make sure this outstanding vid with Farage and Freedom Association is backed up and distributed far & wide.

Anonymous said...


Angry Exile said...

Akubra very much doffed in your direction, DP. Outstanding job done at pretty short notice, and good on everyone who went, especially fellow non-smokers whose support is needed to show that anti-smokers and non-smokers aren't the same thing.

Twenty-Rothmans, I'll stand in for you if one happens here.

nisakiman said...

It would appear to have been a great success. Well done to everyone who managed to make an appearance, and especially well done to you DP for taking a seed of an idea and germinating it in such a short space of time. The great thing about it was that it wasn't just about smoking; it was all about liberty and freedom. Hence the high turnout of non-smokers who supported you. It was great, too, that you had some high-profile speakers. Yes, all in all a good job well done. Congrats to all. These small people with disproportionate influence need to be told - "Enough. No more. Get ye gone."

Twenty_Rothmans said...

Angry Exile

I doubt that it will ever happen back there. They are all like my sister: 'I hate France; they all speak French and they smoke'. True quote.

Growing up in the 1970s, one knew that there was a triumvirate of the police, the judiciary and the politicians that was owned by criminals. It's bad here, but nowhere as bad as there. Is there hope yet?

The Liberal Party in Australia (which I joined in 1979) rewarded me upon coming into power by increasing the top rate of tax. They threw cash benefits at people on the nash. Howard (whom I've met), despite having smoked until he was thirty-fucking-eight years of age, did nothing to stop the march of oppression.

He staved off a republic; that's good. But Gordon Brown kept us out of the Euro - want to give him a kiss?

From my own experience with the Australian people, they've still this convict mentality (although most of us have no convict ancestry). My horizons are perhaps a little wider because I went to study in a foreign country when I was a young man.

The world there has changed greatly[0]. My SIL accused me of being a racist because I referred to aborigine art as looking like road pizza. I'm a Holbein man, myself.

Best of luck!

When I was 18:
You could not buy booze on a Sunday unless you could prove you'd driven 50 miles
Fags were about 60c a packet
A building block in a posh area was $15,000
The 'no restrictions' sign on motorways really meant no speed restriction
DUI limit 0.8
GTHO about $5,000
XU-1 $2,000 (I bought one)
95% Australians or British at my school.

Angry Exile said...

Twenty_Rothmans, there is some hope in that a similar protest was held at Parliament House yesterday. Not about smoking, though. It was to protest the new legislation brought in by Victoria's wonderful new Liberal government (I've been banging on about how illiberal the Australian Liberals are almost since I began blogging) that allow cops to dish out fines of $240 for swearing and language deemed offensive. Nice to know that people here are prepared to go and protest stupid, heavy-handed authoritarian legislation here, but unfortunately it seems to have been less well organised and at even shorter notice than Stony Stratford, with the result that only a dozen or so went. I would have but I'm only reading about it in the paper after the event, so that's that idea gone. Still, props to those who went to Spring Street and shout 'Ted Baillieu get fucked' (thought his name was actually Bellend but there we go). Baby steps, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

I have been watching this online from over in the US and quite impressed with the huge turnout and show of support for this gathering. Stony Stratford turned out to be pre-emptively what New York City and California should have been years and decades earlier. Quite right this marks a line in the sand, as long as support continues to remain strong on this issue of basic freedom. DP should be applauded for being able to bring this altogether in such a short period of time. It was so nice seeing other figures of national recognition and from the blogosphere all showing up to lend support and give speeches too. Great job, so very well done - to be applauded - and very much appreciated by those of us living outside the UK - since anti-smoking is international in its scope - thus the fight-back is of international importance as well.

Anonymous said...

Well done Dick and everyone else who turned up, the only down side to it was that both Me and the wife could not attend, still, there is always next time.


Anonymous said...

Well done Dick. I hope that this will stop other councils thinking about a similar ban.
I would have loved to have attended, but Stony is an awkward place to get to from Suffolk.

Anonymous said...

I think you've lit the fire DP!
Apologies for my absence.


Twenty_Rothmans said...

Angry Exile

You have my word that that's the way it goes there. Dumb acceptance.

As Midnight Oil (rich communist bastards[0]) put it: "It's better to die on your feet than on your knees".

I'm too old to acquiesce, to old to adapt - and even if I weren't I am too much of a man to stand for this. Fortress Australia is gone. With their homosexual Mardi Gras, apologia to aboriginals and proliferation of increasingly insane legislation, I'm out of there.

I miss my family, I miss my friends and I miss my yacht. It might seem selfish, but I'd miss my freedom a damn sight more.

At University, my friends and I would get up to all sorts of mischief - not the type that would affect anyone else. I shan't go into details. Now, in their forties, they just accept all this shit like a human centipede.

The electrical and chemistry sets we played with - the fireworks we disembowelled and the rifle cartridge we (rather inadvisedly) set off with two bricks - they are gone now. These are the things that led me to study science.

Even banning nicotine-laden E-cig liquid. WTF? It should be possible to extract nicoctine from gum or patches and make your own. I don't have a lab. But LI does :-)

I was not born here, but it's the country of my ancestors, damn it, and I love it.

[0] Peter Garrett went to my nephews' school

Dick Puddlecote said...

Twenty Rothmans: "That was my Gauloise, and I feel obliged to tell you that:
Rauchen fügt Ihnen und den Menschen in Ihrer Umgebung erheblichen Schaden zu

Ich hoff' dass sie Dir schmeckt"

Taken on board, but shouldn't you have been smoking, err, Rothmans? ;)

Twisted Root: Didn't know it was you, wish you'd introduced yourself on the day. I've amended it above. I understand they said that Bartlett might complain of harrassment, please expand.

Behave yourself? I don't think anyone did any different. :)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic stuff! You did yourselves proud. A big thank you from me, a smoker, who feels that there is hope on the horizon now
After being spat at, got at and lectured a few times, this is heartwarming. All for the sake of a good smoke.

Thank you!


Joe Public said...

If the burghers (?buggers?) of SS continue with their scheme, your next protest could do worse than emulate the protester in photo-2 ..............

irritable bile syndrome said...

Twisted Root! I've been wracking my brains over the name of your blog/id all day back on the train. I am proud to say I held up his placard while TR got out of the rain to fill his pipe. That was when the police came over... I think TR would be best to explain, but I gotta admire him for explaining to the copper why he used the word "Dehumanise". The copper, to be fair, seemed a decent enough chap, but I got the jitters at this point, seeing as I'd left The Boy in the pub with complete strangers and and only popped out for a quick smoke....

"Dick, you are a star for pulling this off and all the attendees are little starlets."

You are indeed Dick. (I shook your hand before you left, and is about all, but man, you were busy.) And so is Star, and doubley so for that is her name and she was one of the "complete strangers" who engaged The Boy in conversation and stopped him getting bored (and allowed me the opportunity to mingle, have a beer or three - five? whose counting?? - and get photographed! Mum! I'm on the internet!!).

I met some bloggers (Chris and Frank, Bucko, TR and some I've never heard of), and some commenters, and good folk all... but my favourite moment was when I first turned up there, in that little ginnel between the pubs, and lit up. I nodded to the guy next to me and said hello. Then I asked if he knew who was who. He laughed, said he didn't know anyone. "I only live here," he said, and asked me where I was from. "Cumbria," I says, and he shook my hand and thanked me for coming all that way. I got a warm glow*, I have to say. He then told me what all about Cllr Bartlett and what he thought about him, which is not repeatable in polite company ;)

*that's not a euphemism. And no, I do not live near Sellafield.

Anonymous said...

Well done everyone concerned from top to bottom.

But we must remember that ASH ET AL will be, even now, planning their next assault upon our freedom. They know that we are afraid of breaking the law. They know that we are terrified of our good names being dragged through the courts. They know that they have the upper hand against individuals. But would they have the upper hand if large numbers simply refused to be bullied? Oh! If only publicans had got together in the period between the passing of the Act and its implementation! If only! 50,000 publicans marching and demonstrating! After all, it was they who were most at risk.

But where are the small shopkeeper demonstrations? Where are they all - tens of thousands of them? The mind boggles at their ineptitude.

150 ish individuals got together and made a noise, and the MSM took notice. What would have happened it some 50,000 shopkeepers had done likewise when the display ban was mooted? That is the horror of the step by step encroachment of ASH ET AL upon our freedoms.

MPs are useless. They are not defenders of our freedoms - they are imposters and charlatans. They must be circumvented.

How? That is the problem.

Twenty_Rothmans said...

MPs are useless. They are not defenders of our freedoms - they are imposters and charlatans. They must be circumvented.

I first parsed this as 'They must be circumcised'.

Still works.

This is the antismokers' equivalent of slipping their arm around our neck in a darkened cinema. They've been slapped away this time, but they'll be back, and they'll do what they want by force.

Twisted Root said...

I think the policeman's approach was to advise that it could have at least given cause for complaint not that it was likely to do so. He did say that I could continue 'at my own risk' but the point had been made and there was method in my madness - any complaint from Bartlett which is treated seriously gives every single smoker in the land a valid complaint against Arnott and Donaldson, which was why I was quite content to give the policeman my name amd address.


A small correction - the word on the placard was 'denormalise' and it never crossed my mind for a moment to leave you holding the baby when the police arrived. Honest!

To the lady who spilt a whole pint of lager down the back of my trousers during the speeches - they came up lovely in the wash.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally chuffed that this was such a success, even though I didn't attend (prior engagement). I'm not a smoker but believe this persecution has to stop as it won't end at smokers.

With this in mind, I think there should be a body of activists ready to take a stand on many other issues - not just smoking.

I'm up for showing the fascists in this once great country that their free ride is over!


I am Stan said...

Oh well done Mr P and friends, inspirational says I truly inspirational.

Ahhhh Gauloise fags,reminds me of a couple of years back when I was in Paris, I met a girl, Marianne, oh yes a true Gallic delight, her fragrant scent of onions, cheap wine and Gauloise cigaretts will live for me forever, I`ll never forget her parting words as she lounged on her bed settee wearing nothing but a beret and knee pads, "Laisser l'argent sur la table près de la porte" she purred, appy days!

Au revoir mon amis.

James Higham said...

A very tall boy, Tom, isn't he? :)

Anonymous said...

This represents another serious attempt to countermand freedom of information:

Certainly worth a look and passing on!

Anonymous said...

@ I am Stan.

Either 'mon ami' or 'mes amis', mon petit chou.