Monday 4 July 2011

Their Lips Move

I describe regularly how the tobacco control template can help us predict the future path of regulation in other areas such as alcohol, and foods rich in fat, sugar or salt. But the smoking debate can also tell us a lot about how modern politics works (or, more accurately, doesn't) in general.

For there is no other issue which is so very adept at showing MPs up as hypocritical, anti-democratic arseholes.

Take the tobacco display ban, for example.

Mike Penning, the shadow health minister, told the National Federation of Retail Newsagents: "I am not a lawyer but I have always been concerned whether the Government's legislation on this is legal."

Mr Pelling said the Conservatives, if elected, would bring the matter back before Parliament.
That was in April 2010 when they wanted your vote.

It took less than a year - in which time they had received those votes and now couldn't give a flying fig what you think - for an astounding u-turn to have taken place.

Tobacco displays in shops will be banned in England as part of a package of measures to discourage smoking.

A consultation will also be launched on whether manufacturers should be forced to put cigarettes into plain packets.
So, not only did the matter not get within a country mile of parliament, but the 'next logical step' was being mooted before the last one had even surmounted a judicial review.

Trust in politics? Pull the other one.

The smoking ban itself is another acute reinforcement of the adage which states that you know when an MP is lying because their lips move.

In 2006, Tory MPs voted 3 to 1 to allow exemptions to the ban. You'd think, then, that they'd be more than happy to conduct an impartial review of it, as was promised in the initial legislation. Wouldn't you?

Under Labour, the sole premise of the third year review was a purely politicial one. It was to be a rubber-stamping exercise by way of a report commissioned from one of the most biased sources it could be possible to choose, as Chris Snowdon explains.

It was entirely written by Linda Bauld, a professional anti-smoker who is a member of the ASH Advisory Council, a member of the Smokefree South West Programme Board and a member of the International Network of Women Against Tobacco. It would be hard to imagine anyone less qualified to produce an "independent review".
Politically, it would have been extremely easy for the government to have binned Bauld's review as being fatally flawed. There could even have been some mileage to be made by highlighting how very corrupt Labour are for even considering Bauld for the job in the first place. That in the coalition's 'new politics' this kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable and therefore a truly independent review is well overdue.

Nope. Lansley and Milton just released the steaming effluence anyway as part of their justification for ever more stifling measures ... which they had rubbished while in opposition.

The result is that we have a piece of legislation which has been ruthlessly implemented to the letter, except for the part which mandated an asssessment of the impact on the public, and business, as a result of its terms. That bit's been banished to the basement like some embarrassingly gay Victorian uncle.

Their blithe dismissal of common sense hasn't gone unnoticed, though, for the simple reason that Bauld's review was just too one-sided. To say that the hospitality industry has not suffered any inconvenience at all since July 2007 is quite absurd, and goes against the experiences of everyone in the country who isn't handsomely paid to say the opposite, as Snowdon puts very succinctly.

It is at odds with what publicans, market analysts, customers, publicans and the stock market have said. It defies reason, common sense and the evidence of one's own eyes for ASH [of which Bauld is a member] to continue with this charade.
At time of publication, I pointed out a few of the logic-bending contortions employed by Bauld, such as self-referencing and the regurgitation of blatantly biased studies which conflict with the state's own NHS data, but Snowdon highlights a critique by Imperial Tobacco which comprehensively pulls her fairy story apart. It's well worth a read.

As well as spotting, like I did, that a source as tainted as Bauld had referenced her own equally financially-motivated studies, it highlights her work as being a systematic exercise in avoiding the truth at all costs.

Linda Bauld suffers from a peculiar nasal problem

She completely ignores any evidence on pub closures conducted by those in the trade, for example; makes assertions without allowing the data on which they based to be openly scrutinised; ignores potential weaknesses in the sources employed; chooses to use declarations of quitting 'intent' instead of real measurable actual statistics; misrepresents the conclusions of studies into air quality and - most damning of all for Lansley and Milton - fails miserably to reach the standards set out by the government's own Regulatory Policy Committee on evidence which MPs should take seriously.

Principled science it certainly ain't, yet it cost just shy of £1m of your taxes and has been swallowed whole by the coalition. You know, the same bunch who gleefully declared last May that there was a change in the air and that things were going to be different now that they are in charge.

Bollocks, wasn't it?

The simple truth is that we have still had no proper review of the Health Act 2006, and the three main party front benches are quite happy for there never to be one. They have made their minds up, and any old biased poppycock will do to prevent their having to face the appalling thought of being properly accountable to the electorate over their anti-social, highly destructive, and disgustingly draconian laws.

The only thing that really matters in political circles is the collective ego of those in charge, the myth of democracy just draws a thin veil of respectability over their deeply damaging authoritarianism and encouragement of unintended consequences.

It's the same story with every area the state interferes in, it's just that their self-important lying and reliance on fake science is most transparent when tobacco is involved.

It matters not who you vote for in early 21st century Britain. The left, right and centre of politics is rotten to the very core.

Give us our independent state-mandated review, you hideous, venal, self-serving bastards.


Hideous, venal, self-serving bastard said...

No, the narrative has moved on anyway.

Anonymous said...


"In the most developed countries we are seeing democracy superseded by a badly run but deeply entrenched bureaucratic state spending around 50% of national wealth and having an obedient media preventing real political debate. This is what we see in the US and to a greater degree in the EU, where only thee trappings of democracy remain"

selsey.steve said...

Love this bit if the US Declaration of Independence:-

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

george said...

It sounds just like the global warming scientists who peer review each other and ignore any sceptics who point out that they're talking bollocks. All backed by a compliant media and clueless politicians.

Anonymous said...

This is the internet, Why are there only us lot commenting. 20-25% population of UK alone smoke. that is a huge mass of people. we have some way ro go here. When and how do they wake up?
-Dog in the street

Anonymous said...

"It's the same story with every area the state interferes in, it's just that their self-important lying and reliance on fake science is most transparent when tobacco is involved." accurate observation which was revealed by Eddie Smooth on this evening's PM when he repeated, verbatim, a question to Paul Burcow that he'd been asked last November (about the Dilnot report)only to be given a different answer.

I now take the view (since the smoking ban) that anything and everything any politician says must be treated with suspicion. I used to believe that UK politicians were probably incompetent and bumbling, but benevolent and altruistic at heart (Hah!). It's depressing to realise that, not only are they inept but, at heart, really hideous, venal etc.


Anonymous said...

As soon as the media could not
make millions out of tobacco advertising but could earn some dosh from anti smoking campaigns
and NRT promotions ,the die was cast
The few voices that cry freedom are unfortnately confined to
keyboards preaching to the converted or
entering digital debates with the
dysfunctional puritans.
As for the Tories,they are little more than Bolshies in suits
traitors gulping the same cess as the back stabbing Labour Trots.
One fine day reality will dawn
The current brand of democracy
will not survive