We learned that politicians don't listen to honest argument or debate, and that the best way to sway them is to rig consultations and silence the opposition; we learned that people who encourage corrupt practices and make false claims are respected whereas the public is not; we learned that misrepresenting research is considered acceptable behaviour; we learned that MPs lying in parliamentary briefings and hiding meetings from public record is considered to be scrupulous governance; we learned that government lobbying government is spectacularly more likely to succeed than ordinary people expressing their opinion; and, above all, we learned that if you are a member of the electorate paying taxes to the state, you will be ignored, but if you are paid by the state to bully the public, the establishment will hang on your every word.
How else can you describe this ...
The government is moving forward with plans to ban branding on cigarette packs, Public Health Minister Jane Ellison told MPs.The commenters at the BBC article aren't conned by this folly - the highest rated are unanimously of the opinion that it is pointless and won't work - yet a spokesman for ASH claimed this evening that the policy enjoys "strong cross-party support in both houses".
Can you see a bit of a disconnect there? You know, perhaps a reason why voter turnouts are at an all-time low; hatred of politicians at an all-time high?
Unsurprisingly, Labour are fully behind the idea - they do so love depriving working class people of their meagre pleasures - but the plan was announced by a Tory minister, for crying out loud, the main coalition party led by a man who once proudly boasted of how "big bossy state interference is coming to an end" and, once elected, promised "no more of a government treating everyone like children", while Deputy Clegg vowed to "roll back the power of the state" and "restore British liberties".
So what compelling new evidence has convinced these fine, upstanding defenders of freedom to abandon their deeply-held beliefs, then? Well, I really haven't a clue. The Chantler review - as Snowdon points out - offers nothing new except an almost child-like trust of policy-led junk research produced by those who imagined, lobbied for, and whose salaries depend upon, hypnotising daft politicians into legislating for plain packs.
Chantler's methodology throughout is to categorically believe everything the tobacco control industry has ever published on the matter - even if, as he admits, much of it has limitations and some hasn't even been finalised or peer-reviewed - while dismissing every opposing item of evidence as "unconvincing" ... and citing tobacco control industry rebuttals as his reason for saying so!
As for the Tory front bench, they seem content to plough on with this despite their own backbenchers and supporters identifying it as bunkum, and without assessing wider issues as Jane Ellison promised in January.
Now, you could almost understand the public being ignored if the evidence being presented was so overwhelming that it merited public opinion being sidelined, but the Chantler review cannot remotely be described as such. Its summary declares that "research cannot prove conclusively" that plain packaging will work, but that Sir Cyril reckons - after having his ear bent by his tobacco control industry pals for four months - that it may have a "modest" effect. Surely, then, the best course of action would be - as was the wise conclusion last year - to wait and see how the real world experiment in Australia pans out ... especially since the British public are significantly opposed to it.
Or - and I know you're going to laugh at this - allowing us poor saps, who have to pay taxes for this shower of professional politicians, to have the casting vote considering the justification for it is so desperately poor and inconclusive.
Instead, it looks like we'll be ignored once again, as always. Not only that, one of Chantler's findings opens a can of worms which you will be seeing again and again as it is going to delight Alcohol Concern, Action on Sugar, and any number of other state-funded prohibitionists.
"The tobacco industry argues that all of its marketing activity, including packaging, aims solely to persuade existing adult smokers to switch brand and never targets children or new smokers. However, in my opinion, whatever their intent, it is not plausible that the effect of branded packaging is only to encourage brand switching amongst adult smokers, and never to encourage non-smokers from taking up smoking. I have heard no coherent argument as to how this purported separation occurs in practice and in my opinion a ‘spillover effect’ is highly plausible whereby packages that are designed to appeal to a young adult, also, albeit inadvertently, appeal to children. It seems to me that children and non-smokers are not, and cannot be, quarantined from seeing tobacco packaging and in my view once they are exposed to this packaging, they are susceptible to its appeal whether it is intended to target them or not. In the light of these and other considerations set out in my report I believe that branded packaging contributes to increased tobacco consumption."This may as well have been written with other bansturbators in mind. If plain packaging is introduced as a result of Chantler's review, every repulsive prohibitionist the world over will be quoting it and saying - quite rightly - that the same applies to their particular consumer product.
When marketing aimed at adults is described as being impossible because "in practice" it "inadvertently" appeals to children who will be "susceptible to its appeal whether it is intended to target them or not", no marketing at adults will ever be possible and must therefore be banned.
And that is just one more thing we have learned about politicians today. Not only are they supremely incapable of resisting the lure of state-funded single issue lobbyists and contemptuous of the public who pay their wages, they are also astonishingly brilliant at inviting every miserable tax-sponging 'public health' crank to park their tank on the government's lawn.
Well done, Chantler and Ellison. You utter klutzes!