Now, I've driven past the venue - the Institute of Directors building in Pall Mall - quite often, but never knew it was so opulent inside (as always, click to enlarge all pics).
Of course, as a director of a company myself, I had to enquire what the cost was to be a member and all I'll say is that it would be twice as expensive to buy a season ticket at White Hart Lane. I'd be tempted to join but apparently using e-cigs is banned inside - I say apparently because I only know after others told me they had politely been approached and asked to stop, whereas I was left alone throughout. Lucky me, eh?
Anyway, that's all by the by. I arrived fairly early and straightaway met long time reader here - and occasional contributor - Chris Oakley. We were so deep in conversation that when I next looked up, the room had filled out impressively in a very short space of time.
I'd say there were around 200 or so there which is an impressive turnout seeing as it was announced less than two weeks previously, it seems the pernicious nature of stealing a legal industry's intellectual property on a dubious pretext mobilises right-minded people who, like readers here, are on the side of the angels.
Not knowing what to expect, I found the tone of the evening to be more celebratory than any other emotion, probably because the campaign against plain packaging has had a lot of success. It brilliantly exposed the most corrupt and mendacious state-funded lobbying we've ever seen from the tobacco control industry - quite an achievement considering their grubby track record - which only succeeded thanks to the intellectual vacuity of politicians in believing junk science, whilst ignoring an overwhelming majority of the public who objected, and handing a profit boost to criminal gangs.
This is something Simon Clark touched upon in the first speech as he wondered aloud why David Cameron* had "rolled over to Labour", before informing those in attendance who weren't aware that the second 'public' consultation - released after the decision had been taken to proceed - had resulted in 99% of responses being in opposition.
His associate during the campaign, Angela Harbutt, was next up, with what will no doubt turn out to be a vain plea (aimed at vain politicians, how apt) for MPs to "stick to the facts, not fiction, vote no, stop the nonsense".
Further speeches followed from Emily Barley, who said she didn't join the Conservative party for this kind of nanny state bullshit, and John O'Connell of the Taxpayers Alliance who pointed out that choosing to smoke means you choose to pay the accompanying taxes ... but that the costs of plain packaging in loss of duty, increased Border Force wages, and possible billion pound compensation, will cost all taxpayers whether they like it or not. Rory Broomfield of the Freedom Association also chipped in to ask why on Earth the government was interfering in freedom of speech - which packaging arguably is - and gold-plating EU regulations when all main parties are telling us that they'd like less regulation from Europe, not more.
Dr Madsen Pirie was on the money in calling the tobacco control "a faith industry, not based on evidence", and illustrated it by highlighting that a majority of global anti-smoking professionals "say e-cigs lead kids to smoking but can they name three kids who have? No they can't, it's a faith", before Moral Maze's Claire Fox wondered why her nephew had seen dozens of washing up liquid commercials but had never been tempted to robotically wash the dishes in an ad-induced stupor (on Twitter, typically humourless anti-smokers seized on this as not being an evidence-based argument ... no, I'm not kidding).
A statement by former criminal justice minister Damian Green was also read out (the whole text here) where he described plain packs as "a dangerous proposal" which "would make life easier for criminal gangs", while my esteemed ally in this enlightened corner of the internet, Chris Snowdon, stated the obvious - "There is no doubt that this will be studied by those who want to do the same with alcohol, food and sugar" (more on that here tomorrow, stay tuned).
Lastly came a cracker of a speech by Mark Littlewood which I asked those filming on the night to just bung up on YouTube when they had time. Calling plain packaging laws "risible, and ridiculous", he was incredulous that while we have Russian planes flying over Cornwall, a £100bn deficit, Greece causing ructions in the Eurozone and a general election in our imminent future, "the last act of this government is to regulate colour schemes".
As a last comment on a pointless policy, bullied through after a three year campaign backed by disingenuous people using morally bankrupt and overt lying in order to fill their pockets with our taxes, it couldn't have been more apposite.
And when the quickfire speeches finished, the crowd of liberty loving people be like ...
These were just very brief highlights, believe me, so if you weren't there you missed a good evening of plain speaking and rare good sense. There are sure to be plenty more though because - as we well know - the tobacco control and public health beasts need constant feeding at the tax receipts trough and will never stop while they have mortgages and Mercedes Benzes to pay for. We have seen this in the past couple of weeks as they have already seamlessly moved into campaigning for outdoor smoking bans.
Still, I suppose it provides an endless supply of material for your humble 'tabloid junk' host to write about, eh?
UPDATE: Simon Clark has helpfully published a sound file of Mark Littlewood's speech. Go have a listen here.
*An interesting note on David Cameron and his view of plain packs. He came out with a quip during yesterday's PMQs which went something like this - "Now we are committed to plain paper packaging of cigarettes, it will give more space for the opposition to write their policies on". Yep, it looks like David Cameron doesn't have a first clue about the policy he is legislating on!