Sunday, 7 December 2008

Number 10 ePetitions: What's the Point?

I don't know how much of our cash Labour threw around on setting up the Number 10 ePetitions charade (I'd be interested though, if anyone has a link), but however many millions it is likely to be, it's money well spent for whomever is in Government. The ability to be able to lie to the population in a new, funky, medium, whilst simultaneously giving the impression to the masses that their democratic voice is being listened to, is pure political gold.

Of course, with 1.8m signing the ePetition to abolish the idea of road charging, only to be fobbed off with an explanation of Tony Blair's reasoning for it, confidence in the process suffered a bit. But the futile submissions still come flooding in, somehow expecting to be rewarded, if not with a change of policy, then at least with a signal that their views have been listened to.

Not a chance.

By way of example, the response to a perfectly reasonable request to "allow a limited number of smoking licenses to be obtained by owners of pubs, restaurants and clubs from their local council" is an object lesson in how much contempt Labour view valid concerns. In short, some civil service filing clerk is tasked with regurgitating a series of lies to back up the Government's line. In this case, with faux statistics gleaned from a plethora of banshee-like alarmist nut-jobs.

Let's take it apart piece by piece before addressing how it ... err ... didn't address the question.

On 14 February 2006, the House of Commons voted by a majority of 200 for comprehensive smokefree legislation which then came into force in England on 1 July 2007. Its implementation has been hailed as a huge step forward in public health.

By whom has it been hailed exactly? That'll be Alan Johnson perhaps, the Labour Health numpty, who quite incredibly said, ironically, in response to a different petition:

Johnson said the smoking ban had been "highly successful" and "heralded by many as the most significant public health intervention for a generation".

He said: "We have seen no significant evidence to suggest that smoke-free legislation either in this country, or in others where similar legislation has been in place for some years, will create any long-term economic problems for pubs or for the hospitality trade in general."

Over 2,500 pub closures (so far) and this pratt sees no 'economic problems for ... the hospitality trade'? Is he serious? It is the same in every country that has enacted comprehensive bans, without fail.

The clinically-obese 'health guru' Liam Donaldson also hailed it as such, claiming,

"The significance of the smoke-free laws cannot be overestimated. We expect many lives have been saved."

I love that 'lives have been saved' bit. You can be damn sure that if Labour and their anti-smoking Nazi friends could prove just one death, just one, he/she would be plastered all over TV and internet with monotonous regularity. But they can't as one doesn't exist. Never has. Never will.

OK, back to the big bag of No. 10 ePetition lies

The scientific and medical evidence is very clear that secondhand smoke kills and that there is no safe level of exposure.

No, it's not clear at all. The 'no safe level of exposure' guff is a lie that has been banging around for nearly a decade. It's an American lie, promulgated by the same idiot (Stanton Glantz, who isn't a Doctor or a Scientist, just a bigot) who claimed that ventilation doesn't work because it would take "a hurricane to clear second hand smoke" and "30 minutes of exposure to smoke can cause a heart attack". Even ASH have distanced themselves from that crap. Yet Labour take it as gospel.

The HSE and corresponding OSHA in the US have given safe exposure limits on all noxious substances known to man. Radioactive materials are included. Yet according to this nonsense, tobacco smoke trumps all of them and is more deadly? Oh come on, can they not see how silly that is? The truth is that the OSHA wanted to study safe exposure levels after being sued by the anti-smoking lobby for rubbishing their hysteria. Once threatened with such, the lunatics backed off quickly before their scam was quantified and documented. Hence the 'no safe level' claim. Quite simply, it hasn't been studied.

The response then goes on to quote more statistics with no source, such as

98 per cent of all premises compliant and smokefree;

Well, that would be because they are scared of £2,500 fines, wouldn't it? See the compliance rate plummet dramatically if you remove that threat.

76 per cent of people in support (and even 55 per cent of
smokers in support);

Read the question, filing clerk. The petition is to allow licences for those 22% of the population that like to smoke. By your figures, 24% don't support smoking bans. That should mean a balance is struck shouldn't it?

87 per cent of businesses said implementation had gone well or very well.

87 per cent of which businesses? Public places is a wide term. I notice the filing clerk didn't specifically state that it was pubs and clubs that were surveyed, as in the question (I'm not sure even the politicians know, they've spun so many lies they are probably confused themselves). It could have been 100 branches of M&S as far as we know, you don't give a source. Even if you did survey pubs/clubs (not likely as the BBPA and other trade surveys disagree vehemently), those that have gone to the wall because of you, wouldn't be included either, would they?

Then more stat porn

Bar workers’ exposure to hazardous secondhand smoke has been reduced by 76 per cent.

Well, that shouldn't be hard to surmise seeing as no-one can smoke near one anymore, whether the staff agree with the legislation, or not. And why not 98%? Surely if the compliance the filing clerk talks about is such, then the reduction should correlate. Are the other 22% the ones that have lost their jobs since July 1st 2007?

The key to the whole steaming, corrosive, virulent heap of lies and spin is in the final, insulting, paragraph

The law was introduced to protect workers and public from secondhand smoke. It has also provided a supportive environment for those trying to give up smoking, and according to a report by Professor Robert West of University College London, an additional 400,000 people have given up smoking since 1st July 2007 as a result of smokefree legislation.

That's right, mention a Professor and we'll all just bow down to his superior expertise. Except ... Prof West was extrapolating his virtual (not real) figures from a different study, one which was conducted by an organisation with a stated interest in one outcome, and one outcome only.

Cancer Research UK, which funded the research, said that the momentum now needed to be maintained.

Is this the same Cancer Research UK which has a Tobacco Advisory Group? who state on their web-site that

TAG particularly funds research and activities that support:

Smokefree workplaces across the UK and internationally, and other measures to protect against second hand smoke exposure;

I think it is, you know.

So, let's get this correct. The ePetition rebuttal gives just one source to any of their shonky statistics. The one they do deign to reveal has come to scientific conclusions (he got his calculator out), based on data garnered from a survey by a body that boasts about only funding research that agrees with what they want to prove.

So that is, apparently, how Labour define science.

The point of the ePetition above was that there are a significant (see what I did there?) minority in the country that believe a better balance could have been struck in the Health Act 2006. No part of the response negated their argument, it just reiterated mendacious dogma without addressing the problem. Some of the stats the filing clerk quoted actually emphasized the argument of the petition author rather than contradicting it. That is immaterial though as the result is the same.

It doesn't matter which ePetition you sign up to on the Number 10 site, you will only receive a favourable reply if it agrees with Labour's particular policy at the time. It isn't an exercise in democracy, it's just an IT-based extension of Labour propaganda.

There is no point whatsoever to any Number 10 ePetition. The suggestion that any good will come out of signing one should be listed on as an urban myth.


Sue said...

The petition site is undoubtedly a complete waste of time and money. Many people don't even know of its existence. Its clear that whatever is voted upon and regardless of how many people vote, they will be ignored.

The "No Smoking Anywhere" campaign is one of the many reasons I moved to Spain. I can enjoy a cigarette in a smoking pub or I can dine in a non smoking restaurant. I am given a choice, as is my human right!

Mark Wadsworth said...


Are you perhaps confusing 'science' in the traditional sense with modern science, which has quite a different purpose?


Dick Puddlecote said...

Lordy! The manual has us beat again.