Friday 31 January 2014

@LucianaBerger: Liar Or Idiot?

What chance the truth when we're forced to suffer broom handle MPs and a news-gatherer as shoddy as the BBC?

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BBC: "Where are those figures coming from? Are you confident on those figures?"
Berger: "We are confident on those figures. It's from the ... there are studies that have been done right across the board that show, as I said, 23, err, the level of cigarette smoke is 23 times, up to 23 times as toxic in the confines of a vehicle compared to in a room in a house"
Fortunately for Luciana, she is allowed to lie to the public on national TV without citing any source, and without fear of being prosecuted, which I'm sure as a Labourite she'd be fully in favour of if it were big business doing what she has done.

Because she is talking garbage. It says something about the poor quality of Labour researchers and the BBC that neither of these cretinous organisations could Google this myth and discard it.

For background, you may remember that the last time this "23 times" nonsense cropped up, it was the BMA's "ethical" Vivienne Nathanson doing the lying on - you guessed it - the BBC.

This was completely untrue, which she should have known considering it was thoroughly debunked by her own side a long time before that transmission. Humiliatingly, the BMA were forced to issue a retraction just a couple of days later.

It's the tobacco control industry lie - incontrovertibly rubbished by one of the world's leading tobacco control industry execs - which refuses to die. How can it when mendacious BMA reps and vacuous parliamentary quislings keep resurrecting it?

Worse still is that Berger might even have got her reference wrong entirely. Full Fact points out that her assertion was slightly different but that Labour can't point to anything at all to back up her oft-spluttered but seemingly baseless claim.

So the question we need to ask is, did Luciana lie deliberately on the BBC or is she just an innocent idiot?

Thursday 30 January 2014

Smoking In Cars - Two Dangerous Precedents in One Law

The full text of yesterday's Lords debate over amendments to the Children and Families Act is available here. This, of course, was the debate which led to Lords advocating a ban on smoking in cars - and on past evidence I'm sure many of you will read it and pick out snippets that I've missed.

However, Proceedings have already raised two significant precedents which threaten free society in Britain.

Firstly, those in favour queued up to say that it is perfectly acceptable to interfere in private vehicles because they'd already done so with seat belts. Again we see a previous appalling law - which has had no effect whatsoever, by the way - being cited in demanding another of the same objectionable quality.

A perfect example of a precedent in action in itself and proof of the existence of a slippery slope.

Yet the Lords' analogy falls down because seat belt laws are handled by the police as part of their usual role of road safety. There is no aspect of road safety involved with smoking in cars with or without children (we know that the preferred option is a complete ban), so this would be the first ever time that British police will be enforcing public health. The definition of a police state would include provision for just that. Imagine the possibilities for insane public health nutters if they can henceforth count on the police to enforce whatever wacky idea they come out with next, and you just know they will use it as a precedent.

Secondly, no matter how much the Lords tried to distance themselves from the idea of the same legislation being proposed for private homes, the next logical step - tobacco control's favourite trick - most certainly will be that. In fact, two speakers just couldn't help betraying their inner thoughts even as they all stepped on political eggshells to pretend it won't be a consideration.
Baroness Howarth
I believe that this is actual harm. It is extraordinarily difficult to police every home, as we know from what happens to social workers and social services every time something occurs in a local authority because the policing has been so difficult. That does not stop us having legislation to ensure that in private place, the child is protected from harm. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Patel, just how harmful it is. Were it left to me, I would legislate in the private space of the home. 
Baroness Hughes
When responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for whom I have great respect, as he knows, said that there is a difference between smoking, which is a legal activity, and other things that we have prohibited in the home in relation to children. But the things that we were talking about then, such as neglect of children and the beating of children, have not always been illegal in the home. They were made illegal because they are particularly harmful to the well-being of children. We take it for granted now that such things are illegal but they were not always. We invaded that private space because of the need to protect children. The same argument applies.
So there you have it. The precedent of seat belts leading to police involvement in public health, and the spectre of the state with its foot inside your front door - with police backing via the precedent of smoking in cars.

In the past, these were precisely the more profound considerations the House of Lords was designed to mitigate from kneejerk politically-motivated MPs. If the Lords are no longer capable of recognising such fundamental threats to liberty, they're all but redundant.

UPDATE:Via TrashBunny in the comments, the slippery slope is slick on this one.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

The Benevolent State Comes To Puddlecote Inc

We're used to some arms of the state at Puddlecote Inc, but then we're a private business so are a ripe target for regulations, inspections, and intransigent bureaucracy - all chargeable, of course - plus taxes, and governments using our money to bribe voters.

But those who follow me on social media might have seen that the state visited today under a different guise; that of confiscating a citizen's car for non-payment of road tax.
Now, we're used to jumping through an incredible number of state hoops on a daily basis. In fact, increasingly it's just about all we do, with actually developing the business and creating employment taking up a minority of our time after having satisfied the never-ending new regulations being applied (we've yet to see a single one repealed, by the way, Dave, despite what you like to grandstand to your pals in Davos).

So, despite a fleet of 70 vehicles of our own, a tow-truck turning up was something of a novelty as we are on the ball or we're finished. Today we saw first-hand that others experience far more trouble complying.

For background, we'd noticed one of our neighbours' cars - a nicely-kept 2001 4WD - had been clamped and found out that the owner had died before her road tax was due in November. But, since she was in council accommodation we were sure they would be organising her affairs.

Apparently not.

Our Fleet Manager was incensed that the late woman's car was to be confiscated and crushed so went out to let them know that she was dead, backed up by a couple of the home's residents. Surely a death would call the dogs off until the situation could be sorted out?

It made no impression, they had their work sheet and it had to be towed unless the back penalties of £260 were paid. So our guy came back in and we immediately authorised payment from our company card to stave them off.

The car was left alone and the clamp removed, with the tow truck driver advising us to "get it SORNed quick, so we don't have to come back again". And this is where we came up against the other side of a state we're not used to dealing with in such circumstances - what a palaver!

Stupidly, we rang DVLA to explain to them that this vehicle was parked on private land but that the owner had died; that it was therefore quite obvious that this was eligible for a SORN, so could they note that on their records.

"Do you have the V5 document?", they asked. We replied no, and that we had paid to preserve the late resident's car and were making enquiries as to their next of kin. "Sorry, we can't do that then, because it would be an illegal submission.". Seriously.

So next call was to the council who housed her. "Sorry", they said, but an individual's affairs were up to them to organise. We pointed out that the car was parked in their private car park and that she was in their care when she died, but that cut no ice either. But did they have contact details for the next of kin? No, they couldn't give us those because the warden at the home is responsible for that. So we asked for his details and rang there instead.

The first response once our FM explained the situation was for the warden to fiercely deny that he had reported the vehicle. Strange first response, we thought, but our FM soldiered on. "Sorry", said the warden (we were starting to realise that the computer says no a lot for the public sector), "I can't give you contact details because of data protection".

So, as things stood, we'd paid out £260 to save a vehicle from destruction which should have been the job of someone paid by our taxes to care for her, but after an hour had got absolutely nowhere in trying to avoid the same thing re-occurring.

The warden assured us that he would contact the family and get them to give us a call. "Best I can do", he said.

Three hours later we did receive a call, and the daughter was gushing in gratitude for what we'd done. She thought that the car was safe because - get this - she'd been told by the Council that it was parked on private land so she wasn't required to do anything. Yes! One arm of the state was oblivious to the fact that another arm of the state had ordered that even if your vehicle has no engine and is parked in the middle of a privately-owned field, it still required SORN or else the DVLA will pinch it and crush the thing if need be.

It seems that - in the government's zeal to squeeze every last penny out of us citizens to pay for their ceaseless waste - they're even confusing their own public sector bodies with the avalanche of red tape. Fancy that!

The family are calling us tomorrow to organise something more permanent for the car and are extremely grateful that we stepped in to sort things out. But, as things stand, the state now has £260 in fines from a dead woman, caused by the incompetence of another branch of the state.

Where would we be without these oh-so-benevolent tax-funded folk, eh?

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Smokers, Vapers, You're All Dogs Now

Via Nanny Beeb, we learn that the demonisation of e-cigs is well underway and is proving incredibly successful.
E-cigarettes should be banned from school premises to stop children assuming they are safe, heads say. 
Head teachers' union NAHT is worried pupils may want to copy parents they see using them in the playground.
Personally, I'd always assumed products were safe until conclusively proven otherwise in this modern huge state world we have to suffer - especially those regulated by 21 different EU directives - but it's clear that the recent BBC-led barrage of tobacco control industry misinformation has done its job, with e-cigs now considered evil and not fit for use in some public areas.

I'm very surprised, though, that this kind of attitude has been so easy to cultivate in such a short space of time. You see, even tobacco smoking is only now - after decades of denormalisation - being treated as a pastime which kids should be prevented from seeing.

For example, Chippenham Council recently installed a 'voluntary ban' on smoking in parks where children might see and also plans to bring it in for their High Street. We're way beyond the passive smoking excuse now, and beyond the looking glass into what smoking bans were always all about (hint: it's not health).

BBC Wiltshire held a discussion about this subject which I think you'll enjoy. The whole piece can be heard here, but below is the meat of a debate between Fiona Andrews of Smokefree South West and Dave Atherton of Freedom 2 Choose.

You see, Dave asked if Fiona thought e-cigs should also be included in this "think of the chiiildren" ban, to which she had no answer except to mutter her industry's weak and corrupt weasel words. She did think, though, that the initiative was perfectly acceptable because, I kid you not, we already ban dogs in case they shit in the play area. Seriously, it's less than five minutes long, do have a listen.

Note also that kids seeing a beer can is now considered unacceptable, but anyone suggesting that a similar principle might be applied to fizzy drinks - you know, containing "sugar, the new tobacco" - is being an alarmist. Like worrying about kids merely seeing smokers or vapers isn't, of course. Perish the thought!

Now, I can understand a bovine public falling for this after being bombarded by fake charities, trouser-filling state-funded hysterics and daft cranks bearing junk studies and lie-ridden sound bites for years. But with e-cigs, we're talking a matter of months between most people not having a clue as to what they are to now buying into an urgent situation whereby kids should never even see one.

The one thread running through all this is the state. Because, as we see from the BBC article yesterday, our fuckwitted overlords in Westminster seem to have made their minds up already.
The Department for Education said: "The government plans to introduce legislation that will ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 and make it illegal for adults to buy cigarettes for them. This will help parents protect their children from the dangers of smoking."
The wording in these releases is pored over by civil servants so that each utterance is crystal clear in its intention. If they wanted to differentiate their crusade against smoking with the approach to e-cigs, they would have done so. But they didn't. They were both lumped together in an all-encompassing comment which implied that banning sales of e-cigs to kids was part of helping "parents protect their children from the dangers of smoking".

The mythical gateway theory - for which there is no evidence and which isn't worrisome anyway - has been swallowed hook line and sinker by the state.

And when the state has made its mind up, those they fund will parrot likewise. Because vapers are just smokers who haven't fallen into line yet, according to ASH's latest accounts (page 6).

Fiona Andrews (see more of her nonsense here) was no more able to deny e-cigs are to be included in a vindictive, pointless, evidence-free voluntary outdoor smoking ban than she would be to tell her NHS funders to withhold her wages for the good of the country's debt problems. Preferable that she finance her new kitchen and bill the public than exhibit honesty and integrity, eh? She's not in the game for her health you know nor, it would seem, anyone else's.

Likewise, it's little wonder that state-adoring unionised teachers have been terrorised into calling for bans on harmless e-cigs being used by parents - parents, for chrissakes, the employers of fucking teachers - in front of children.

Smoker, vaper, it matters not. Shut the gate on your way out, won't you doggies? Just remember to leave your taxes behind, they're needed to kick you harder the next time you try to exercise your freedom of choice.

H/T to Tony W for the recording

Monday 27 January 2014

ASH's New E-Cigs Troubleshooter And Her Ever-Expanding Salary

Via Snowdon, Labour MP for Falkirk Eric Joyce has posted some interesting thoughts on charity lobbying. This one in particular rang a bell.
I've a weather eye for big corporations taking the mickey, of course. But as a politician I've also noticed that most private enterprise owners are paid a fraction of what the bosses of large and powerful charities are.
Or even small and powerful ones, for that matter.

Imagine, for example, you are the CEO of a private company with normal volunteered income from the public of around £5,000 per year* and staffed by just 8 people. Do you think you could justify a salary for yourself of over £80k?

You see, the latest ASH accounts are now available at the Charity Commission website and that's precisely the position of Deborah Arnott. Nice work if you can get it!

In these difficult economic times; with the state purse being tightened everywhere; savage cuts to state expenditure as we are routinely informed by the Guardian et al (ASH currently sponge £150k per annum) life is still pretty sweet for Debs. Her 2012 salary was bracketed between between £70k to £80k, but an increase in her time at the trough means she now trousers £80k to £90k (page 22).

OK, perhaps it was just a few quid which tipped her over the threshold. Except that the 2004 accounts showed her earning between £50k and £51k! Wow! That's one hell of a jump, isn't it? A minimum 60% increase in 9 years, plus uniquely enhanced pension (page 20)Hands up anyone out there who can claim anything even close.

But then, in 2004, Debs didn't have two jobs as I remarked on yesterday. Before, it was just about tobacco, but since she is now secretary to a host of organisations in the Smokefree Coalition all dedicated to placing as many obstacles in front of e-cigs as humanly possible, I suppose her rapidly expanding salary is more understandable.

Ensuring continuity of profits for tobacco control's pharma sponsors while also protecting their favoured (but comparatively useless) method of quit or die against a hugely superior e-cig opponent must take some doing.

Cheap at half the price, eh?

* Boosted this year by a one-off willed legacy of £125k

Sunday 26 January 2014

Mission Creep Spotted On The BBC

Hot on the heels of a very balanced ITV Tonight programme on e-cigs comes a smorgasbord of ill-informed cockwaffle from the BBC. I guess we know which broadcaster boasts the more diligent investigative journalists now then, don't we?

Vaguely reporting on the government's plan to ban e-cig sales to under 18s - something of an industry standard amongst retailers anyway so a bit of a non-story - Nanny Beeb instead chooses to take the opportunity to regurgitate every piece of fabricated tobacco industry propaganda from the past year or two of fright-induced activism against vaping.

Continuing its usual shoddy modus operandi, the BBC calls on one of its staff (today in the form of some credulous non-entity called Richard Warry) to offer 'expert' analysis which is anything but, and quotes Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies in such a manner that we can only assume she is a dribbling idiot who should have nothing to do with regulating e-cigs, so little does she know about them.

You will also notice that Deborah Arnott is asked for her opinion. Very odd, really, considering she is head of Action on Smoking and Health, whereas e-cigs are not smoking - just like they are included in the Tobacco Products Directive despite their containing no tobacco.

In case you're curious, it's because ASH altered their "objectives for the public benefit" a few years ago. You see, in 2009 it said this:
1) To preserve and protect the health of the community both physical and mental and in the furtherance of this purpose to provide other charitable relief for those practising or likely to practise cigarette and other forms of smoking. 
2) To advance the education of the public concerning the effects of cigarette and other forms of smoking and their effects on the health of the community and the individual. 
3) To assist, carry out, promote and encourage research into cigarette and other forms of smoking and to collect and study information relating thereto with a view to publication of the same and the communication of information in connection therewith to the general public and others having legitimate interest in receiving such information for the benefit of the health of the community at large.
Nothing in there about e-cigs or any other device which doesn't contain tobacco.

In 2010 - probably when e-cigs started to register on their radar - it was quietly changed to what it remains today (emphasis mine):
1. to preserve and protect the health of the public against the harmful effects of cigarette or other tobacco products; and 
2. to advance the education of the public about the effects of cigarette and other tobacco and nicotine products.
Subtle, huh?

This is what Arnott believes renders her entitled to not only comment on e-cigs, but also be part of the steering committee trying their damnedest to place obstacles in front of all forms of harm reduction (latest accounts page 6).
Deborah Arnott was on the Commission for Human Medicines working group on harm reduction and is on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) PDG developing guidance on tobacco harm reduction.
As we know, Arnott wants all e-cigs regulated as medicines, a process which costs millions of pounds 'per product' which - if public objections are placated enough for the MHRA to implement it in 2016 as they hope - means they must be replicated for each individual product to be marketed. This is important. It's not planned as an industry standard for a pretty simple interaction between three simple components to deliver nicotine from three benign ingredients.

Oh no. What is planned is a regulatory regime which would render every single product on the market today illegal unless each product is granted permission individually. The cost is stratospheric and would make e-cigs so expensive that no-one could afford to buy them, but to be accepted by a public largely unconcerned by e-cigs, this absurd over-reaction all relies on the scare-o-meter being cranked up to 11.

Arnott knows this, and also knows about affordability affecting sales considering her organisation regularly calls for massive tax rises on tobacco to deter smoking - it's been their prime tactic for over 40 years. Her approach towards deterring e-cig use differs only by the method employed to make sure the higher prices are installed.

She also knows - as her state-funded quango studied it recently - the 'gateway effect' of e-cigs is pure fantasy, but she was strangely silent on that salient fact today despite the BBC reporting it as if smoking is about to skyrocket because of kids scrambling for the Marlboros after a brief encounter with vaping.
While smoking rates have fallen to their lowest ever level, experts fear the electronic substitutes could be encouraging teenagers to take up the habit.
But then, why let facts important to public health interfere with an agenda Arnott gets paid increasingly handsomely for, eh? (more on that tomorrow)

Friday 24 January 2014

Why The Scared People Are Scared

Yesterday, I saw scared people on Irish TV.

Today, via this article in French magazine Challenge, we see exactly why they're so scared.
The market for nicotine replacement lost 7% in 2013. The rise of the electronic cigarette, increasingly used as a method to quit smoking, is the cause. 
Since the rapid expansion of electronic cigarettes, sales of patches, gums and lozenges are plummeting in France as in other European countries. "This decline has been evident since the beginning of September," says Sophie Ragot, Marketing Manager OTC and dermatology for GlaxoSmithklineBeecham, the company that markets Niquitin products. 
According to the latest figures, the market for nicotine replacement therapy in France has fallen by 6.6% in 2013 to under 100 million euros of turnover (99.2 million to be exact) for the first time since 2010. "If we look at only the last quarter, the figures are even worse. Declining by 17% and even 35% for patches," explains Sophie Ragot. 
For laboratories that market nicotine replacement therapy (GSK, Pierre Fabre, Johnson & Johnson), the economic outlook is bleak for the coming year. They predict a double-digit decline in the market for nicotine replacement in 2014, before stagnating in 2015. "The hardest thing is that we still do not know really how to act in relation to this phenomenon. We do not know much about the principles of e-cigarettes," said Sophie Ragot. 
At the same time, the use of electronic cigarettes has skyrocketed. According to a recent figures from Collectif des acteurs de la cigarette électronique (CACE), 2 million French vape regularly. This market, which was virtually non-existent in 2009, today accounts for around 100 million euros, equal to the market for nicotine replacement therapy.
Article author, Laure-Emmanuelle Husson, also handily provides a graph by way of illustration.

What you see there is NRT being found out. It has always had an appalling success rate - no better than quitting without help - yet tobacco control industry consensus has been pushing it for decades now as a kind of medicinal magic.

E-Cigs have come along and pissed all over this cosy little pharma/prohibitionist symbiotic relationship, showing the world that they've been sold a pup for a very long time, and using hundreds of millions of your tax pounds to do so.

No such public money has been required by e-cigs - in fact, public money has been spent, and continues to be spent, trying to hinder them - yet their uptake is spectacular. And if all that tax-funded activity is performing so very badly - while private companies compete using their own cash to promote the same end but with far better results - then why do we need so many people sponging off of our taxes to advocate it, eh?

Big pharma is scared; the anti-smoking groups they sponsor are scared; and scared people act in a scared and irrational manner ... like I watched them doing on RTÉ yesterday.

As I have always said (e.g here, here, here and here to name but a few), just follow the money and it's easy to see that it's never been about health.

Thursday 23 January 2014

I See Scared People

On Sunday, an article was published at Nicotine Science and Policy discussing why public health is so irrationally opposed to e-cigs.

One suggestion, above all, encapsulates exactly what is happening.
"[W]e think there is a bit of suspicion and jealousy because the e-cigarette movement did not emanate from medicine or public health, hence public health never felt it had “ownership” of the initiative."
Ain't that the truth?

If E-cigs had been developed by the pharmaceutical companies and promoted by their marketing department - also known as the tobacco control industry - do you seriously think we'd be seeing so much scaremongery from anti-smokers? Of course not.

If they were a pharma product, tobacco controllers would have already been camped out at Westminster demanding they be available on the NHS; that doctors should be paid for recommending them like already happens with proven health risk Champix; and people like Martin McKee would be tweeting about how bloody marvellous they are.

Unfortunately, e-cigs were not imagined by Big Pharma, but instead a pesky Chinese guy. And we know, don't we, how racist the tobacco control industry is when it comes to the Chinese.

There are , therefore, reputations at stake. And tobacco control are shitting themselves, as this video (via Grandad) proves conclusively.

Discussing the phenomenon of e-cigs, Kathleen O'Meara squirms and slithers through an interview by throwing out every piece of entrenched tobacco control garbage she can think up in the short time afforded to her.

Following on from Clive Bates pointing out that "an industry has developed in the public health community of creating a lot of fear and panic about this", O'Meara simply proves that he is correct by doing exactly that.

Looking distinctly uncomfortable throughout, her first approach is - predictably - to invoke big bad tobacco. Apparently, e-cigs are "undoubtedly" good for health but because the tobacco companies are getting involved, it must automatically mean they're actually something evil.

To top off the evening, Kathleen O'Meara of the Irish Cancer Society marched in 'after' the speakers had finished. The woman didn't have the courtesy to get there on time, I thought. But no. She actually came in, took the microphone on the floor and gave a tirade of her own before picking up her handbag and marching out again.
Not falling for baseless smears, the refreshingly astute Irish compère dismisses that as irrelevant and pushes her again for a proper answer.

Perhaps perplexed as to how this tired and pathetic tactic - aka Tobacco Control 101 - didn't instantly close down the debate, O'Meara was briefly knocked out of her stride (see the stumble and glance to the heavens at 10:35 in the vid). Regaining calculated pretence of authority, she flips over to marketing earlier than she'd hoped, and then some.

"They're marketed like cigarettes were!", "they sidestep our wonderful smoking bans!", "they look like smoking!". The usual desperate crap, before scraping the barrel by going against one of tobacco control's historical heroes.
"This is nicotine! Nicotine is what has smokers, smoke"
I've no doubt she will have knowledge of the late Michael Russell, who is arguably the founder of the nicotine replacement therapy industry O'Meara and her cronies now shill for. In 1976, his paper in the BMJ was recognised as ground-breaking for its advocacy of harm reduction.
Comparisons of nicotine concentrations in dependent users of dry nasal snuff, moist oral snuff and cigarette smokers showed remarkably similar levels, pointing to the controlling influence of nicotine. This led Russell to become an early advocate of harm reduction, since it was apparent that it was the tar, not the nicotine, that killed smokers, and it was possible to satisfy users' desire to take nicotine with non-combustible tar-free products
Russell is rightly regarded as the father of effective treatment to help smokers quit. He took an early interest in nicotine chewing gum, which had been developed in Sweden by his friend Ove Ferno, and was instrumental in persuading a vacillating pharmaceutical company to go ahead with it.
Yes. That nicotine that "has smokers, smoke" is the base for every NRT product her organisation has been relentlessly promoting as quite brilliant for smokers for decades, yet now it's evil and must be blocked. 

So, in effect, O'Meara is perfectly OK with nicotine provided by pharmaceutical companies, but not by anyone else. Especially those slitty-eyed bastard Chinese.

Which led nicely into the other petrified vested interest in the studio, Darragh O'Loughlin of the Irish Pharmacy Union. Looking as awkward as a teen in his first office job, complete with ill-fitting suit, Darragh blathered on about "safe and effective" NRT (yes, really!), and how only medical regulation is acceptable for e-cigs. 

"You want a monopoly", countered RTÉ's host. Twice.

No, not all, replied Darragh - looking for all the world like a Rottweiler had just clamped its jaws around his love plums, so uncomfortable was he at being figured out so effortlessly - they're being bought by people who don't want to quit smoking, that's his problem. Followed swiftly by an idiotic assertion that harm reduction is no good because tobacco is the only substance known to man where dose doesn't make the poison. And, do you know what? I actually think that was the only part of his spiel he actually believes, the bovine tart.

Darragh's testimony is cursorily and accurately described as "special pleading from the pharmaceutical industry" by Bates while he and O'Meara shift uneasily in their seats and unsuccessfully attempt to still appear superior, smug and dismissive. It didn't work. It's clear to all viewers that their contrived arguments suck and they are simply fearful of their house of cards falling down and paper-cutting their ill-gotten salaries. 

But there is still one last futile attempt by Darragh to rescue the situation, so he talks about Bates's "friends in the tobacco industry" and we've then come full circle. Starting off with an irrelevant point from O'Meara to try to stifle debate, and finishing in the same, shoddy, pathetic, unhelpful, disingenuous, corrupt, spineless and tawdry way. 

And this is the tobacco control industry's problem with e-cigs. As the interviewer thanks his studio guests, they look like gangsters who've not made their hit and are fearful of being whacked by an angry mob boss while they sleep. "Look Ma, we're on top of the world!", except that they're not any more, they're just scared people floundering and making themselves look more and more stupid week on week ... while e-cigs surge on, creating new people to dislike them every day. 

If they weren't such unspeakably compromised vandals, I could almost feel some pity. 

Tuesday 21 January 2014

The Wolf Of Wall Street And A Vaping Wino

With the kids off doing their own thing before we got up on Sunday - as they increasingly do now they're approaching teenhood, in possession of a travel card, and still with leftover Christmas money - Mrs P came up with a brilliant suggestion that we don't recall being able to consider in the previous dozen years or so.
"It's 10:30am, if we get a wiggle on we can catch the noon showing of The Wolf of Wall Street"
So we did, and I can recommend it as an amusing and quite disgracefully rude romp through 80s and 90s junk brokerage culture (don't go if you're easily offended by nudity, by the way ... lots of it, oh, and shagging too).

On a side note, the number of smoking scenes were many although it's clear that Jonah Hill has never puffed on a real tab in his life, not great when portraying a character who is supposed to have spent much of his waking life "fucked up" on just about every drug known to man.

Having said that, it was interesting that when Rob Reiner - crooked investment banker Jordan Belfort's (Leo DiCaprio) Dad in the film - was around, smoke was notably absent. One scene in particular, where all in the boardroom were discussing the merits of different dwarf entertainers - "no, it says here he'll get his cock out" - while smoking with abandon, altered completely once Reiner stormed into the office to criticise their expenses a few seconds later. The air was clean and the ashtrays strangely empty, as far as I could see.

I expect this will be due to Reiner being a bit of an arse about smoking. There's no way he's going to butter-lubricate his way out of a car to act in an Oscar-nominated film if he has to fake cough and wave his way through it, eh? It just wouldn't be right. I presume DiCaprio would have had to hide his e-cig off set too in case Reiner snapped it in a smokerphobic rage.

Anyway, that's not what this article is about.

You see, when we got parked, Mrs P went off to buy bags of Haribo from the pound shop (no way we're paying £6.50 for popcorn) while I bought the tickets. As I crossed the street to meet her in Puddlecoteville's shopping mall for a snatched panini lunch at Costa, there just to the side of the doors were two local winos. I've seen them before, many times, but something was different. It took me a while to work out exactly what because it was so very unexpected.

At 11am-ish, one was chugging on a Tennants Extra and the other a Bulmers, no surprise there. But while matey with the Tennants puffed away on a cigarette, his pal was clutching - and vaping - what looked like a Tornado V3 or something damn similar.

Not even a cigalike. A bona fide refillable!

There I am, about to watch a film starring one of the most glamorous people in the world, when I come across someone most would consider one of the least glamorous ... yet they are both united by their appreciation of vaping.

I'm starting to get an inkling as to why these devices seem to upset the pharma-enthralled bansturbators so very much. Every time they see one - and sightings are becoming commonplace now - it's yet another smoker not toeing the line and quitting or replacing tobacco in the manner they've been told to. After all their years of structured droning, for tobacco controllers this must feel like being whacked over the head with a baseball bat while the world around them laughs in their face.


Monday 20 January 2014

Worms Run Amok At The BMJ

As noted here in the autumn, the BMJ has decided to ban publication of "any study that is partly or wholly funded by the tobacco industry", a move described by BAT's Chief Scientific Officer as "anti-science".

No matter their motives, this justifiably led to many responses under the original announcement logically calling for the same treatment - in the name of consistency - to be meted out to pharma-funded research as well.

It seems that - in their myopic zeal to appease the tobacco control industry - the BMJ has popped open a can of particularly damaging worms which are currently wriggling all over the journal's credibility. As Former BMJ Editor Richard Smith illustrated on Friday in a piece entitled "Should journals stop publishing research funded by the drug industry?" (emphases mine).
The BMJ and its sibling journals have stopped publishing research funded by the tobacco industry for two main reasons: the research is corrupted and the companies publish their research to advance their commercial aims, oblivious of the harm they do. But these arguments apply even more strongly to research funded by the drug industry, and we suggest there is a better way to communicate the results of trials that would be safer for patients. 
Prescribed drugs are the third leading cause of death, partly because of flaws in the evidence published in journals
In contrast to tobacco funded research, which is comparatively rare, two thirds of the clinical trials published in major journals such as the Lancet or New England Journal of Medicine are funded by the drug industry. In addition, companies use ghost writers to promote misleading trials in scores of secondary publications and reviews in major journals. These, just like the original research, often carry the names of opinion leaders, which seems to give the articles credibility. This common practice is scientific fraud.
Smith, and co-petitioner Peter C Gøtzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, highlight many egregious abuses by pharmaceutical companies, including these.
Merck scientists knew already in 1996 that rofecoxib (Vioxx) might cause thrombosis, but the company published numerous misleading studies in prominent journals to promote its licensed use and other uses, sometimes omitting cases of myocardial infarction in patients taking the drug. More generally, the dishonesty in the research literature on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is legion and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of patients, many of whom didn’t even need the drug. 
Another dire example is antipsychotics. Many recent drug industry crimes are related to off-label promotion of antipsychotics, and in the United States they were the most sold drugs in 2009. However, they are so dangerous that just one of them, olanzapine (Zyprexa), has probably caused 200 000 deaths.
By way of rebuttal, current BMJ Head of Research Trish Groves doesn't make much of an attempt at defending pharma-funded studies, in fact she agrees they are often deeply flawed. Instead, her argument appears to boil down to - in short - their liking pharma companies a bit more than tobacco ones.

And, of course, that the BMJ's reluctance to be even-handed is certainly not "because our journals receive advertising, reprint, and some sponsorship income from the drug industry". Oh no, absolutely not. Couldn't be further from the truth.

Understandably, Trish takes a bit of a kicking in the rapid responses section (comments, to you and me), and a poll running on their home page currently shows a majority of around 55% in favour of a ban on pharma research too.

It's tobacco control in a nutshell, isn't it? Full of pointless ideas, and with no foresight as to the unintended consequences.

You gotta laugh.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Helping CRUK With Their Accuracy

This article in the Nottingham Post reminded me that it is now universally accepted that illicit tobacco is on the increase.
INTRODUCING plain packaging on cigarette boxes would make it easier for counterfeit cigarettes to flood the market, it is claimed. 
Official figures show that the illicit trade in tobacco is increasing again, and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs estimate that 500 million more cigarettes were smuggled into the UK in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. The potential cost to the Government is estimated at almost £3 billion, which is £500 million more than last year.
Indeed, this is true, as detailed by HMRC in this document.

Yet this article from October 2012 - a month firmly within the timeframe studied by HMRC's report - still remains unaltered on Cancer Research UK's website.
Robin Hewings, Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, commented: "The tobacco industry claims that cigarette smuggling is 'booming', 'set to grow' and that the UK is becoming the European 'hotspot'
"Today's figures show the opposite. This is yet another instance of the tobacco industry making claims that turn out not to be true."
As I pointed out at the time, Robin was using two year old figures to come up with his erroneous assertions whereas the sources he linked to were referring to what was actually happening at the time.

Far from "making claims that turn out not to be true", the tobacco industry was 100% correct while Robin Hewings was the one "making claims that turn out not to be true". Embarrassing, huh?

I'm sure Cancer Research UK value their integrity and would not wish falsehoods to still be carried on their website, so I have generously emailed Robin to help save his blushes.
Dear Mr Hewings 
I am writing to alert you to an error on the CRUK website which I'm sure you will wish to correct. 
In this article from October 2012, you were quoted saying that tobacco industry claims of a rise in illicit tobacco trade were false. As I'm sure you are now aware, HMRC's Measuring Tax Gaps reports have since confirmed that industry predictions were indeed correct and that you were demonstrably not; and that it was right to conclude that cigarette smuggling was "set to grow", which you denied. 
I feel sure you will agree that it is not in the best interests of CRUK to leave such an inaccurate article online in its present form, especially since it ironically illustrates that it was you who were "making claims that turn out not to be true" rather than the tobacco industry you accused of doing so. 
I thought I would get in touch to point out this blooper so you can amend the article, or add a retraction, before anyone notices that your assertions were either ill-informed or deliberately misleading. 
I note, also, that the press release in question was issued in collaboration with the Press Association. I expect, then, that you'll be keen to contact them too in order that they can correct the error their end to save potential embarrassment. 
No need to thank me, just call it my good deed for the day. 
Yours sincerely
Richard Puddlecote
I suppose I should similarly help this guy, who trusted CRUK and therefore made himself look a bit foolish ...

... but I don't think my internet reaches Australia.

Oh well.

Friday 17 January 2014

New Study Finally Cuts The Crap About Plain Packaging

In their ever-more frantic clamour to come up with convincing 'evidence' with which to con other countries into adopting plain packaging like Australia stupidly has, the tobacco control industry has just released a new study.

Like others before, it divorces itself entirely from the arguments used globally to promote plain packaging as a policy in the first place. As Cancer Council Victoria proudly explains:
Smokers are less willing to display their packs in public and smoke in outdoor areas since plain packaging was introduced, new research has found. 
The Cancer Council Victoria research, published in Addiction journal today, aimed to evaluate whether cigarette pack display (packs visible on tables) and smoking at outdoor venues changed following the introduction of plain packaging and larger graphic health warnings in December 2012. 
Quit Victoria Executive Director Fiona Sharkie said plain packaging and the larger graphic health warnings meant smokers did not want to advertise their habit.
You see, yer average Joe thought that it was about the children, probably because that's all they were told publicly by tobacco control HQ. When calling for a ban on coloured packs, it is always couched as being for the children. Always the children. It's all you will see in any tweet, press release, call to authority or expensive taxpayer-funded advertising campaign prior to achieving their legislation.

When campaigning, though, they barely whisper that the real plan was always to prevent smokers enjoying their freedom of choice, as I described almost two years ago.
Now, I've seen many a 'meh' reaction to this initiative, some from those who should know better. They think this is just an attack on the tobacco industry and doesn't affect smokers at all.

Sadly, they couldn't be more wrong. ASH explains why here.
Smokers display the branding every time they take out their pack to smoke. In doing so they are making a statement about how they want to be seen by others as they display and endorse the brand they have chosen.
Y'see, ASH don't want smokers to be able to make any statement, they only want them to be denormalised. That's why plain packs must be bullied through at any cost.

Can't have smokers believing they have a sense of identity or worth, now can we?

In fact, one of the reasons Aussie MPs fell in love with plain packaging enough to pass the law down there, was precisely the attractive nature - one might even call it 'glitzy' - of how it impinged on smokers' self-expression.
The study showed how cigarette brands and cigarette package designs gave meaning to personal characteristics, to social identity and to positions in hierarchies of status. (page 6)

Pack design doesn’t just communicate the ‘personality’ of a cigarette brand to the smoker... it also allows smokers to project these characteristics to others when they handle and display the package throughout their daily routines. Just as designer clothing, accessories and cars serve as social cues to style, status, values and character, so too can cigarette packs signify a range of attributes about users. As ‘badge products’, cigarettes can reinforce the characteristics conjured by brand image.(page 7)
Identity? Style? Status? Values? Character? These aren't attributes any self-respecting anti-smoker wants tobacco consumers to be able to enjoy. They must be stamped out at any cost.

Any fool knows that smokers must only be seen as malodourous, litterers, selfish and thoughtless, unattractive and undesirable, undereducated and a social underclass, addicts, excessive users of public health services, and employer liabilities. And how do fools know this? Because the prime architect of plain packing laws in Australia, Simon Chapman, told them all of the above in 2002.

Make no mistake. This is just the latest attack on all smokers. Further heavy-handed denormalisation tactics aimed not at industry, but at individuals who choose to smoke.
The children, you say? Nah, they've served their purpose, that's yesterday's news. So it's nice to see that this latest study has decided to cut the crap and admit what the whole plain packs charade has always been about. It's just a shame for tobacco control that the study itself is full of more crap, as I highly recommend you discover by reading Snowdon's take on it this morning.

The goal of plain packaging has only ever been about bullying smokers and those who provide products that smokers willingly buy. It has never been about children, which is why no study yet is remotely interested in monitoring underage take-up of smoking more than a year after plain packaging's introduction in Australia.

Of course, admitting that to politicians while campaigning wouldn't impress them much. Hence why tobacco control is still lying the big one here and in Ireland.

It's not about the children, never has been. But then, when has the anti-smoking crusade ever been about anything it claims in public, eh?

Thursday 16 January 2014

A Good Man Is In Court Today

I've written about this before, so am encouraged to see someone standing up to a new law applied in an unnecessarily heavy-handed fashion.
A couple who took their children out of school so they could have their first family holiday in five years risk being jailed after refusing to pay fines introduced under controversial new laws. 
Stewart and Natasha Sutherland will appear before Telford Magistrates' Court tomorrow after they took their three children to the Greek island of Rhodes during the school term. 
The couple were given an initial fine of £360 after the family of five went away for seven days at the end of September, but were unwilling to pay. 
The penalty then doubled to £720 because they did not pay the fee within 21 days.
Now, I'm sure there are parents who require, ahem, encouragement to send their kids to school. Maybe some sanctions for repeated frivolous or neglectful attendance might be required under such circumstances. But this ain't one of those cases.

On the contrary, Stewart Sutherland seems erudite and makes a very good case.
The couple are arguing that the education authority has no appeal process and they have no choice but to go to court to have their say. 
‘We are their parents; it should be up to us. I have no concerns over any of my children or their level of education. They are all in the top sets, and we believe quality family time is just as important as schooling. 
‘We are bringing our children up to value their education, we know how important it is, but we are being punished for three things, because we work full-time, the fines are double because we are married, and finally because we were honest enough to tell the school the truth about the holiday instead of simply saying the kids were ill.’
Natural justice should surely mean opportunity for appeal should be mandatory in education just as it is in every other area - he is 100% correct in that. It's also disturbing that this should be imposed when some level of courteous understanding should have come into play.
The family booked the holiday in October 2012, before the new guidelines were put into force on September 1 least year.
In 2012, I also tackled the point about getting around the rules by citing illness.
What is Gove planning to do when 'sickness' absences rise dramatically, which is the only fully predictable outcome, especially since mobile phones now mean a parent can call a child in sick from bloody Goa if they choose? 
Monitoring of movement? Mandatory child check ups to prove the sickness has occurred? Home visits by state inspectors to ensure the family hasn't done a moonlight flit? Investigations into where calls are made from? You know, the sort of thing Conservatives used to accuse Labour of.
Because these new tough rules are, after all, a Tory policy having been installed during their tenure.
When you boil it all down, this is the end destination for Gove's policy. The state's inalienable right to educating kids over and above any ability of parents to decide marginal benefits/drawbacks of missing out on a week or two - or even more if they see fit - for themselves.
I might add that when teachers strike there is no talk of fines for desecrating the sanctity of education. The same state employees who enforce fines for the crime of missing a week, for one family here or there, seem to value that precious time far less when they are depriving every child in the school and, with it, an exponentially larger count of lost education days. Not to mention the time off work and commensurate lost wages/payments to childcare that go with it for parents.

I suppose it wouldn't matter so much if there wasn't such a huge amount of flabbiness in the curriculum anyway, as I've mentioned in the past when told we are supposed to 'respect' schools and teachers (from 2011 and do click through the links for more).
Well, let's talk about some of the activities undertaken recently by the little Puddlecotes at school, shall we? 
Today, the boy has spent the entire day at a nearby theatre rehearsing for an evening choir performance - it's a culmination of weeks of in-class training in the vital skill of singing pop songs. This follows two fund-raising mufti days in the past couple of weeks, the focus of one being a full programme of having a right laugh and being 'educated' about Comic Relief. The other was less - for want of a better word - intense, but was capped with finishing at lunch in favour of a cake and book sale for visiting parents, with the kids as stall holders. 
The girl has also been fully educated (for this year, at least) in X-Factor appreciation after weeks of preparing for a celebrity-studded concert at the O2 with thousands of others. The obligatory charity days were also observed. 
Now, that may seem part of a well-rounded education, except that there isn't much meaningful education being added to the rounding, as regular readers will ably recall
The boy most recently regaled me with how he had been instructed to write a rap song about the environment, whilst the girl was tasked with producing a poster advising on the dangers of smoking and drugs. 
All of which makes me wonder what, exactly, we should be asking our kids to respect here.
Or, put another way.
Schools have a total of 38 weeks with our children, much of which is taken up by execrably useless subjects such as PSHE and nagging about lifestyle choices, sex education, and bloody environmentalism. This is without mentioning mufti days at the behest of professional charity fund-raisers, childhood damaging health and safety hysteria, politically-correct nonsense, and other fripperies that have no place whatsoever being taught by the government.
So good luck to Mr Sutherland. I expect a week with someone as switched on as him - in a horizon-broadening environment for kids - was equally as useful as the week his youngsters missed in the state's care ... but will have caught up on just as anyone in work catches up with their backlog after the compulsory EU 5.6 weeks of annual paid leave.

All power to your elbow today in court, Sir.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Plain Packaging Arguments: Before And After

Following on from yesterday's article illustrating tobacco control's desperation to find something - anything - to con politicians into believing that plain packaging is not the clear failure that it is, and was always going to be, I thought it interesting to highlight the differences in approach before and after.

You see, here are a few examples of how those extra phone calls to quit lines in Australia have been greeted by the usual suspects. As parent of a dedicated Directioner, it seems remarkably similar to hysterical pubescent adulation of the rather ordinary and shallow to me.

So the whole exercise has been about pressuring adult smokers to quit, has it? That might be news to politicians in Ireland who are currently being bombarded with a quite different message.

So, before it's about the kiddies, but once they've got their way it's about forcing smokers to quit? Well, of course.

Just like smoking bans were about protecting bar staff until they became about bullying smokers; ditto tobacco display bans, vending machine bans and graphic warnings were all pitched as thinking of the children until the laws were passed - by any corrupt means possible - and they then miraculously became marvellous tools for beating recalcitrant smokers with a big regulatory stick.

Sadly for the tobacco control industry, the latest pitiful 'evidence' - that, gasp, some people rang a telephone number - is perfectly deflated by this Kiwi statistician.
If you look at the research paper, they found an increase peaking at about 300 calls per week and then falling off by about 14% per week. That works out to be a total of roughly 2000 extra calls attributed to the packaging change, ie, just over half a percent of all smokers in Australia, or perhaps a 10% increase in the annual Quitline volume. If the number of people actively trying to quit by methods other than Quitline also goes up by 10%, you still wouldn’t expect to see much impact on total tobacco sales after one year. 
The main selling point for the plain packaging (eg) was that it would prevent young people from starting to smoke. That’s what really needs to be evaluated, and it’s probably too early to tell.
It is, indeed, too early to tell. Which is why the UK government is correct to wait until these con artists stop screeching like baboons about irrelevant studies and instead provide something which remotely tallies with their heroic pre-legislative claims.

Still no decent evidence for risking increased counterfeit and crapping on corner shops, then. Sir Cyril, take note.

Monday 13 January 2014

The Pitiful Search For Plain Packaging Evidence Fails Again

It's all getting desperate Down Under.

Tobacco controllers and anti-smokers are going garrity on Twitter about this new, undisputed 'proof' that plain packaging works!
Conclusions: There has been a sustained increase in calls to the Quitline after the introduction of tobacco plain packaging.
So how many of these people actually did quit? You know, how are the prevalence figures looking one year and three months on?

Well, Crikey gives us brand new info from Australia ... or, more precisely, a lack of it.
A global study out today has found that after decades of declining, Australia’s rate of smoking has plateaued, and even increased slightly among women. There are almost 3 million smokers in Australia and between them they puff on 21 billion — yes, billion — cigarettes a year. 
That’s the most recent data available, and it goes up to the end of 2012. As to whether the world’s first laws mandating the plain packaging of cigarettes have worked (they started in December 2012), those who have the data won’t release it. It’s a public policy secret.
That's very interesting, isn't it?

You'd think, wouldn't you, that if plain packaging had helped decrease smoking prevalence that Australia's Department of Health and Ageing would be screaming it from the rooftops instead of hiding the stats.

For the record, it seems Aussies are giving up less and less the more dictatorial anti-tobacco bullies become.
The big drop in people smoking is a medium-term success story, but since 2009 the rate of smoking in Australia has levelled off. This graph from the report shows the rate of change is now approaching zero:

The report, from The Journal of the American Medical Association detailing trends in 187 countries, specifies Australia's percentage decline in prevalence as 1.9% per year since 1980 but - as Crikey states above - the significant declines were before tobacco control embarked on the bullying and barrel-scraping of recent years, after which the effect has disappeared entirely.

And, since Google is our friend, we can see that Australia's population increased by 1.8% in 2009, 1.3% in 2010, 1.2% in 2011 and 1.6% in 2012 - from 21.78 million citizens in 2009 to 22.68 million in 2012. So, if the percentage prevalence figures are no longer decreasing, this means that smoker numbers in Australia are actually now increasing in recent years.

Could this be why the Aussie government are so coy about releasing their assessment of how plain packaging has 'worked'? Vanishing percentage decreases in prevalence and increased numbers of tobacco users is hardly a proud boast to other countries - like ours - who are looking Down Under for evidence of a ground-breaking policy, now is it?

Of course, this will simply spur on the Aussie tobacco control industry to call for more absurd regulations, while conveniently ignoring previous Quixotic global failures of denormalisation via daft and incompetent regulations.

No matter the cognitive dissonance, though, all this does kinda make the Aussie government's drive to "by 2018, reduce the national smoking rate to 10 per cent of the population" [pdf] - that is, to reduce it by 43% in four years - funnier than anything you'll ever see on Live at the Apollo.

Hopefully, our government will ditch their usual blinkers and look properly at the evidence from Australia. Plain packs is quite clearly not working or we'd have heard more about it than a shonky study on what people are thinking about doing - rather than something they are actually doing.

Still nothing anyone could call convincing evidence then, eh Sir Cyril?

NB: And note, yet again, that a policy lobbied for on the basis that it was vital to 'save children' has shifted sideways into one about forcing smokers to quit. The Quitline study which has energised the bovine on Twitter today doesn't mention children once; nor kids or youth. And the only mention of the word young is via the surname of the lead author.

Sunday 12 January 2014

No Really, Think Of The Children

And you thought education left a lot to be desired now? Wait till you see what Labour have planned.
Teachers would have to be licensed every few years in order to work in England's state schools under a future Labour government, the BBC has learned. 
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said regular re-licensing of teachers would allow the worst ones to be sacked whilst helping others to receive more training and development.
Now, regular readers will remember posts here about the perils of Puddlecote Inc, so let me tell you how this idea worked out for a private sector company. Because our employees were "helped" to receive more "training and development" too, not that a single one of them asked for it.

A few years ago, there was this brilliant idea - emanating from the EU - to insist that all currently licensed HGV and PSV drivers must take on 35 hours of training every five years. You could do so by taking 7 hours per year, or do it all in an intensive week long course. You'd have to pay, of course. Around £400 plus VAT at the very cheapest if you stored it up for the week long stuff.

Who pays for this is dependent on the company, some say that it is the driver's responsibility to keep their licence up to scratch, others felt pity and decided they'd shoulder the cost, but either way it was costly (all passed on to the customer) but had to be done or else the driver is off the road.

Our experience - and we offered to pay for the courses - was that our best drivers said "enough of this shit" and quit the game. Not just any old drivers either, it was mostly the most experienced older drivers who decided that it was a ridiculous idea, and that there was no way they were letting some snotty-nosed professional training adviser tell them how to do a job they'd performed brilliantly for decades.

The courses involved such vital skills modules such as vehicle security and crime prevention, economic driving, and customer care. You know, the kind of thing that employers used to be in charge of for free. As well as instruction on drivers' hours, defect reporting and safe loading ... which they have already learned in order to be licensed in the first place, and sessions in environmental sustainability and health and safety, natch.

Talking to trade associations and others, this stupid, pointless exercise in box-ticking by clipboard-wielding inspectors who've never done a day's work in our industry in their lives led to a loss of around 20% of drivers across the board. And this despite the courses being attendance only, meaning they could turn up - after paying by cash, cheque or credit card, of course - and read a book or fall asleep if they liked, there is no exam, no assessment, they get a certificate just for being there and wasting 35 hours of their lives and annual leave.

How Labour's plan would work is anyone's guess, but I expect it won't be attendance only so the effect will be amplified exponentially. It's going to be the best teachers who decide they are financially secure enough to throw their hands in the air and retire early rather than suffer such pathetically-imagined ignominy. And, as in our business, these are the ones who teach the younger - more readily indoctrinated - professionals their trade.

A more stupid policy for education is hard to imagine, especially since you can just imagine that the politically-correct crap the teaching profession is already subjected to will be magnified, and that - whichever way you cut it - it is the taxpayer who will pay for the course fees.
Unions criticised it as "pointless".
For once, the unions are absolutely spot on, but then it is specifically designed to be pointless. It's very point is pointlessness. Licensing and inspections of professionals already trained for the job, and/or accepted by the school as competent, is simply a political exercise in pretending politicians have a useful role in society, in this case because the EU has largely usurped Labour's ability to do anything useful.

But here is one time when we should be pleading with them to properly think of the children. Do we want kids to be trained by experienced older professionals with decades of knowledge and skills to be passed on to colleagues, or should Labour be allowed to drive them out of the job by way of death by a thousand insults to their intelligence?

Four more years and my kids are out of it, God help those of you with younger ones.