Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nanny has been at the sherry bottle and why this government will be obliterated at the next election


By Blad Tolstoy


This last week one of the hot topics for smokers has been the proposal by Professor Julian Le Grand - one of the government's senior health advisors - that smokers will have to buy permits in order to pursue their habit.


Such a permit will cost each smoker £10 and the right to carry it ill require renewal every year. Another nice little earner for the government - or so they think - enabling them also to revel in their favourite pastime of basking in a warm glow whilst micro-managing the lives of others.


I shall also add that I am indebted to one of The Daily Telegraph's editorials this last week which outlined a similar scheme (also by Le Grand) with regard to giving children swipe cards with which they can buy healthy foods. Part of The Telegraph's response to this proposal was to describe Le Grand as a nanny who had been at the sherry bottle. How perfectly succinct and appropriate and similarly, he has also been at the sherry bottle where smokers are concerned too!


So does this nutty proposal, which will probably appeal very much to nutty New Labour, have a snowball in Hell's chance of success?


The simple answer is: no.

It has already been pointed out by many that this country is now awash with black market produce which the government can do very little about. And no, I am not referring to products that can be brought in legitimately via the duty free option of going abroad to purchase one's fags (which the government will probably try to close down if it opts for Le Grand's idea). I am, in fact, referring to proper black market produce generated by real criminal activity.


For the smoker, and just as occurred during the prohibition era in America in the 1920s, this presents a golden opportunity. Buy from the black market at cheaper prices and deprive the government of tax into the bargain. A very satisfying alternative which, I shall add, I fully endorse. In fact, if I were not so concerned about the impact of Le Grand's idea with regard to yet more damage to business, I would encourage any black marketeers reading this posting to do what they do but only better. Indeed, the tobacco black market will be so damnably lucrative I might even try it myself.


In the meantime, one has to ask if this government has a death wish. It is already failing miserably where the economy is concerned (and that is the primary basis on which the success of a government is judged) and now it seeks to alienate completely some 25% plus of the electorate who smoke: permanently. Indeed, the figure is not down to 22% as government kidologists would have us believe, and has anyone taken at good look at their ridiculous attempts to survey and manipulate this issue for public consumption? What the government is aiming at is a reduction to 21% by 2010. This is the magic target set by the World Health Organisation and one which they will fail to meet although they will certainly try and pretend they have achieved it and maybe even by one year earlier (how well we read their minds).


At this point, I would like to mention an interesting commentary by Simon Clark of Forest and which is a very recent feature on his blog, entitled: "Senior health advisor agrees with Forest" (c.f: http://takingliberties.squarespace.com/). In this commentary, Clark describes how, in September 2004, he and the late Lord Harris, chairman of Forest, had a confidential meeting with John Reid (the then Secretary of State for Health) and Julian Le Grand. During the course of the meeting it emerged that neither Reid nor Le Grand believed in the passive smoking is dangerous scam. Reid explained, however, that the real reason the government wanted to to bring in a smoking ban was to encourage smokers to quit so that it could achieve its target of reducing the number of UK smokers to 21% by 2010. Interesting stuff which echoes the views of a number of commentators on the government's attitude, and that is why it is also so desperate to find ever newer and more vindictive ways to abuse smokers. In the process, any lie is just fine to achieve the goal irrespective as to whether or not smokers actually want to quit smoking.


The fact is that this government has forgotten that smokers are voters preferring, instead, to believe that smokers will be grateful to them for all the abuse and harassment. This is also borne out by Le Grand's mantra generated claim that 70% of smokers want to quit. They do not and this is another lie for we at Freedom to Choose are in far closer and more reliable contact with smoking opinion than the government or any of their mendacious cronies in ASH and the medical establishment. Certainly, there are a number of smokers who choose to give up each year, but even many of those are now digging in their heels in the opposite direction as government oppression continues.


Furthermore, isn't there something totally crazy about a government which talks about involving "stakeholders" in its consultations on tobacco control when it fails to consult the most important group - the smoking stakeholders - or if it does, the consultation is a pretence and any input from smokers is ignored in favour of those who want to do things to us for our own good? To them, I respond in the good old English vernacular: "Bugger off!"


However, let us move back to the voting issue. The number of people damaged by the UK smoking bans is very large indeed and consists of not just smokers but all those countless people whose businesses have either been put at risk or terminated as a result.


As time proceeds smokers, and those in sympathy following business damage, are becoming very aware of the political clout they may exercise via the ballot box. In fact, they now comprise, way and ahead, a very angry and very large minority indeed and at Freedom to Choose we are very well connected to many people in various industries adversely affected by the ban. Moreover, we are striving to ensure that people become more acutely aware of just how much damage we can gleefully inflict upon New Labour at the next general election. The smoking vote is now more than large enough to make or break any any government and at the next election we shall make certain that New Labour's back is broken with a ton weight, so ensuring that many current Labour MPs will never see parliament again let alone government. During the 1980s, Norman Tebbit said socialism was taking a long time to die. He was right, but, the Tories having failed to "execute" socialism he might take a crumb of comfort from the fact the "bruvvers" are now doing it for themselves.


At the next election this inept government is going to discover just how grateful we really are for the way in which we have been treated, but I also confidently send an uncompromising message to the Liberal Democrats and Cameron's Tories. They too, have failed to to represent the interests of a large portion of the electorate, preferring instead to jump on the trendy anti-smoker bandwagon. They too must remember that we are voters who require proper parliamentary representation and if Cameron and his chums think that the smoking ban will be "bedded in" by the next election (they even borrowed from ASH) they need to think again. Take a GOOD look at America. Heavy duty smoking bans have been in force there in different locations for over ten years and yet, not only has the number of smokers remained undiminished, the smoking issue remains firmly on the political agenda. The same thing will happen here except that over the next two years (yes, not long) smokers are going to become a political force to be reckoned with. I kid you not. Watch this space.