Amazing, isn’t it? A month or so ago there was no sign of this ban and, suddenly, there it is. Splat! I should imagine that it was much the same in pre-prohibition America – lots of meetings, parades, speeches, scientific claims of ‘alcohol related diseases, gullible, self-seeking, quisling politicians, calculating party apparatchiks, etc, etc. But,in this case, not a shred of evidence that any child anywhere has actually been harmed by tobacco smoke in a car, and ample evidence that children in cars are breathing toxic traffic fumes with every breath they take when they are in a car on the road.
But I refuse to fulminate about it. From the moment that the amendment was proposed in the Lords, I thought that the clever ruse would succeed. This conviction became stronger as no strong voices were raised against it and the Government stuttered.
But I refuse to fulminate. It does not matter. In fact, I am beginning to come round to the idea that they might as well get on with it and get their plain packaging as well. Why wait and go through all this hassle again? Ignore the people – criminalise them all for one reason or another, especially drinkers and fatties. Why not? They give a bad example to children. Drag the parents of fat children before the courts for child neglect. Politicians have opened the floodgates.
When I saw Lord Smith on TV trying to avoid responsibility for the failure to dredge the Somerset rivers, a thought struck me. It gradually seeped into my mind. If I go back in my mind to the 1970s and 80s, there was no such thing as a quango. Certain important industries were nationalised, like coal, water, transport, electricity. It is a moot question whether or not that was a good thing, but, as best I can remember, all of these things functioned efficiently. But the best about it was that there was no need for advertising campaigns and advertising standards of truth. Either your coal was delivered or it was not – at a given price. Also, there was a certain simplicity in the functioning of those industries which were fundamental to national equilibrium.
The rise of quangos began with the de-nationalisation of these important industries. We saw the appearance of offwat etc. The Government of the day must have seen these quangos as life-savers since they took responsibility for efficiency out of the direct control of the Government. It isn’t absolutely clear that the quangos were responsible to the Government. It was all, sort of, indirect. I suppose that, provided all went along reasonably well, lots of jobs (in the quangos) were being created and lots of regulations being were being made.
But, and here is the important point which I wish to make, these quangos became autonomous; they became little fiefdoms. And then they became bigger fiefdoms, and bigger and bigger. At the same time, charlatans ad zealots in equal measure gravitated towards them. Thus, when the Rivers Board (or whatever it was called) was absorbed by the Environmental Agency, the ‘wildlife zealots, the flora zealots and the aviary zealots’, had a target to infiltrate. And thus, a subtle change occurred which was hardly noticeable at first – instead of quangos being responsible to Ministers, Ministers became responsible to quangos. The Environment al Agency said to a Minster that it was very important for wildlife to allow some parts of the Somerset Flats to flood a little, and so not to dredge the rivers. Ministers saw this as a means to reduce costs and went along (after all, global warming would keep the floods down anyway). But, because of the ATTENTION which the zealots had gained, no one thought of the possibility of future weather catastrophes. Thus, all the precious wildlife has been drowned and massive damage has occurred.
We could describe Tobacco Control as a quango in its own right which is embedded in the Health Dept, CRUK, the BHF, the College of Physicians. It demands ATTENTION. It is a law unto itself. Ministers and politicians quake with fear. Minsters especially obey the dictats of the quangos. We remember Milton MP as the Public Health Minister saying that the Framework Convention was OBLIGATORY; we remember Subry MP rushing off to sign the Tobacco Directive. Clearly, these Ministers were responsible TO the Health Dept quango and not the other way round. But it get worse. We see Cameron, Clegg, Milliband falling for every hype from the quangos. They are terrified of them and subservient to them. And they do not know what to do.
The Coalition promised ‘a bonfire of the quangos’. What a joke! The politicians set up the quangos which are now so powerful that the control the politicians.
The answer to the problem is drastic but easy. When I was a banking officer, we had what were called “Suspense Accounts”. For example, if we received a credit for an account which we could not identify, the credit was placed to the ‘Suspense Account’ until we could find out what the problem was. It would not be difficult for the Government to set up a “Quango Suspense Account” For example, the Environmental Agency could be taken under the control of the “Suspense Account” and the wildlife zealots eradicated. Wildlife zealots would still be able to make representations, but would not be central. In the same way, as regards Public Health, tobacco control has been demanding far too much ATTENTION; too much resources has been placed at their disposal. People can only give their attention to a small number of things at a time. Public Health has distracted attention from the real objectives of the NHS. They have been costing hundreds of millions and getting away with it by claiming savings of billions SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE. This is a typical ponzi scheme in that the promises always advance into the future while the costs increase NOW.
It may be a good idea for us smokers to sit back and gleefully welcome this ban, and the coming plain packaging. The reason is that local variations, as in Australia, MUST sow decent elsewhere. Not every country in the EU and the world will welcome obscene pics and the jackboot.
What has happened in Parliament tonight has been the repetition of ancient laws requiring lepers to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” as they progress through the streets. Smokers in cars with their children present must shout at themselves, “Murderers! Killers! Swine! Deviants! Addicts! Beasts! Molesters! Perverts!” I am beyond caring because the repercussions, in the end, will fall upon non-smokers and anti-smokers. They will have to pay vastly more taxes. If I was, say, aged twenty or so, I would love to be involved in the supply-side of stuff which the Zealots propagandise as ‘dangerous’. But it would be necessary to have nothing to lose except you freedom for a while. Is that not how the supply of hard drugs works? People with nothing to lose and money to gain risk their freedom for a while.
By this decision, Parliament has put parents who smoke in their cars with their own children present in the same category as drug smugglers.
But we must not forget that the amendment which was carried does not oblige the Government to act. For example, the Cabinet could just drop the Bill (Children and Young People) altogether.
But it does not matter since ‘virtue’ no longer exists, other than health virtue,
We do not care. Pass your laws Mr totalitarian, fascist State. Who cares?