July 9th, 2010


EDM 406

I did something today that I've been meaning to do for a month or more. I wrote to my new Tory MP.

I was prompted to do so by a piece on Taking Liberties about Early Day Motion 406, which calls for a comprehensive review of the smoking ban. Simon Clark was encouraging readers to email their MPs. So I went to writetothem, and began composing an email.

I don't know much about my new MP. A glossy brochure dropped through the letterbox back in April, showing the new Tory candidate out and about in the countryside, admiring a prize-winning bull, and a stall of vegetables. He was a sturdy farmer. There was an email address for his campaign headquarters on it, and so I sent him an email saying that I'd vote for him if he'd consider amending the smoking ban. No reply was forthcoming. And so he didn't get my vote a few weeks later. Not that it would have made much difference. Tories are a shoo-in around here.

I suppose that if any Tory MP is at all likely to be a smoker, a farmer has to be quite high on the list. When I think of antismokers, I think of grey creatures who spend all their time fretting about what other people might be doing, and drinking Evian water, and eating lettuce sandwiches. Which isn't what I think of when I think of farmers. What comes to mind when I think of a farmer is someone who eats roast beef with Yorkshire pudding every day, washed down with gallons of beer or cider, before going out ploughing and herding, and coming home exhausted at dusk to eat some more roast beef, and drink some more beer, and end the day pensively reflecting on the day with a briar pipe in front of his open log fire, while his buxom wife prepares the next day's side of beef.

It was with this happy thought that I began my letter, unctuously enquiring whether he was settling in happily into his new life in Westminster. And then I went on to ask if he "might consider" signing EDM 406, because a review had been promised by the previous government.

That said, I went on to say that the smoking ban was the most divisive and socially destructive law that I had encountered in my entire life. It had broken communities and driven pubs to the wall. I pointed him towards Pete Robinson's recent reflections on the third anniversary of the smoking ban. I remarked that there were some 200 to 300 separate calls for the ban to be amended or repealed on the the Your Freedom website. I intimated that one of the reasons why Labour had been kicked out was that they'd alienated whole swathes of smokers and drinkers. I ended with "Yours sincerely", partly because I actually was being quite sincere, but mostly because the form into which I was typing had "Yours sincerely" helpfully written in it already.

I couldn't help but wryly think that I was writing a letter asking not that the smoking ban should be revoked, but asking merely that it be reviewed. What a climbdown. But then, that's what Simon Clark does best: manage retreats.

I very much doubt that the ban will be reviewed. The antismokers are in charge in government, and they're not going to even begin to think about a review. They've got smoking banned everywhere, and they're going to keep it that way. This isn't a matter of reason or debate. When it comes to smoking, logic goes out the window.

And yet I remain optimistic that the ban will be relaxed or repealed some day. And that's in large part because it is such an irrational law, and such a destructive law. It can only be kept in place propped up by an elaborate scaffolding of lies. Like the lie that the ban has been a great success. And the brand new, very latest lie, that smokers would like to see smoking banned in even more places than it already is. And one day those lies will fall away, and the truth will be revealed.

There's nothing rational about antismokers. I realised this long ago, when back in the 60s I first encountered one: the mirthless Dr W, a man who would rant like a preacher against smoking as if it was the very devil itself. Dr W was manifestly insane. Meeting him was what started me smoking. I hadn't really ever thought about it until then. And because antismokers are essentially insane, that's why all their 'research' is essentially insane too. It's all botched, bonkers drivel. It's not science. It doesn't even approach being science. Climate science is almost genuine rocket science by comparison.

I also think that one day the ban will be overturned because I don't believe that a draconian ban like the UK ban can ever be successful in changing a culture. I don't think that force can ever work to "win hearts and minds". Force just makes more enemies. Once antismokers resorted to the law to make people stop smoking, they more or less guaranteed that people would dig their heels in and carry on smoking. What else did they expect to happen?

There seem to be these periodic waves of puritanism that sweep across countries, particularly the Anglo-saxon protestant countries with their puritan heritage. The Green movement is another puritan movement. It was never about nature or Gaia. That's just a mask to conceal the underlying hatred of pleasure. It seems to be an endless struggle, that goes on century after century between the puritans and the pleasure-lovers. One advances and then retreats, and the other retreats and then advances.

Will my missive to my MP have any effect? I doubt it. I'd be astonished if it did. I'm glad I sent it though. I've begun to think that politicians are 'trailing indicators', and that they think what everybody used to think 5 or 10 years ago. They're the late arrivals at the party. And they bring no beer or wine. Politicians don't lead: they follow. After all, if your job depends on representing people, then you're quite likely to want to know what those people think, aren't you? And you're always going to be a bit behind them. If I'm right, then I predict that in about 5 years time most of them will be talking about freedom. But in 5 years time, everybody will be more concerned about something else. Like how the new massed ranks of windmills aren't providing any electricity at all.

So it goes. As Kurt Vonnegut used to say. So it goes.