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Thursday, 16 February 2006
Butt out, Blair

Two opinion pieces from The Telegraph dealing with the way in which Britain's wretched Labour Government wants to control and regulate our lives.


First, Boris Johnson rails against health and safety legislation, "elf and safety" as he calls it. He begins by discussing how a Japanese children's television programme "responds to a deep and unmet need in modern British life".

It is the need to see real risk, real danger, real humiliation, and of course real failure: all the things that are so expensively and so ingeniously airbrushed out of our mollycoddled and over-regulated lives...

Our modern pathetic airbagged society is the product of the lust of politicians to regulate and above all to be seen to be regulating, even when the law they are proposing is wholly unnecessary....

All they think about is whether they will appear to be "doing something", whether they look strong, whether they look in control; and of course it is always easiest to look strong and in control if you are passing some coercive piece of legislation.

Look at Patricia Hewitt, and her magnificently invertebrate performance in the smoking ban debate. She began the day wanting to preserve the right of clubs to have smoking sections; she ended on the side of a total ban - not, as she later claimed, because she had "listened to the arguments", but because she had succumbed to the politician's overwhelming lust to be seen to "act".

Secondly, the Telegraph leader argues that "the Government's appetite for passing oppressive laws grows with the eating".

Yesterday's vote in the Commons to make the "glorification" of terrorism an offence was justified by ministers as essential to combat the rise of extremism. It is nothing of the sort.

The existing laws on incitement to murder, to violence, and to racial and other forms of hatred provide all the scope needed to prevent extremists from encouraging others to support violent attacks.

There was plenty of "glorification" of terrorism in the demonstrations in London a fortnight ago over the Danish cartoons: but it also constituted incitement to murder, for which the police have not yet seen fit to have anyone prosecuted.

The "glorification" law was said to be needed to stop the likes of Abu Hamza: but without it, Hamza is already in jail. It all helps support the case eloquently put by the shadow attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, that yesterday's proceedings were merely a stunt designed to make Tony Blair look tough...

More on the smoking ban at Samizdata, commenting on one of the few exceptions to the ban - prisons:

But what about the health of non-smoking prisoners in the confined space? What about passive smoking by prison officers, whose workplace it is? N'importe. The tobacco allowance in prison is a means of control used by the authorities. Removing it would remove something of their capacity for arbitrary reward and punishment of individual prisoners. Plus withdrawing it would lead to riots, both acutely in fury at withdrawal, and chronically on losing the calming effects of nicotine.

So the lesson for prisoners in what Shami Chakrabarti calls HMP UK who do wish to smoke is plain. Threaten violence. You will either get your way as other aggressive sub-groups do, or be sent to the segregation block that is the officially acknowledged prison system - and there you may smoke all you like, provided you behave yourself.

As a non-smoker, I find this ban abhorrent. There is precious little evidence that "passive smoking" does any real harm. People who are prissy about smoking have usually got their priorities wrong. If you have people round for dinner, it is the height of bad manners to send someone outside merely because they wish to smoke, while letting someone who wishes to be boring stay put at the table. The boring should stand outside in the cold, together with their fellow bores. The same goes for offices and pubs.

This Government is getting on my nerves. I wish it would butt out. 


Update: It seems Theodore Dalrymple agrees with me. A comment in "The Sun" by one opposed to the smoking ban amused me: "Cig heil".

Posted on 02/16/2006 4:50 AM by Mary Jackson
8 Mar 2006
Send an emailjohn utting
re the failure of the met to arrest anyone for the death threats during the cartoon demos,surely the fact that the main offenders had their faces completely covered renders identification impossible.if there is no law against parading around with your face masked,its time we had one.mazas' henchmen habitually kept their faces masked .all these pwople are hiding from something and it should not be allowed. lol john2

16 Feb 2006
I agree on garlic; it's a beautiful thing. But I grew up in a household with one garlic-phile and one garlic-phobe for parents (now that's love!). So I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for that sinus-groping, mind-altering, pupil-dilating aroma!

As for the old "intestinal trombone," I guess you've got to know your audience. Always an easy laugh for me, though.

It may be flammable, but I don't know that it's been proven to be carcinogenic. In any event, better external than internal. ;)

16 Feb 2006
Send an emailMary Jackson
Well, Sinoliite, I agree about smelly armpits, but garlic is a wonderful smell, and as for "gas", or "wind" as we call it here, I'm with the late, great Auberon Waugh, who said, "A fart is always a good joke".

16 Feb 2006
Smoking, for me, falls under the category of Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Your right to swing your fist around stops at the end of my nose." Having dealt with asthma as an inconvenience of varying degrees my entire life, it's natural that I'd have some strong feelings about one who would screw up a perfectly good pair of lungs voluntarily. That, I realize, is ultimately their choice, however.

But I beg to differ about the notion that "passive," or "second-hand" smoke, as we call it stateside, doesn't carry health risks. For anyone's lungs, the carcinogenic effects of second-hand smoke is a standard assumption among the medical community. Hence the quote from Holmes above.

In any other case, we don't take kindly to someone sitting in out midst and radiating "armpit stank," passing gas, or casually munching on a clove of garlic in close quarters. Why, then, should someone pollute other people's space with something that is both malodorous and unhealthy?

16 Feb 2006
Send an emailEsmerelda Weatherwax
First they came for the smokers, but I don't smoke so I didn't speak out. Then they came for the coffee drinkers, but I don't drink coffee so I didn't speak out. Then they came for the sweet tea drinkers, and the buttered bun eaters, and by then there was no one left to speak for me.