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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".