Lefty thinking

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret: Though you may drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will always come back; inborn character is ineradicable. Horace (65-8 BC)
The Lefty instinct hasn't gone away: it has just mutated. Once they discovered they had lost the big economic arguments, Lefties decided there was no longer any need to own large chunks of industry. They could achieve their objectives through regulation, and the tyranny of political correctness Lefties are fundamentally interested in coercion and control, and across British society you can see the huge progress they are now making in achieving their objectives: in the erosions of free speech and civil liberties that are taking place under this government, in the ever more elaborate regulation of the workplace, the bans on hunting, smacking, smoking, the demented rules about the numbers of children you may take in a swimming pool, the proposed plan to tag your car to see where you have been, Prescott's mad spy satellites to see if you have built an unauthorised conservatory
Lefties have changed their tactics, but not their spots A little while ago I was being ferried in to make a speech at a university, and my handlers warned me that things were not looking good. There was going to be a riot at the front door, they said. They couldn't guarantee my safety. It seemed that some of the scholars took issue with my views about higher education finance, and they were armed with eggs. "These guys are nasty," said one of my minders. "We're talking Seattle protester-type stuff. We'd better go in the back." So we scooted pathetically through the kitchens, and into the venue through the fire exit, and against a background of near-continuous monkey-house screeching and pant-hooting I tried to make my speech. This proved impossible, and after someone had kindly refreshed me by pouring a pint of bitter over me, I did what all politicians do in such circumstances. I made a bee-line to the oppo, swaying and chanting under banners saying "Bog off, Boris!" and put on my best Cecil Parkinson beam. "Hell-air!" I said, thrusting out my hand to the nearest Left-wing agitator; and to my amazement it was taken, and shaken warmly. I looked more closely at my adversaries, and under the slogans and the agitprop I saw nothing but a charming collection of basically middle-class kids, with some really rather reasonable concerns about debt. They weren't crusty; they didn't have matted dreadlocks or medicine bottles stuck through their lower lips; they weren't invoking Gramsci or spouting neo-anarcho-syndicalist slogans. They were nice, decent, hard-working bourgeois people, and in 25 years I am sure they will all be QCs or the heads of News and Current Affairs at the BBC or the next Tory leader. What, I thought to myself, has happened to the old Left? Where are the Trots? Where are the headbangers? It was all very different in my day, I reflected; and that is a point that has occurred, perhaps unsurprisingly, to all the former crypto-communists who now run the BBC. There is a new series which started last night on BBC4 called Lefties, and it is an elegy, a lament, for a vanished species. The thesis is that the old beret-sporting Left-wingers are disappearing from these islands. They are being driven from their ancient reservations on the shop floor and in the polytechnics, and have fled to a few remote hiding-places: the odd senior common room, Parliament, the leader conferences of some of the liberal papers. They are like those poor fishermen in the Andaman Islands, overwhelmed by the 21st century, clinging to their old language and customs, but basically outmanoeuvred and humiliated by history. One has only to think back to the 1970s or 1980s, when the landscape heaved with Lefties, to see how sudden has been their extinction. It wasn't just Scargill: every time you turned on the TV, there would be someone using a phrase such as "the aspirations of my members". People would listen to Eric Hobsbawm droning on about "the contradictions of capitalism", and every member of the Labour Party carried a personal commitment in his or her wallet to the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the British economy. They would drive around in Citro├źn 2 CVs with bumper stickers opposing nuclear power; they said the rich were bloodsuckers and they wanted to consign the Royal Family and other emblems of privilege to history - or herstory, as they called it, in deference to feminist dogma. Yesterday in the House of Commons a Labour MP stood up and hailed the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Parliamentary Labour Party. They all cheered and waved their order papers; and yet how utterly divorced the present lot of Labour MPs are from their pioneering predecessors. These creatures no longer emanate from the bowels of the British workforce: they aren't dockers or miners or fitters, or precious few of them. They are PR people, and pressure group frontpersons, and journalists. To paraphrase the Bible, they may spin, but they haven't done much toil. All of which we on the so-called Right of the argument have taken to be a huge compliment. It is a commonplace of political analysis that Tony Blair is the ultimate creation of Margaret Thatcher, and that the Lefties of the world were ideologically incinerated in the crucible of 1980s Britain. "We won," say the Right. We trounced them and thrashed them and left them for dead. They believed in socialism; they believed in punitive taxation; they believed in the public ownership of industry; and all their useless ideas derived a deep unspoken legitimation from the continued existence of Soviet communism; and then that went belly-up, the Berlin Wall fell, Labour ditched Clause Four and Eric Hobsbawm has been, frankly, looking pretty idiotic ever since. That is what we Conservatives say, and in our long triumph we have become dangerously smug. We are right; of course we are right. But you cannot destroy the Lefty instinct; you cannot defeat it by argument. As Gilbert and Sullivan point out, it is an essential part of human nature. Every little boy and girl/That's born into this world alive/ Is either a little liberal/ Or a little conservative. It is my firm belief that we could plot a vast binomial curve of political affinity, with the bulk of the population being somewhere in the middle, but with large numbers still on the extreme Left or Right. The Lefty instinct hasn't gone away: it has just mutated. Once they discovered they had lost the big economic arguments, Lefties decided there was no longer any need to own large chunks of industry. They could achieve their objectives through regulation, and the tyranny of political correctness. Lefties are fundamentally interested in coercion and control, and across British society you can see the huge progress they are now making in achieving their objectives: in the erosions of free speech and civil liberties that are taking place under this government, in the ever more elaborate regulation of the workplace, the bans on hunting, smacking, smoking, the demented rules about the numbers of children you may take in a swimming pool, the proposed plan to tag your car to see where you have been, Prescott's mad spy satellites to see if you have built an unauthorised conservatory. The Lefties aren't dead, my friends; they have simply adapted brilliantly and smoothly to new circumstances. Naturam expellas furca, as we say in Henley, tamen usque recurret.

53 thoughts on “Lefty thinking”

  1. Now, now, now. Boris, please don’t tell me you think Tony Blair and New Labour are lefties. They’re opportunists, smoothly expropriating the Clintonian technique of triangulation to straddle the middle of the road while still pretending to be “of the people.” It was said in Canada a few elections ago, “the only thing he’ll find in the middle of the road is yellow lines and dead skunks.” Alas, the bastidge won the election.

    Real lefties have no-one else to vote for in the UK, Greens being essentially a single-issue ecology party, not a socialist one. And heck, most of those so-called New Labour policies were introduced to my country by the Conservatives. The middle of the road is getting very crowded.

    And it must be said, the best thing about communal anarchy is the lack of red tape. Quite different.

  2. Boris, I agree with you totally, utterly and unequivocally. We, thanks to the wonderful Mrs T, now live in a much happier country where everyone agrees that Norman Tebbitt is the world’s greatest thinker and that Alec Douglas Home is the sexiest being ever to have lived. You can count on my support.

    Just one small point – what is your policy on the environment?
    If it can be proved that action is needed, and that legislation is needed to curb the excesses of both the corporate world and the private citizen, will you invoke it, or will you, like the Conservative party to date, refuse to interfere with the business world, and try to get us to believe that they are capable of regulating themselves, and if allowed to do so will automatically arrive at an ecologically sound solution?

  3. after someone had kindly refreshed me by pouring a pint of bitter over me

    Really, Boris? How awful.

    I agree about how the lefties you describe were everywhere in the 70s and 80s, with Arthur Scargills and Derek Hattons galore, waving Das Capital and talking about the ‘proletariat’ in that strange language of theirs.

    That said, while they repelled me as much as they repelled you, I continue to regard myself as a mild Lib-Dem leftie. And this is because I think that there is such a thing as society, and that we’re all in this together, and have a duty of care towards each other. I entirely reject the notion of society as a devil-take-the-hindmost Darwinian struggle for existence, with very few winners, and a great many losers. You are quite right to say that this leftist desire for a more egalitarian society will never go away. It is nothing other than the desire for a slightly fairer world.

    But I’m not sure that the authoritarian desire for more and more rules and regulations is a particularly leftist trait anyway. Conservatives can be, and indeed historically have been, equally authoritarian.

    And if banning smoking is another leftie plot, then why is this mild leftie protesting against the proposed ban to his MP, the Tory Member for Tiverton and Honiton – and why is she dead set on voting for it?

  4. Boris

    I agree that the present government has a penchant for over-zealous regulation. But isn’t this a symptomn of the fact that this government has run out of ideas. Instead we get petty initatives like the current respect agenda. Also our civil liberties have been eroded to a considerable extent without too much opposition form the conservatives. It has been left to the Lords to provide any real resistance. As a muslim I find the governments use of the threat of terror to bring in ever more draconian laws unsettling. Then there is the pathetic attempt to buy off the muslims with a another bad law – incitemnet to religious hatred. Luckily this has been watered down so much as to be worthless. What is even worse is that muslims have supported this bad law. Also I don’t see any great ideas coming from the conservatives. David Cameron seems to have jumped on every passing popular bandwagon without too much thought. This has made him popular in the short run but it is a dangerous long term strategy.

  5. Is this the same Boris Johnson who in 1998 was allegedly overhead talking to fellow public-schoolboy Darius Guppy about beating up a journalist?

  6. Reveries from a bar. 1.

    An occasional series.

    It is the least of things.

    It is my custom, in the quiet of the afternoon, to go down to my local pub, and buy a pint of beer, and sit down alone, slowly drinking and smoking cigarettes and gazing into space. It is a sort of meditation. Occasionally I will be interrupted, and joined in conversation, or called to the pool table. But mostly I just sit alone, gazing at the bars and tables, lost in my own thoughts. It is a time when I can forget about everything, all the chores that have not been done, all the business that has been left unattended, all the cares of a busy life. It lasts about an hour, and forms a sort of oasis in my day. In that slow hour, my jangled nerves relax and subside. My spinning head slows and stops. If I entered the bar irritated and annoyed, I leave relaxed and calm.

    But lately, I’ve been finding that my thoughts increasingly dwell darkly upon a looming possibility. No, not a possibility, but a likelihood, The likelihood that, in a year or so, my quiet little oasis will be made illegal. Yes, illegal. It will no longer be permissible for me to quietly sit in a pub and drink a pint of beer and smoke a few cigarettes. And so now as I sit at a table, and look at my beer, and look at my cigarette, I tell myself: In a year or two, you won’t be able to do this any more. And I don’t believe it. I don’t believe what I am telling myself. It doesn’t make sense.

    Non-smokers say: “But you’ll still be able to go to the pub. You’ll still be able to buy yourself a pint. You’ll still be able to stare into space.” But they’re wrong. I won’t be able to enjoy that little oasis in my day. If I can’t smoke cigarettes, it would be like, well, playing cricket without three stumps at each end of the wicket. And have my friends tell me: “But you’ll still be able to bat and bowl balls, still be able to squat out at midwicket, gazing at the grass, watching the ball fly by. It will all be exactly the same as before. Just no more stumps.” No, they’re wrong. It wouldn’t be cricket any more. It would be more like baseball or something. If smoking is banned in pubs, then they may as well ban drinking as well. And packets of crisps and pork scratchings. And juke boxes and pool tables. They may as well close them down.

    And that may well be exactly what the great and the good in Westminster want to do. For the great and the good, by and large, don’t go to pubs. Pubs are largely working class institutions, and it is the working classes that largely visit them. In my local, it is not my doctor or my solicitor who is to be found at the bar, but the local builders and carpenters talking about going out shooting pheasant, and farmers talking about the price of beef, and young men and women talking about parties and sex. And pretty much all of them smoke. And none of them can write to their MPs. Writing isn’t something they do. The middle classes, if they come at all, come in the evenings for dinner in the non-smoking area. They don’t smoke, and they probably don’t drink either, but they can all write to their MPs.

    The ban will not much affect the middle classes, but it will hit the working classes hard. All round the country, tens of hundreds of thousands of people, whose custom it has been for decades (indeed centuries) to meet up with friends at pubs, to drink a few pints, and smoke a few pipes or fags, and have a bit of a laugh, will discover that they can’t do it any more. It’ll probably come as a terrible shock to many of them. How many friendships will shatter? How many cheerful hours will end? How many tiny communities, exchanging news and gossip, will be sundered? How many pubs will close? The public houses are our modern popular churches, and it is as if the government is about to dissolve the monasteries all over again, and force upon us some puritanical new religion, with no smoking, no drinking, and no laughing.

    I survey the possibility, the likelihood, with mounting dismay.

    But it is the least of things.

  7. Idlex: I have a little tale to tell, something I am sure there are many of , up and down the land ; particularly on Fridays. I had a best friend who also happened to be my business partner.: one of the best liked fellows in Altrincham, known as a guy who liked to go , as we all did , to the Bricklayers Arms, for his pint, his shared Park drive smoke
    and the crack. One Friday , in the pub , across which one could scarcely see for the fug , he said , ” Mac , I need to see you and Vinnie tomorrow, I am half cut tonight and I won’t
    spoil a good evening’s boozing”
    That was his last Friday night in a pub, because
    , as he informed me on the next day, Saturday morning,
    ” I have the big C, and it’s inoperable” He died three weeks later, aged 43.
    I mourn him still.
    The Government is wrong in banning all smoking in pubs where there are consenting adults, but to ignore the dangers of passive smoking, without proper ventilation , is also wrong.

  8. Without going into the issue of smoking, I have to take issue with the rather broad strokes used to paint the working class as illiterate. Perhaps they choose not to write to their MPs. Perhaps they don’t think it would do any good. Perhaps it wouldn’t.

    But.

    To calmly assert, as a matter of fact, that the majority of people whose lives will be changed by this are themselves incapable of voicing their opinions is to dehumanize them. If the working class has a problem, the best people to demand a solution are the working class themselves. If you think they can’t even handle that, then I refer you to Camus, who said it was the civic duty of the intelligent to oppress the stupid, otherwise they would take over the world.

  9. raincoaster:

    Wasn’t Albert Camus a cheese-eating surrender monkey? Surely that discounts anything he said….?

    ;o)

  10. I have to take issue with the rather broad strokes used to paint the working class as illiterate.

    They were indeed broad strokes. But at least one form of illiteracy, in my view, is to be able to write, but never to actually do so.

    Sitting in a pub, drinking and smoking and playing pool with working class friends, and hearing them complain bitterly about the coming ban, I have sometimes asked them why they don’t write to newspapers and MPs and the like. The reply is usually along the lines of: “That’s the sort of thing you do, not us.”

    Perhaps it is because they know in their hearts it is futile. Perhaps it is because they find it difficult to compose their thoughts into written words. Perhaps it is that they can’t write. Whatever the reason – and I suspect it is mostly the first -, they don’t write.

    And it is not because they are stupid. It is perhaps because English law is like English weather: it just keeps raining down from above. And they are mostly on the receiving end of these laws, and always have been. To protest about the law is like protesting about the weather. Instead of changing the law, they simply dodge it, just like they dodge the weather. And sometimes they don’t manage to dodge it, and are hauled up before the courts.

  11. I’m sorry to hear about your best friend, mac. It’s always a blow to lose any friend at all. But you did not explicitly say what form of cancer killed him, nor how he had contracted it, nor how you somehow survived while he did not.

    And I’d like to hear more about the dangers of passive smoking. Some people, including the late Sir Richard Doll (who was among the first to link smoking with lung cancer), have been inclined to think there are next to none.

    And I too have a story. And one which I too would not be at all surprised to find much repeated.

    Some years ago I attended the funeral of a very dear old lady who had diligently puffed her way through packet after packet of Silk Cut until her 83rd and final year. At the wake afterwards, I fell into conversation with her non-smoking son.

    “Of course, it was the cigarettes that really killed her,” he casually remarked, at one point.

    “How so?” I replied, greatly surprised. “My understanding was that she fell out of bed one night, broke her leg, and died a couple of days later.”

    “Quite so,” he said. “But she wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t been such a heavy smoker.

    By that hideous illogic, the death of any smoker is ‘of course’ always and invariably smoking-induced. Even if I were to die tomorrow in a car crash, impaled by the steering column, it could be, and these days, probably would be said of me: “Of course, it was the smoking that really killed him.”

    There was a final twist to the story. The old dear had not managed to get through her last 200 Silk Cut, and her son appeared later with them, asked if anyone wanted them, and finally marched up and presented them to me.

    “Here, you can have them,” he said. “Go kill yourself as well,” he might as well have added, given what he had just said of his mother, as he passed me the most poisonous gift I have ever been given.

    And now allow me to grieve aloud for the coming death of another very old friend: the English pub.

  12. Idlex:
    My little tale was not to illustrate that one must die if one inhales the exhaust smoke of others, although in his case, his demise was put down to an overindulgence of the stuff. There is , of course,always the genetic tendency to take into consideration.

    My friend visited the pub, every day of his life,I didn’t. His choice of cigarettes was perhaps, by today’s lights , a bit ‘exotic’, being of the untipped variety.
    His cancer was one of the upper respiratory tract , coupled with another of the oesophagus. A deadly combination.

    What I was trying to say , in my little way, was , “Do what you will, but don’t force others to be your unwilling guests”.

    Btw:I don’t think ‘class’ has anything to do with free choice, and I don’t believe you do either.
    The ability to string a few words together is not denied to anyone ,always providing the wish to do so is there.

  13. What I was trying to say , in my little way, was , “Do what you will, but don’t force others to be your unwilling guests”.

    They may not like the scent of tobacco. But they may not like the cut of my jib either. Where does it end?

    Btw:I don’t think ‘class’ has anything to do with free choice, and I don’t believe you do either. The ability to string a few words together is not denied to anyone ,always providing the wish to do so is there.

    You’re half right about the class thing. I’ve rather been following in the footsteps of John Reid here, when he condemned the anti-smoking movement as a middle class obsession. He has a point, I think.

    But as to the ability to string a few words together, I don’t agree that all that is needed is the wish to write. I can still remember the day when, enchanted by some debate in the letters page of the Times, I first set faltering pen to paper, and received a week later a polite rejection card from that august institution.

    The same also goes for public speaking. It is one thing to be able to be able to expound at length within the confines of a pub, quite another to stand up and say exactly the same in front of 100 or 1000 people.

  14. It takes much less effort than that to vote, or to sign a (possibly middle-class-written) petition, though. Surely they can manage that.

    People who are passive when it comes to politics get stomped on; that’s the way the system is set up. It rewards engagement. And I think (I may be mistaken here) that the system is not entirely in the hands of the Establishment. Boris’ own website reflects that. So if the system is, to a meaningful extent, in the hands of the voters, it’s perfectly fair to expect the voters to step up and demand certain actions.

    The view of taxation and government as a fee-for-service arrangement may be my most marked peculiarity, but it’s a pretty compelling view. These people are paying; they might as well get something out of it.

    If they don’t, for whatever reason, even try then it’s fair to bring in Camus. Cheese-eating surrender monkey or not, he’s right, and I’d go farther; those who abdicate the democratic process OR are too dumb to understand that it works for them deserve to be subjugated.

    Oh god, I hope I spelled everything right this time or I’m really going to get it.

  15. Idlex: You were right about the writing thing ; some can; some can’t; and the remainnder don’t want to be bothered .

    The same can be said about speaking in front of a band of unknowns. Some of whom , you just know want you to fail. Imagine them as a bunch of monkeys.
    If that sack of jealousy and envy , Prescott can do it , I believe anyone could do it too. ( At least you would have an excuse ).
    Start small and work your way up. After all you would not , as an aspiring mountaineer, start with the North Wall of the Eiger.

  16. Psimon

    I think Camus was Algerian or French Algerian and kept goal for Algeria. I am not too familiar with his philosophical stuff but I get the impression he was a somewhat more noble human being than that true surrender monkey Sartre.

  17. There is some very good discussion here about the smoking ban. I have much sympathy with idlex’s account. I don’t smoke any more and I have fallen out of the habit of having a regular, the latter being a matter of regret.

    It’s always useful to watch out for PC middle class snobbery when issues like this and cheap air fares are discussed. Maybe Isaiah Berlin’s point about goods not always being compatible, simple though it is, is worth recalling. The pub without a smoking ban enables public goods such as idlex describes which are contingently incomaptible with the public good of bar staff health. His point that this good may all pass within the year is honestly one of the more poignant things I have read here. There are major disasters but often the removal of a small and prehaps individual but important pleasure can also dramatically affect quality of life. On the other side we have Mac’s story about his friend. As fiddlesticks has pointed out elsewhere I know very little about the matters I pontificate on but if pressed I would have to come down and say that I think a smoking ban would probably cause an unknown but positive number of people to live some years more. When it comes to decisions like this I cannot see beyond some type of utilitarianism to settle the matter. Would a billion hours of the quiet happiness idlex describes, not all for idles of course, weigh enough against maybe a billion extra hours of life. If you had two hours of tedium facing you would you swap them for one hour of (mild rather than ecstatic) feeling of well being?

    People died building the channel tunnel which provides a small enhancement of quality of life for lots of others. Is there any trade off?

    Mac has a point about having reasonable safety features like extractor fans. It is perhaps useful to consider that many jobs have risks – motorway and railway maintenance come to mind. In the end people have to make their own assessment of the risk. You may say this discriminates against those not prepared to take the risk and so it does. But I can’t help feeling that we are constantly trying to minimise risk then we are in grave danger of making life bland. I speak as one of a very nervous disposition who checkes the gas is off three times before leaving home but I don’t think that is an issue in the argument.

  18. The pub without a smoking ban enables public goods such as idlex describes which are contingently incomaptible with the public good of bar staff health.

    Always assuming that passive smoking actually is deleterious to health (which is open to question), why is it that you are concerned with the bar staff, and not with me and the other patrons of the pub?

    The answer, I would suggest, lies in the fact that the bar staff have to be there, and I do not. The bar staff, if nothing else, have contracted to attend the bar, serve drinks, collect empties, for some period of time. The bar staff are about the necessary business of earning their living, while I am enjoying an hour or so of leisure.

    I have no objections to bans on smoking in offices, aircraft, hospitals, libraries, and the like, because most of the people in these places are about their necessary business of life, or unable to escape, and should not be forced to endure smoke (and noise, and plenty of other dangers and nuisances).

    Indeed, it seems to me that it is in these necessary activities that the strongest attempts should be made to minimize risk. For example, it is necessary for many people to come and go from their places of necessary work in cars and buses and trains, and every effort should be made to ensure that these modes of transport should be made as safe as possible, the vehicles built to the highest safety standards, with smoking and drinking forbidden.

    But when it comes to a leisure activity, like sitting in a pub, which people do not have to do, but instead choose to do (or choose not to do, as the case may be), it seems to me that the matter is quite different. I do not have to go to pubs. I do not have to play golf or football. I do not have to race motorbikes. And I see no reason why the safety standards that apply in places of inescapable or necessary work should be equally applied in places of freely chosen leisure activities.

    If these safety standards are to apply, then we ought to ban not just tobacco from pubs, but also alcohol as well, for the same reason we ban it in places of work.

    And, if this is the case, we ought to go on to reduce the risks of torn ligaments and broken legs from playing football and rugby, perhaps by reducing play to walking pace. And we should replace the hard ball in cricket and golf with a soft one, and have all players wear safety helmets. And we should restrict stock car races to 70 mph, and insist that they have proper indicator lights and MOTs. And so on.

    But I do not think that the framers of this legislation are deeply concerned with the health of bar staff. If they were, they would require that bars have bank or post office-style glass screens to insulate them from smoking areas, or require that drinks be purchased in a separate place and carried to a smoking area.

    The framers of this legislation have some other aim in mind. It is perfectly clear what their aim is. Their aim is to stop people smoking.

  19. The greatest danger to public health is ignorance. The proposed smoking ban is the result of endless lobbying by a small but vociferous group repeating the lie that environmental tobacco smoke kills. The largest study on the subject of passive smoking ever undertaken (Enstrom and Kabat)concluded that the results did not support a causal relationship between lung cancer and non-smoking spouses. If you would like to learn more about how the anti-smoking bandwaggon has reached this stage, please take the time to visit this website and all will be revealed:
    http://www.forces.org/

    The evidence section is of particular interest.

  20. Excuse my going slightly off the already off subject thread. The greatest threat to public,( mental ), health is the force-fed garbage the Government is dishing up in the name of National Security .

    That lower mandible gymnast,PM in waiting, G Brown, this AM on Radio 4,excelled even his own convoluted record of dog-leg automatic pilot type speech.

    He said it will not be compulsory to have an ID card, whilst at the same time insisting , in the interest of publc safety, that we must have one or other if two choices : an ID card , or a passport with equally complete bio records, ie ,iris recognition , fingerprints et al.

    I submit that it is he,( and his like minded control freak) Bliar, who is driving the public , at the public’s own expanse ……BARMY.

  21. ever more elaborate regulation of the workplace, the bans on hunting, smacking, smoking, the demented rules about the numbers of children you may take in a swimming pool, the proposed plan to tag your car to see where you have been, Prescott’s mad spy satellites to see if you have built an unauthorised conservatory. (Boris)

    Doesn’t seem to be off topic. Nor has the thread been off topic.

  22. Reveries from a bar. 2.

    “Fixing intelligence and facts around the policy”

    It seems these days that if you wish to advance some policy (e.g. to invade Iraq), you must first achieve some high office (e.g. Prime Minister), and you must then use all the power of that office, and the trust invested in it, to make up any old excuse you can think of (e.g. dodgy dossiers, 45 minutes to VX doom), to whose sources only you have access (e.g. top secret JIC intelligence), to deceive and scare the parliament and the people into supporting the policy. And when the excuses turn out to be lies and fabrications, you simply change the reasons underpinning the policy, and unapologetically assert that you “did the right thing”. In due course you will be rewarded: you will get a highly-paid public speaking tour of the USA, where the fools still believe you.

    And therefore it follows that if you want to advance some other policy (e.g. to ban smoking), you must first achieve some high office (e.g. president of the BMA), and you must then use all the power of that office, and the trust invested in it, to make up any old excuse you can think of (e.g. inconclusive research from some fancy new science), to whose sources only you have access (e.g. unpublished papers), to deceive and scare government and parliament into supporting the policy. If the excuses turn out to be utterly irrelevant, you simply change the reasons underpinning the policy, and unapologetically assert that you “did the right thing”. And in due course you too will be rewarded.

    Thus The Independent Monday, 8 November 2004:

      New tests convince expert of need for total smoking ban

      By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent

      FRESH EVIDENCE of the dangers of passive smoking has prompted one of Britain’s most distinguished doctors to urge John Reid to introduce a ban in all public places.

      Professor Sir Charles George, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, had not, until now, favoured a ban on smoking in public places but has changed his view because of research showing minute particles of cigarette smoke could trigger heart attacks.

      Sir Charles, who is also president of the British Medical Association, has written to the Health Secretary, warning him that allowing smoking to continue in public places would lead to more deaths because the risks from passive smking were being underestimated.

      “I have changed my mind because I think the evidence of harm from cigarette smoking direct or passive is stronger than it was,” he said. “The decline in deaths from coronary heart disease has been attributed in quite significant parts to the reduction in smoking rates…”

      The doctor, who was knighted in 1998 for services to medicine, was a consultant physician for 25 years and has treated thousands of coronary heart disease sufferers. He said the as yet unpublished research funded by the British Heart Foundation showed that ventilating smoky rooms was “cosmetic” and would not remove hundreds of damaging chemicals in the smoke.

      “I wasn’t aware as I now am that ventilation wasn’t the complete answer,” he told The Independent. “Ventilation removes the obvious smokiness of the atmosphere but there are many hundreds of deleterious things in that smoke. And it won’t remove all those harmful things by making the air seem cleaner.”

      The research shows that particles in cigarette smoke “produce changes in the the health of the lining of blood vessels”. The cells in the lining produce a vital “clot-busting treatment” that helps people having heart attacks.

      “Not wishing to be alarmist, there are lots of small particles in smoke called nano-particles; tiny, tiny particles. This is a new science but it is becoming clearer that some of those particles may be really quite harmful in people who are at risk of having a coronary event,” he said.

    I have not seen this unpublished paper from the new science of nanotechnology. Perhaps it was never published. But, from the description given by Sir Charles, it does not bear even the most cursory scrutiny. It is, quite simply, a load of tosh.

    Ventilation does not ‘remove deleterious things from smoke’. Ventilation removes entire masses of air from a room, smoke and deleterious substances and all, and discharges them into the atmosphere. It is only if that air is going to be filtered and recycled back into a room that the failure of the filtration system (not the ventilation system) to remove all deleterious substances becomes cause for concern. But most ventilation systems don’t do this. They simply discharge stale air into the atmosphere, sometimes using a heat exchanger to warm up fresh air drawn in to replace it. It is probably perfectly true that filtration systems are not able to remove tiny nano-particles from air, but it is entirely irrelevant if that air is anyway going to be discharged into the atmosphere. The whole thing is one enormous red herring, which only people who know nothing about ventilation systems (e.g. Members of Parliament) are likely to be fooled by.

    Note all the similarities. Sir Charles George had no doubt laboured mightily to achieve his various high offices. And he used the power and trust invested in those offices to advance a no-smoking policy which has long been the goal of the medical establishment, and of a pharmaceutical industry that stands to making millions from selling nicotine patches in place of cigarettes. And he used unpublished research (unavailable to anyone else) from the fancy new infant science of nanotechnology to scare (“not wishing to be alarmist,” while being highly alarmist) government and parliament into supporting the policy. And it is research that simply falls to pieces on first inspection as being quite simply entirely irrelevant. But we can be sure that Sir Charles is entirely unrepentant, and will say, if he has not said already, that it was “the right thing to do”. After all, we all know that smoking is wrong: we’ve been told about two million times.

    There is one slight difference, however. The Prime Minister has yet to resign and pick up the lucrative US speaking tours that await him, never mind the royalties of the subsequent autobiography – “My 45 Minutes of Fame”. Clearly he has some unfinished business yet to do. But Sir Charles George already has his reward. He stepped down as medical director of BHF at the end of 2004, and as president of the BMA in July 2005, and almost exactly a year to the day after calling for a ban on smoking in all public places, he joined the Board of Bioaccelerate Holdings Inc, which is – guess what? – a pharmaceutical company. And moreover a pharmaceutical company with – guess what? – a nanotechnology division.

      NEW YORK and LONDON, Nov. 3, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) — Bioaccelerate Holdings Inc. (OTCBB:BACL) today announces that Sir Charles George has agreed to be appointed to the Board of Directors.

      Professor Sir Charles George was the President of the British Medical Association from July 2004 to July 2005, and from 1999 to the end of 2004 was Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation…

      The company holds majority equity interests in 10 biopharmaceutical companies, three of which are public, and holds minority interests in four biopharmaceutical companies, two of which are public. The company also holds a minority equity interest in a public nanotechnology company.

    I first read that Independent article sitting at a table one afternoon in my local pub, a pint at one hand, a cigarette in the other, and I almost had what Sir Charles George would term a “coronary event”. Certainly a red mist of blood descended over my eyes. But it was not one brought on by nano-particles in the ill-ventilated air, but instead by Sir Charles George himself.

    It has been some three years since our Prime Minister duped Parliament and country to war in Iraq. But, in a few weeks time, to their eternal shame, another duped, scared, and propagandised parliament will vote into law an anti-smoking bill as unnecessary and as damaging as that of the Iraq war.

  23. Apologies, Idlex.

    My problem is that I started the first sentence, intending to comment on something else .

    I left the room momentarily, but came back and continued on this vein with my threepenn’orth on GB,without checking if the subject was the same .I’ll be more careful in the future: promise.

  24. We had a complete smoking ban here; after about 18 months, they came up with “fume rooms” that met the Worker’s Comp standards to protect the employees, and now it’s no big deal. They do cost a bomb to install, but they make a bomb once they’re in. Or at least the few smokers who deal with them insist it’s so.

    The pot cafes are hilarious: if you smoke pot, they don’t say a word; if you smoke tobacco, they toss you out because there’s a bylaw against that! Nothing’s so funny as a pot cafe with four people huddled under its rain awning, puffing away.

  25. idlex

    Sorry if I gave the impression that I wasn’t concerned! The point is that your interests need as much consideration as any other actor in this. I am arguing against the idea that if you can gain even one millisecond of extra life for A, or a set of As, by doing something that significantly reduces the quality of life of B, or a set of Bs, then the discussion is over. This is a simplistic utilitarianism which aims to maximise total number of hours lived.

    Of course its supporters have their allies in the crude moralists who think that smoking is evil.

  26. On a completely different subject (Because we are not allowed to start our own threads here!) may i just congratulate all those who voted WITH the government on the ID card bill last night. Well done…you demonstrated that you are all a bunch of mindless jerks. Come the revolution, i have a wall ready and waiting for you…

    :o(

    PS. Why isn’t there a forum we can start threads in on this site? Or isn’t Boris interested in free thought?

  27. Psi: There already is precisely one such ” forum ” : where we are.

    At the very beginning of each thread; under the preliminaries , is posted:-

    Comments (or post a new one).

    I think that gives , pretty much, carte blanche to say what one thinks on any subject; don’t you?

  28. Well, today parliament voted for a total ban in all pubs and clubs.

    In my view, that’s a profound tragedy, and a profound erosion of freedom.

    I tried yesterday to put up a long post about this, but it got blocked – probably for being too long -, so I’ll chop it in two and try again now.

  29. Reveries from a bar. 2.

    “Fixing intelligence and facts around the policy”

    It seems these days that if you wish to advance some policy (e.g. to invade Iraq), you must first achieve some high office (e.g. Prime Minister), and you must then use all the power of that office, and the trust invested in it, to make up any old excuse you can think of (e.g. dodgy dossiers, 45 minutes to VX doom), to whose sources only you have access (e.g. top secret JIC intelligence), to deceive and scare the parliament and the people into supporting the policy. And when the excuses turn out to be lies and fabrications, you simply change the reasons underpinning the policy, and unapologetically assert that you “did the right thing”. In due course you will be rewarded: you will get a highly-paid public speaking tour of the USA, where the fools still believe you.

    And therefore it follows that if you want to advance some other policy (e.g. to ban smoking), you must first achieve some high office (e.g. president of the BMA), and you must then use all the power of that office, and the trust invested in it, to make up any old excuse you can think of (e.g. inconclusive research from some fancy new science), to whose sources only you have access (e.g. unpublished papers), to deceive and scare government and parliament into supporting the policy. If the excuses turn out to be utterly irrelevant, you simply change the reasons underpinning the policy, and unapologetically assert that you “did the right thing”. And in due course you too will be rewarded.

    Thus The Independent Monday, 8 November 2004:

      New tests convince expert of need for total smoking ban

      By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent

      FRESH EVIDENCE of the dangers of passive smoking has prompted one of Britain’s most distinguished doctors to urge John Reid to introduce a ban in all public places.

      Professor Sir Charles George, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, had not, until now, favoured a ban on smoking in public places but has changed his view because of research showing minute particles of cigarette smoke could trigger heart attacks.

      Sir Charles, who is also president of the British Medical Association, has written to the Health Secretary, warning him that allowing smoking to continue in public places would lead to more deaths because the risks from passive smking were being underestimated.

      “I have changed my mind because I think the evidence of harm from cigarette smoking direct or passive is stronger than it was,” he said. “The decline in deaths from coronary heart disease has been attributed in quite significant parts to the reduction in smoking rates…”

      The doctor, who was knighted in 1998 for services to medicine, was a consultant physician for 25 years and has treated thousands of coronary heart disease sufferers. He said the as yet unpublished research funded by the British Heart Foundation showed that ventilating smoky rooms was “cosmetic” and would not remove hundreds of damaging chemicals in the smoke.

      “I wasn’t aware as I now am that ventilation wasn’t the complete answer,” he told The Independent. “Ventilation removes the obvious smokiness of the atmosphere but there are many hundreds of deleterious things in that smoke. And it won’t remove all those harmful things by making the air seem cleaner.”

      The research shows that particles in cigarette smoke “produce changes in the the health of the lining of blood vessels”. The cells in the lining produce a vital “clot-busting treatment” that helps people having heart attacks.

      “Not wishing to be alarmist, there are lots of small particles in smoke called nano-particles; tiny, tiny particles. This is a new science but it is becoming clearer that some of those particles may be really quite harmful in people who are at risk of having a coronary event,” he said.

  30. (reveries 2 continued..)

    I have not seen this unpublished paper from the new science of nanotechnology. Perhaps it was never published. But, from the description given by Sir Charles, it does not bear even the most cursory scrutiny. It is, quite simply, a load of tosh.

    Ventilation does not ‘remove deleterious things from smoke’. Ventilation removes entire masses of air from a room, smoke and deleterious substances and all, and discharges them into the atmosphere. It is only if that air is going to be filtered and recycled back into a room that the failure of the filtration system (not the ventilation system) to remove all deleterious substances becomes cause for concern. But most ventilation systems don’t do this. They simply discharge stale air into the atmosphere, sometimes using a heat exchanger to warm up fresh air drawn in to replace it. It is probably perfectly true that filtration systems are not able to remove tiny nano-particles from air, but it is entirely irrelevant if that air is anyway going to be discharged into the atmosphere. The whole thing is one enormous red herring, which only people who know nothing about ventilation systems (e.g. Members of Parliament) are likely to be fooled by.

    Note all the similarities. Sir Charles George had no doubt laboured mightily to achieve his various high offices. And he used the power and trust invested in those offices to advance a no-smoking policy which has long been the goal of the medical establishment, and of a pharmaceutical industry that stands to making millions from selling nicotine patches in place of cigarettes. And he used unpublished research (unavailable to anyone else) from the fancy new infant science of nanotechnology to scare (“not wishing to be alarmist,” while being highly alarmist) government and parliament into supporting the policy. And it is research that simply falls to pieces on first inspection as being quite simply entirely irrelevant. But we can be sure that Sir Charles is entirely unrepentant, and will say, if he has not said already, that it was “the right thing to do”. After all, we all know that smoking is wrong: we’ve been told about two million times.

    There is one slight difference, however. The Prime Minister has yet to resign and pick up the lucrative US speaking tours that await him, never mind the royalties of the subsequent autobiography – “My 45 Minutes of Fame”. Clearly he has some unfinished business yet to do. But Sir Charles George already has his reward. He stepped down as medical director of BHF at the end of 2004, and as president of the BMA in July 2005, and almost exactly a year to the day after calling for a ban on smoking in all public places, he joined the Board of Bioaccelerate Holdings Inc, which is – guess what? – a pharmaceutical company. And moreover a pharmaceutical company with – guess what? – a nanotechnology division.

      NEW YORK and LONDON, Nov. 3, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) — Bioaccelerate Holdings Inc. (OTCBB:BACL) today announces that Sir Charles George has agreed to be appointed to the Board of Directors.

      Professor Sir Charles George was the President of the British Medical Association from July 2004 to July 2005, and from 1999 to the end of 2004 was Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation…

      The company holds majority equity interests in 10 biopharmaceutical companies, three of which are public, and holds minority interests in four biopharmaceutical companies, two of which are public. The company also holds a minority equity interest in a public nanotechnology company.

    I first read that Independent article sitting at a table one afternoon in my local pub, a pint at one hand, a cigarette in the other, and I almost had what Sir Charles George would term a “coronary event”. Certainly a red mist of blood descended over my eyes. But it was not one brought on by nano-particles in the ill-ventilated air, but instead by Sir Charles George himself.

    It has been some three years since our Prime Minister duped Parliament and country to war in Iraq. But, today, to their eternal shame, another duped, scared, and propagandised parliament voted into law a bill as unnecessary and as damaging as that of the Iraq war.

  31. Seeing as I’m in the company of ‘righties’ here, may I just ask one question?

    Exactly where is it writ that the lefties ‘lost the economic argument’?

    I’m only curious because I look around at the world from time to time and all I see is convincing evidence that embracing capitalism and free market economics, as we all did under the saintly Mrs T, was a ghastly and gargantuan mistake.

    The Middle East is hideously destabilised.

    The Muslim world is becoming polarised against the West. They can’t have what we have; now some are trying to destroy us.

    China and India have figured out a way to have what we have, with the result that our environment will shortly go to hell in a hand-basket.

    Africa continues to starve.

    Meanwhile, here in the West, we spend our lives pursuing ‘products’ that promise to fulfil our dreams and never do; we build our economic lives on a mountain of debt because that suits the ‘free’ market of the banking world; we eat processed garbage in the name of consumer choice and convenience, and sit on a landfill mountain of packaging that no-one needed in the first place but which nevertheless plays some crucial part in the economic ‘miracle’ of the free market; we despise our old people because they no longer pump their earnings into the economic machine; and we make heroes of ‘celebrities’ whose only contribution to the human experience is to help shift more units of production.

    From where I’m sitting it looks like a lot of the lefties were right (if you’ll pardon the expression).

    Serious answers only please – and please don’t bang on about Communist Russia, which was never more than a petty dictatorship, and has precious little to do with left-wing thinking.

  32. A quick response to Idlex…

    Sorry you won’t be able to enjoy your quiet moments in the pub any more. As an ex-20 a day man, I entirely understand your predicament.

    However, as an ex-20 a day man, I can offer some good news.

    If you give up, those moments in the pub will actually become better than they were. You’ll think more clearly. You won’t have a cough. You won’t have to worry about harming other people. You’ll have a little more cash in your pocket. And most remarkable of all, you’ll be able totaste your beer again.

    Sorry, mate. Once upon a time private armies and duelling and beating your wife with a stick were all legal too. No doubt libertarians the whole country over were outraged when these activities were finally banned, but history has proved them wrong.

    It’s the same with smoking. Get over it: you KNOW it’s killing you, and there are many more important things to be outraged about.

  33. Mark

    I won’t bang on about Russia but can you point me in the direction of any socialist success stories?

  34. Get over it:

    How many times have I heard that these last few years, in respect of so many things? “Get over it.” “Move on.” “Wake up and smell the coffee.”

    you KNOW it’s killing you

    No I don’t. Sure, I’ve been told enough times that it’s killing me. But I’ve been told this by a medical establishment that I increasingly simply don’t believe. The whole passive smoking propaganda assault on this country has been one enormous exercise in sheer mendacity. You only have to watch the TV propaganda for a minute or two to realise that it’s pure propaganda, filled with distortions.

    And now that I don’t believe passive smoking is harmful, I’m beginning to doubt that even the evidence against smoking has been honestly presented. If they can lie about one thing, what else are they lying about?

    The medical establishment ultimately relies upon trust, the belief of punters like me that they’re doing their honest best, given a long line of illustrious predecessors. They’re living on the accummulated capital of their profession, and they’re spending it like there’s no tomorrow.

    We no longer believe have much respect for our politicians or our clergy. The medical profession is going the meet with the same fate.

  35. Jack Ramsey – you’re quite right. There aren’t any socialist success stories to speak of. Mainly because we’re all such greedy gits that the minute anyone comes into a position of power they forget about the principles that got them there.

    I think what I’m saying is that none of the ‘socialist’ states we’ve seen so far actually reflect the ideas that gave rise to them. But hey – I accept that socialism wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been. What I objected to was the sheer arrogance of Boris’s assumption that because we took the easy option and settled for second-rate market-driven capitalism, then it follows that all left-wing arguments were automatically defeated.

    They’re not. Most greens would happily describe themselves as left-wing, and they’re quietly winning every argument they enter these days. Despite Texan protestations to the contrary.

    As usual, I find myself pleading for the human race to do a little better, and not pat itself on the back just because it invented the ready-meal and the means to persuade everyone to eat the damn things.

  36. embracing capitalism and free market economics, as we all did under the saintly Mrs T, was a ghastly and gargantuan mistake.

    I’m no fan of Mrs T, but was she really to blame for the destabilized Middle East, Muslim rage, Chinese and Indian economic development, and African starvation?

    If the Middle East has been destabilised, and Islam enraged, it seems to me that the cause isn’t free market economics, but military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the shooting and bombing and torture of tens of thousands of their citizens.

    Nothing free-market about that. War is one thing markets hate, because war brings an end to trade.

  37. Idlex…

    I couldn’t agree more about the medical profession. And I’ll even accept that it isn’t proven passive smoking can harm you.

    However…

    It’s taken six years for me to regain my sense of smell, but I can now personally guarantee that passively-received smoke makes your clothes stink. And a pretty noxious smell it is too. I also know from trying to singalonga my guitar down the Rose and Crown that it plays merry hell with your vocal chords, which can’t be a good thing. Roy Castle went to his grave convinced that the cancer that killed him came from passive smoking whilst performing in the clubs, and I’d back him to be right even if he couldn’t prove it.

    I also don’t miss the cough one bit. Or the wheezing. Or the phlegm. All of which had come to seem normal when I smoked, and now turn out to be remarkably unpleasant manifestations of the damage I know, in my heart of hearts, I was doing to my lungs and circulatory system.

    I don’t want to be mean, but on this one the medical profession is right. Smoking kills, even if you can’t prove it kills the guy sitting next to you.

    Apologies.

  38. It’s taken six years for me to regain my sense of smell, but I can now personally guarantee that passively-received smoke makes your clothes stink. And a pretty noxious smell it is too.

    Hmmm… Strange. There was a time when I didn’t smoke – from approximately the ages of 0 to 20 – when I was in full possession of my olfactory capabilities, and with a 60-a-day father (although absent at work much of the time), yet somehow or other I never noticed the stink you mentioned. And nor did anyone else. Back then, somehow or other, it was just another odour.

  39. Mark

    I too hope that the human race, and me especially, will get to behave a little better.

    Greens come in lots of shades. I’m not at all convinced that they are winning, quietly or not, that many arguments. Maybe the premisses are agreed – burning oil cannot be good for the environment and I tend to believe is bad, how bad I don’t know – but then different shades take us to different conclusions. It’ a little like the smoking debate. I’m very glad I gave up – and you’re right about the pong so take note idlex – but I don’t see that leads to the conclusion of banning smoking in all enclosed public places.

    I find many of the features of life in current capitalist society repulsive and offensive. It depresses me that apparently a majority of the nation can watch Big Brother for entertainment, or that fashion and trend can be so compelling – I think that’s what you feel about the music scene. But people can choose. I suspect that what Boris is objecting to about ‘leftyism’ is the tendency to tell people what they should like and what they should think.

    Perhaps Boris’ mistake is to run together some motivating ideas that we may call socialist with all the known implementations. From each according to his means unto each according to his needs is not a bad bit of morality IMHO but as a political end it’s a disaster. The initiatives of people like Ruskin to make arts and education available to the working class are admirable. I just can’t help thinking it all goes pear shaped as soon as we have commisars, whether of the Hewitt mold or the Stalinist tradition – legitimate mention of Stalin there I plead – telling us that it’s good for us and how it’s going to be rather than enabling it.

  40. One thing that the medical profession has not even tried to prove is that the actual smoking, and its sister; passive smoking is deadly to everybody .

    It is generally accepted that not everyone who smokes is a candidate for lung cancer; emphysema nor any of the other deadly diseases of the respiratory system. These sometimes do occur in people who have never partaken of the weed.

    However, despite what Idlex says, hardly anyone escapes some impairment absolutely.

    It might be loss of taste and smell; loss of appetite, or that lung wrenchingly terrible moment when some stubborn gob of phlegm is literally torn from its “comfort” zone, by the combined power of the explosive expulsion of air during a coughing fit, only to end its time in a tissue, leaving its previous host panting, in seemingly terminal breathlessness.

    I for one do not wish to stop anybody doing whatever degree of harm to themselves that they may choose, but I do not want to be ignored in my desire to be smoke free, merely because someone is hell bent on being selfish.

    A public place, as in ‘public house’ is for all, not just the few.

    If there is no prosecutor, there is, ipso facto, no prosecution. It does not mean that a wrong has not been committed.

    What used to be the norm, is now less usual, and universal acceptance, nay encouragement, of smoking all those years ago was part of life.

    To quote Thomas Gray:-
    No more : where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.

    On the other hand: Prohibition didn’t last forever in the States: could a similar fate await our “Prohibition”? Something to look forward to, perhaps?

  41. What used to be the norm, is now less usual, and universal acceptance, nay encouragement, of smoking all those years ago was part of life.

    Then time seems to have stopped round here, if it has “moved on” in Gamon and Macarnie’s social circles.

    The talk at the local tonight wasn’t enlightened observations along the lines of: “A public house is for all, not just the few.” With shouts of, “Aye, right thar, Fred!”

    The talk was, if anything, distinctly angry, if not mutinous. These working people – farmers and builders – just don’t seem to know what’s good for them.

  42. Several clips from tonight’s commentaries on the smoking ban left me reeling this evening.

    The first was a pretty young blonde of Question Time declaring that she was all for the ban because it would make people like her (and she seemed to include herself) give up smoking. I could just as easily have imagined her gushingly support a ban on alcohol or sex so as to stop her and people like her doing that. What wondrous voters, who applaud their rights being curtailed, who reach out their wrists and ask to be handcuffed for their own good!

    The second, from the same programme, had a hoary old political commentator saying that nobody had believed that the ban on smoking on the Underground would ever work, and so, when it did, it was only natural to extend it further. To which my response was that if the ban on smoking in pubs proves successful, they will be encouraged to expand the ban to include smoking in the streets, and then smoking in the home (all the while denying they ever have any such intention).

    But the third clip was the most disturbing. It showed an MP declaring in the House something to the effect that: “We should seek to change the culture, seek to change what people do in their leisure time.” This seemed far more disturbing. For him, the smoking bill had nothing to do with the health of pub workers; it was about changing our culture, changing what we do with our leisure time. It is, in the view of some politicians, now the government’s business how we amuse ourselves in our leisure hours.

    I suppose someone will tell me that I should just get over it, go with the flow, and give up smoking. But all I see is deepening darkness ahead.

  43. idlex

    You have certainly collected some first class examples of proto-totalitarian thinking ranging from the downright batty – I’m sure her being blonde was incidental – through the amazingly lazy to the mission statement of the thought police.

    I wanted to have my grump about the Labour minister for Higher Education, called Rammel or Rommel or something, who is not concerned about falling numbers in history, philosophy and fine arts. The government’s aim seesm to be to get 50% of the youth into HE, insofar as they are occupying the buildings once used by universities and polytechnics, but reducing the challenge by expanding ‘vocational’ courses, most of which will be about how to do a presentation and being racially aware, not what I would call vocational, like engineering, medicine or agriculture. I believe, sometimes coolly, sometimes passionately, that if a society loses its past and its culture by failing to transmit it then it will cease to be a community where people talk about and concern themselves with values, however inconsistent with each other. Instead we will have a ceaseless stream of novelty and languid gurgles of ‘whatever’.

    The ploy is familiar. Identify something as elitist. History, philosophy and I guess – not being arty myself – fine arts all require quite good minds to be done properly. Hence any successful course that is not just about the wickedness of the Britsih slave trade or remorseless relativism, is going to be elitist.

    Use that as a reason to denigrate it. In our levelling times this will gain kudos from, or at least your opponents will be attacked by, the clever dick satirists of the BBC and trendy press.

    Crosland wanted to close every f******* grammar school in the country. This was a primary objective, not the improvement of education opportunities amongst the less well off. If Boris doesn’t want to end up as Minister for Media Studies courses and Race Awareness workshops perhaps he had better get weaving!

    Down with Rammel! Or Rommel?

  44. Rammel.

    A.C.Grayling has a long opinion piece in the Independent about this.

      Philosophy’s aim is to encourage independence of mind and a critical ability to sift good things from bad things. Many of the problems that beset the world arise from unreflective acceptance of dogmas, which prompt knee-jerk reactions and polarisation of views. Obviously enough, a little more reflectiveness would go far to making the world a better place.

    This is the last thing the Rammels of the NuLabor want. They want unreflective acceptance of dogma, and knee-jerk reactions. The study of philosophy is clearly subversive and dangerous, and must be stopped.

    There was a programme on Channel 4 tonight by that chap who was arrested at a Labour party conference for shouting “Rubbish” at Jack Straw. It was a sad story. For 50 years, he’d been part of a Labour party tradition of intense debate, in which the party leaders could barely get themselves heard. Now it was all over: Labour party conferences were no longer debates, but staged photo-ops, in which dissent is suppressed by burly thugs.

    And this intellectual failure shows. Bliar’s public pronouncements are invariably as intellectually vacuous as they are impassioned – and indeed impassioned because they are vacuous, since passion is needed to lend spurious force to what would otherwise appear to be the meaningless drivel that it actually is.

  45. Is “Rubbish” considered incitement to terrorism or something? Perhaps it doesn’t translate into Canadian…

    If a party considers itself threatened by a single man shouting “rubbish,” perhaps it is quite correct; that’s all it takes. Ladies and gentlemen, to your bullhorns!

  46. Raincoaster: anything which this shower think might be original thought, as in the instance mooted above , is seen as a possible incitement to terrorism.

    On a y un gouvernement de branleurs.

    Does that make me a terrorist suspect too ?

  47. Boris’s original point about New Labour expressing their old instincts in the new form of regulating business to death instead of nationalising it is absolutely right.

    The trouble is that this happens in such a detailed, piecemeal way that it is hard for the public to comprehend what is going on.

    Our employment and discrimination laws, for example, are doing just as much damage to the British economy as militant trade unions did in the 1960s and 1970s. The difference is that in the 1960s and 1970s everyone knew when the news was dominated by strikes in the car industry or the like. Eventually most people other than very doctrinaire left wingers realised that enough was enough.

    This time, the damage that Employment Tribunals, Maternity Leave Regulations etc. are doing to our economy is much less reported, as it occurs in a piecemeal way. It hits hardest the smaller businesses, least able to follow the bureaucratic procedures now expected of them.

    I know this from daily experience as a solicitor advising about half and half employers and employees.

    When I am consulted about situations where, say, someone has been sacked because several witnesses saw them arrive for work two hours late reeking of alcohol, I often have to explain to disbelieving clients that the Employment Tribunal will hardly care about that. What matters is whether the employer remembered to follow all the procedures in sub-paragraph X of section Y of the ACAS code on disciplinary procedures.

    Many of those who create the cumbersome laws and regulations must like to think that they are doing good. Sometimes, up to a point, they were. But they rarely understand the side effects, especially when the rules are applied by unimaginative junior functionaries, covering their backs by playing safe.

    I saw an article in a legal newsletter recently querying whether the new law against age discrimination expected in October will lead to companies like Saga Holidays being sued if they continue to offer holidays for people over a certain age.

    Yet holidays for the over 55s are surely a harmless thing that people should be allowed to have if they want them.

    The article rightly concluded that government regulation has become so complicated that the only people who can understand the regulations are the specialists who draft them. However, their narrow specialism makes it impossible for them to tell what consequences the regulations will have in practice.

    Some people reading this probably think I must be exaggerating about employment law. However, they will mostly be the people who have little experience of how it works in practice.

  48. Some people reading this probably think I must be exaggerating

    I for one don’t.

    Laws that should be helpful regularly turn out to be hindrance.

  49. A CAUTIONARY TALE

    Evil tim lawyer,
    The horrors you describe are substantially worse in South Africa and I have no doubt the UK will confidently swagger down the same blind alley.

    Over here we have labour courts which are, theoretically, courts of equity. What they are in practice, are courts which are significantly biased toward the employee.

    Let me give you a little example:
    I had an employee a few years ago, let’s call him ‘Bob’. Bob was a nightmare, an employee from hell.

    When we gave him the use of a company car and a fuel account and he ran up enormous fuel and maintenance bills because he was ferrying prostitutes around Johannesburg. We gave him a warning.

    He habitually arrived late to work, usually still drunk from the night before. We gave him a warning.

    He constantly pilfered equipment and stock. We gave him a warning.

    Eventually he knocked out his foreman whilst on a client site because the foreman wouldn’t lend him a car to go to the pub for lunch!

    We decided that, because of the demonstrable criminal component, and the impartial witnesses to this event we had a fair chance of sacking him.

    We stuck to the letter of the Labour relations guidelines. We employed a labour lawyer to handle the procedure, set up tribunals and did the lot! Eventually, we gave him a letter to the effect that we were terminating his employment and gave him a months salary and paid out his leave in lieu.

    Then he took us to court!

    At the time I didn’t give it a second thought. Not in my wildest throes of pessimism did I think he had a case. Wrong!

    The court action lasted three days and myself and my co-directors (all four of us) had to be in attendance (while the company went to wrack and ruin in our absence). The judge caught Bob lying on the stand no less than four times. I thought we were home and dry!

    Wrong again. It seems, that the secretary who typed up this chap’s letter of dismissal had made a mistake. She put the date of the tribunal on the dismissal notice rather than the date at which the termination was issued. The judge held that this meant we had ‘pre-judged’ his guilt in the tribunal and therefore the tribunal was a sham.

    The judge found that we had substantive reasons for dismissal and upheld our decision to fire Bob but also found that we had made procedural errors in terms of the act (such as the aforementioned dodgy date) and consequently awarded damages to the plaintiff in the order of one year’s salary.

    We were a medium sized company and, whilst a years salary wouldn’t kill us, it was a bitter pill to swallow. The worst side effect of the case was that the remaining staff now felt they had carte blanche to do whatever they liked and the most severe penalty we could impose on them would be a year’s pay up front and no work to do!

    Be careful over there!

  50. Och Zuid Afrika:
    I hope you sued the labour lawyer you employed, citing dereliction of duty as the grounds for the suit.

    Surely , since he was employed, as an ” expert” to oversee the whole dismissal procedure,( which included the court hearings), he was basically the architect of your misery?

  51. Whilst, unlike advocates, they don’t enjoy any protection from civil suits pertaining to the quality of their work, the chances of putting a negligence claim through against an attorney here are less than zero.

    I feel, the whole South African legal system is geared toward ineptitude but, providing all the attorneys are equally incompetent, it balances out. Unfortunately some of them are crooked too. Forget the local law society (where one can theoretically take iffy solicitors to task), it just perpetuates the myth of the inviolacy of the legal profession.

    I could tell you horror stories!

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