Waiting for Britain

Heartwarming news from Croatia today.

ZAGREB (AFP) – Croatia has made a U-turn on a law banning smoking in public after buckling to pressure from cafe and restaurant owners who told the government it was ruining their businesses.
The parliament on Thursday adopted an amended law that again allows smoking in cafes and restaurants in specially designated smoking zones covering no more than a fifth of any premises. The remaining four-fifths must be kept for non-smokers.
Cafes smaller than 50 square metres (538 square feet), however, will be allowed to decide whether to become a smoking or non-smoking establishment after meeting certain criteria.
Ever since the law banning smoking in all public places was introduced in May, managers of cafes and restaurants have pressed the government to amend it.

So they’ve managed to get their ban relaxed within 4 months of it coming into force.

There’s also strong resistance to the smoking ban in Holland. Back in July, courts eased the law.

A court in Leeuwarden has acquitted the owners of a pub in Groningen which broke the universal smoking ban.
The owners of De Kachel (The Stove) had appealed their sentence by a lower court to a 1200 euro fine and a a conditional closure of one month.
The court says it quashed the verdict because the smoking ban is not well described in the law. In the court’s view, pubs are only obliged to take measures that protect their employees from smoke. This means that the smoking ban does not apply to staffless pubs run by their owner, according to the court.

The Dutch government is taking the case to the country’s Supreme Court, so it’s not over yet.

In Germany, the Bavarian ban on smoking was the most stringent, but politicians soon started backtracking. September 2008:

Bavaria’s ruling conservatives, the Christian Social Union, have suffered huge losses in polls, losing their absolute majority, final results show…
A senior CSU official, Heinz Spitzner, saw Bavaria’s strict smoking ban as one of the main reasons for his party’s debacle.

The Bavarian ban was relaxed in August 2009 to allow small bars to allow smoking. German Joys blogs about the German smoking bans.

I’m not really sure what the situation is like elsewhere. France has  a pretty comprehensive smoking ban. May 2009

If there is any part of France that is supposed to be thick with crowded, lively cafés, it is the Left Bank in Paris. This is where Jean-Paul Sartre and other postwar philosophers held court, where artists and writers drank and smoked and argued, and where travellers sampled a bit of traditional French life. “The café is the people’s parliament,” Balzac said. 
The cafés of course are still here, but there are far fewer of them and the ones that remain can be strangely empty. 
A spot called Le Nesle is one of them. Given its location, on the rue Dauphine near Saint-Germain, just in from the Pont Neuf, you would think it would be stuffed with Parisians and foreigners even though the décor is not particularly elegant. Yet on this fine, cool spring evening, there are only three customers, one at the bar, two taking turns rattling the Monster Bash pinball machine in the corner. 
The owner, a tall, slim, 50ish blonde named Chauvin Marc, knows the cash register will not brim with euros when she leaves tonight. “The young are quitting the bars because of the smoking ban,” she says. “It’s also because of the [economic] crisis.” 
That said, I keep reading anecdotal reports that the French smoking ban is being widely ignored.
And what about Italy? The Italians have also been enduring a smoking ban. But I’ve hardly seen any reports about it.

From this thin evidence, it seems that the most stringent bans (like in Bavaria) breed the strongest resistance. So why hasn’t there been strong resistance from Britain, which has the most stringent bans of all? Is it because us Brits have been totally debollocked over the past few decades?

I doubt it. There’s really no reason to suppose that us Brits are any less red-blooded than anybody else. What I would suggest is that when the law is as ferocious as it is in Britain, and smokers and non-compliant pub landlords (like Tony Blows) are subjected to the most fantastic swingeing fines, people are driven into submission. But that submission breeds the most tremendous resentment and hatred. (the hatred that drives this blog, in fact). And my own guess is that when that molten anger finally erupts, it will be in the most tremendous explosion. And the longer it takes, the more powerful that explosion will be. 

I’m waiting for Britain. I have faith in the British people. They are slow to anger. Very slow. It is no crime to be slow to anger.


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2 Responses to Waiting for Britain

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think that a period of some social unrest is quite likely in the not-too-distant future. It won’t come from smokers, or publicans, or drinkers, or the BNP, or the AFL, but I think that politicians know it’s coming and they know, too, that there are now so many people who are so angry about so many things that it could well escalate to include lots of other groups, once one has started the ball rolling. The clue is in the level of media coverage given recently to the Brown Gorgon’s use of the word “cuts.” I wondered at the time why so much was made of this. Throughout my whole working life I’ve known politicians of all persuasions talk of “cuts in this” and “cuts in that” – it isn’t just a Tory philosophy by a long shot – so why all this hoo-ha about it? Clearly the media know what’s coming, too. All pure speculation, needless to say, but I for one will be watching this space, as it were, with GREAT interest …….

  2. leg_iron says:

    Slow indeed, and extraordinarily tolerant.
    But when that temper snaps, it snaps all the way.

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