My Head In The Stocks

I used to be a Lib Dem voter. I voted Lib Dem because I regarded myself as a liberal in almost every sense of the word. But when 95% of Lib Dem MPs illiberally voted for a complete smoking ban, I could no longer continue to vote for them. It followed of course that I couldn’t vote Labour either, because 90% of them voted for the ban, even though the Labour manifesto promised that a smoking ban wouldn’t extend to small wet-led pubs. The result has been that I’ve been contemplating voting Conservative, because a majority of Tory MPs voted against a complete ban.

This week though a couple of bits of news have pushed me away from this option. The first of these was learning that David Cameron wants all-women shortlists as candidate MPs. And this struck me as politically correct barminess. Has he got nothing better to do than to try to even up the balance of the sexes in parliament? It’s a bit like captain Smith of the Titanic coming out onto its sinking deck and announcing that henceforth 3rd class passengers would be allowed to take tea on the promenade deck on Wednesday afternoons.

The other bit of bad news, via Taking Liberties, was that the Tories plan to enhance the powers of the Chief Medical Officer.

Of far greater concern than a few more GPs in parliament, however, is the knowledge that a future Conservative government will "enhance the Chief Medical Officer’s Department to give greater powers and responsibilities over public health" (Mark Simmonds MP, 20 March 2009, and repeated at a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference on 6 October).
That is a signal that there’s only going to be more nannying and bullying from a future Conservative government, and that there will be no relaxation of the smoking ban. The Tories haven’t been suggesting that they do anything about the ban anyway. When David Davis went campaigning against the erosion of liberties by this present government, the smoking ban was conspicuously absent from his list of lost freedoms. It is becoming perfectly clear that the Tories are not going to amend the ban any more than Labour or the Lib Dems are. So why the hell should I vote for any of them?

The smoking ban is pretty much the only issue that matters to me these days. Why? Because it’s largely destroyed my social life, and opened up divisions between me and quite a few people with whom I had been on perfectly good terms for many years. More than that it has made me feel like a refugee and an outsider in my own country. And ‘outsider’ is the exact term, because I have actually been standing outside for the past two years. Political issues which might have formerly interested me – the EU, immigration, islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, education, etc – have all dropped into second place beneath the single issue of this divisive smoking ban.

And how could it be otherwise? If you are to take a man, and place him outside with his head and hands in wooden stocks for two years, and then ask him what is the single most important issue to him, he will not tell you that it is Islamic fundamentalism, or the parlous state of the education system, or the influx of immigrants, or the rise of the EU. No. He will tell you that the single most important issue to him is the damned stocks in which he finds himself incarcerated.

So all I want is the smoking ban amended or repealed. Once that’s done, I will again enjoy the luxury of being able to turn my mind to these other concerns.

And the only parties which promise to do anything about the ban are UKIP and the BNP. And so my vote will most likely go to one of these.

People say that, if floating voters like me vote UKIP, there is a danger that this dreadful Labour government may be returned to power, and that I ought to vote Conservative to prevent this happening. But what is the point of that, if the Conservatives are going to do nothing about the smoking ban? As far as I am concerned, the Conservatives are no different from Labour. Anyone who wants me to vote Conservative must have reasons aside from the smoking ban to vote for them. But I have none.

I might even say that, in the present state of things, I would prefer to see neither a Labour nor a Conservative government after the next election, but some sort of coalition between UKIP, BNP, and the remains of the the three main parties after all three have been thoroughly trounced. That way there is at least half a chance that the smoking ban be amended.

Things might change a great deal over the next few months however. When, as seems likely, Vaclav Klaus unwillingly signs on the dotted line of the Lisbon Treaty for the Czech Republic, and David Cameron announces that there will be no British referendum on it, there are likely to be ructiions and defections within the Conservative party. And when Cameron finds that public support for the Tories is ebbing away in the run-up to an election which looked like it was in the bag, he might start casting around for a few floating voters. And he knows what he needs to do if he wants my vote. And he’ll have it if he promises to amend the smoking ban to allow smokers back inside their pubs.

But then I am so disillusioned with the current Con-Lab-Lib political settlement that I might vote anyway for its dissolution, and replacement with a coalition of minor parties who actually do represent the British people in all their diversity.

And if the direst warnings of the EU sceptics have any truth to them, that will happen anyway, as all powers are transferred to Brussels, and the UK parliament becomes as powerless as a county council.

But whichever way I vote, one thing is quite clear. I will primarily be influenced by the blogs and their comments that I read, and not by the newspapers I’ve stopped buying, and the television I no longer watch.

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17 Responses to My Head In The Stocks

  1. Anonymous says:

    I thought this piece by Simon Jenkins was an excellent commentary on how the LibDems have ceased to be the free-thinking, iconoclastic party the Liberals once were.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    Thanks for that. I’d not seen it.
    I admired the old Liberals. David Steel was my idea of what a politician should be. I think the party lost its soul in its merger with the SDP. It became another Labour party. It became a prototype New Labour before Tony Blair took over and did it better.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m singing from exactly the same songsheet as you on this one, Frank. The ban has become the single defining issue in my planned voting behaviour these days, not only because it has had such a negative effect on my life personally, but also because to me it is the most perfect example of everything that is bad, corrupt, manipulative, hypocritical and damaging about the whole political/media/advertising/charity/pressure-group set-up in this country. I am, however, extremely concerned about the imminent handover of power to Brussels, but that’s primarily because they seem to be even more fanatically anti-smoking than our present lot in Westminster!
    Leg-iron did an excellent article some weeks ago pointing out the merits of as many people as possible voting for ANYONE but the Big Three, and then putting up with the inevitable year or so of complete chaos which would follow (well, could it be any worse than now?), just to break the relentless ping-ponging between our present Hobson’s choice of Nanny with a blue tie or Nanny with a red one, and to bring home to the Big Three the hard fact that THEY should be serving US, not the other way around.

  4. Frank Davis says:

    I’m a regular reader of Leg-iron, and I read that piece by him, and I’m inclined to agree with it. But I rather doubt that the British voter will agree. Most of them are what I was: a habitual voter who carried around with him some unrealistically sunny ideas about who he was voting for. I’m sure that there are plenty of Labour voters who imagine that New Labour is still the party of Nye Bevan and Clem Attlee or even Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan. And I’m sure there are plenty of Tory voters who imagine that the Tory party is still the party of Harold Macmillan or Maggie Thatcher. And they vote, like I voted, for an imaginary party. It takes a bit of a nasty shock, like I had, to snap people out of the spell.
    I’m concerned about the EU as well. And I agree that they seem to be even more fanatically antismoking than our current crew. But I’m not a constitutional lawyer, and I don’t know whether the Lisbon treaty hands power to Brussels or not. Some people say it does. Some say it doesn’t. What’s most disconcerting, in some ways, is that there’s no public discussion about it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The partial smoking ban was the policy from a Health Minister who understood smokers (having been one himself) and hated ASH. John Reid was sacked from the DoH and replaced by a woman. It was a man speaking on behalf of ASH who said smoking would never be banned in pubs. ASH is now run by a woman. The Deputy Prime Minister, a woman, said that men should never be allowed to make decisions on their own. Whenever there is any kind of new health issue, it is not surprising that you usually hear the news from a woman. This is why when Cameron spoke of all female short lists the Conservatives lost any modicum of support from me.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    I suppose that it’s also true in my own personal experience that it’s usually women who become anti-smoking. And it’s usually women who become generally health conscious in all sorts of other ways. It’s by no means universally true, though.
    It certainly seems to be a man thing to have a robust indifference to health, or at least a willingness to take risks. It almost seems to be be built into the male psyche. Perhaps when early man went hunting with his club, he was always risking his life. While the women who tended the home fires and raised the children were always minimising risks to themselves and their children.
    It may also be that the supreme importance of the chiiidren these days is simply a reflection of the growing importance of women, for whom the interests of children are paramount.
    I used not to like male-dominated society. But now I think I dislike female-dominated society just as much. I’m sick of this nanny state.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Political Parties
    I would tend to favour voting Libertarian (LPUK). UKIP would be a second choice consideration.
    I’m not sure what the UK brand of Libertarianism stands for as their web site doesn’t seem to explicitly indicate a position on issues which I find important. In North America, I am very familiar with the position of Libertarians which includes the fact that they do not agree smoking bans are justified.
    As Libertarians are strongly in favour of Property Rights, it follows they would leave these decisions up to the property owner to decide.
    For the most part, most Libertarians I have read about seem to have the following inclinations :-
    They are Climate Change Sceptics and do not see carbon dioxide as a significant global warming agent.
    They want Britain to withdraw from membership in the EU, other than from a trading perspective
    They think the dangers of secondhand smoke are bogus.
    I have not voted since the smoking bans were imposed here in Canada, in fact I may never vote again.
    British Expat in Canada

  8. Anonymous says:

    Frank: “I used not to like male-dominated society. But now I think I dislike female-dominated society just as much.”
    We have some astute comments on here on a factor that is never criticized because to do so is politically incorrect: That the philosophy of the nanny state is driven by women.
    For years, as a professional woman, I fought for equality with the men. Because I wanted to stride with the men instead of mincing in ladylike steps with the women. Now that the women have achieved power, they want to make everyone mince in ladylike steps.
    They are not benevolent Mary Poppins, with her spoonful of sugar. They are instead like Nurse Rached, in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”: Do as I say or I’ll strap you into a straitjacket and lobotomize you.

  9. Frank Davis says:

    Re: Political Parties
    Thanks for pointing that out. Hey, this blog has even been classed as Libertarian! And Right of Centre. (see right margin awards).
    Somehow or other the Libertarian party doesn’t seem to have quite registered its presence, in my head at least, in the way that UKIP has. I’m not sure why that is.
    Quite obviously I should have added LPUK to my essay. But I didn’t.
    Perhaps it’s because I’m not entirely sure whether I’m a Libertarian. Or right of centre for that matter.

  10. Frank Davis says:

    the philosophy of the nanny state is driven by women. For years, as a professional woman, I fought for equality with the men.
    Perhaps it takes a woman to say that. As a man I wouldn’t feel entirely sure about saying that.
    Because I wanted to stride with the men instead of mincing in ladylike steps with the women. Now that the women have achieved power, they want to make everyone mince in ladylike steps.
    New Labour’s women never seem very ‘lady-like’ to me. I can’t quite put my finger on why. There’s something a tiny bit mannish about them, in the way they dress. It’s always a bit dowdy. They don’t seem to be quite comfortable with being women. She’s not New Labour obviously, but Germany’s Angela Merkel is almost a man. Hillary Clinton strikes me that way too sometimes.
    Margaret Thatcher, by contrast, wasn’t in the least bit dowdy. Nor was Theresa May with her kitten heels a few years back. My Tory MP, Angela Browning, looks quite comfortable with being a woman too.
    IMHO the most triumphantly and gorgeously womanly woman in Britain in Joanna Lumley. She’s a famous beauty, of course. But she also led the Gurkhas to victory, which is a simply stunning achievement. And she’s trounced a Labour minister in single combat. And she smokes.
    Evita Peron probably fell into this category of women.
    Perhaps it’s that Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman, and all the rest of them, are wimmin. And Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Joanna Lumley, et al, are women. And one strong woman is more than a match for a hundred wimmin. Real women are comfortable with being women, and it shows in everything they do. By contrast wimmin are not comfortable in that way, and it also shows. And what I mean by female-dominated society is one that is dominated by hatchet-faced, harridan wimmin rather than by graceful, confident women.
    But that’s just off the top of my head this Sunday morning. It needs a lot more thought. Men have a big role in this too.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I decided quite soon after the ban that our pubs are being deliberately feminised.
    We women have moved from the home, via the workplace and now into the pubs, scrubbing and sanitising and generally rearraging the world to our standards.
    Why the hell couldn’t you blokes have stood up for yourselves a bit more?
    I agree with your thoughts re. prehistoric Man. Taking that a little further, it’s perhaps inevitable that things have turned out as they are. The chance of a successful kill depended on the hunting party’s ability to plan ahead and work togther; women, on the other hand, needed skills that helped them to order and control the next generation of competent hunters and gatherers. You had to be a bit of a control-freak with a good sense of hygiene if your children were to stand a fighting chance of reaching adulthood.
    Perhaps there was a time, before we became meat-eaters, when men and women grazed equally together, sharing the child-care and not having to argue about who’s turn it is to do the pots. Is this why vegitarianism and feminism seem to sit beside each other so neatly? I bet bossy vegan Kerry McCarthy is a feminist!
    It’s interesting that a frequent excuse offered by antis for still not going to the pub, even now the smoke’s cleared, is that they are ‘dirty’ and ‘grubby’. So, still not good enough, lads! Must try harder!
    (Disclaimer. Just like those libertarian non-smokers like to start an anti-ban piece with ‘Even though I hate the smell of smoke…..’ Even though I can’t multi-task, I am not and never have been a feminist nor, indeed, a wimmin. Ever. And I really miss the ‘grubby’ pubs.)

  12. iessalb says:

    Excellent piece. If history is any kind of guide, we smokers will eventually congeal into some kind of voting bloc to protect our interests. The party differences are clear cut in the states. I can’t think of one piece of anti-smoking legislation ever advanced by Republicans. The Democrats are the smokers worst nightmare, no question about it. They launched the Nanny State into existence in 1993.
    While we’re forced outside smoking, we tend to engage in conversations with our fellow stocked and pilloried devotees of the sublime leaf. Political talk often follows and party affiliations are discussed. That and online discussions like this one help spread the seeds of change. Strangely, our potential voting muscle is never brought up in press coverage. It’s up to us to self-aggregate.
    In the states, commentators slice and dice every segment of the electorate – the Latino vote is the current media sweetheart. They breakdown the gender vote, the religious vote, the income vote etc., but never ever the smokers. Maybe they’re afraid of what they may find when they crunch the numbers.
    You’ve got my curiosity up on the UKIP. Having been once-burned by relying on Wikipedia for a definition of the Lib Dems, please fill me in on this party.

  13. Frank Davis says:

    Why the hell couldn’t you blokes have stood up for yourselves a bit more?
    Good question. I don’t think there’s a quick and simple answer.
    Is this why vegitarianism and feminism seem to sit beside each other so neatly?
    Maybe it was because while the men were hunting for meat, women were picking vegetables and roots. In the absence of successful hunters, women would be necessarily vegetarians.
    And I really miss the ‘grubby’ pubs.
    There are still plenty! I know exactly what you mean. I only really ever relax in places that not only smoky, but also well worn/used. Nothing is expected of you.

  14. Frank Davis says:

    Some sort of smokers’ organisation would definitely be useful. Preferably one with several armoured divisions, and a nuclear strike capability.
    And I’m no authority on UKIP. They are a UK anti-European party, which has been gaining a lot of support in recent years. That’s their main platform. But they also oppose the smoking ban, which is the main reason why I’d vote for them.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “Nothing is expected of you.”
    Quite so.
    Come in. Relax. Be yourself.
    Sweet days…..

  16. Frank Davis says:

    Quite so. Come in. Relax. Be yourself.
    Smoke a cigarette?

  17. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!
    volatile penny stocks

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