I’ve been cheered to learn that, since the Irish smoking ban came into effect, the percentage of Irish smokers has risen from 29% to 33%.
Prof Luke Clancy, a respiratory consultant and director general of the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society last night described the statistics as very disappointing.
"This is a kick in the teeth for Tobacco Control by the Irish people.," he said. "They clearly don’t like being told how to live their lives, and are showing their defiance. In these circumstances, I can only conclude that the current programme to reduce tobacco consumption is failing, and I call upon the government to suspend the programme, and allow people to make up their own minds, as they used to do before interfering busybodies like me came along."
Well, no, he didn’t actually quite say that. That’s what I wish he would have said. In fact what he said was:
"There is no evidence of any decline in smoking in this survey, indicating a clear need for higher prices of cigarettes and better treatment of tobacco-dependence," he said.
So, faced with the failure of his tobacco control programme, Prof Clancy’s response is to call for more of the same. And by the looks of it he will carry on doing so until the Irish people comply. And he sounds confident that they will.
And who is Prof Clancy anyway? He’s a consultant physician of respiratory diseases at St James’s Hospital, Dublin. And, oh, he’s twice been chairman of ASH Ireland. And he’s a big fish in the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society (RIFTFS) which
is a not for profit organization dedicated to transdisciplinary Tobacco Control research. It was established by the Department of Health to provide the evidence base for the Irish Governments policy of creating a tobacco free society. RIFTFS was responsible for the evaluation of the workplace smoking ban and has since been involved in other national and international tobacco control projects. It is currently funded by the Department of Health through the Office for Tobacco Control and receives competitive grants from the Royal City Dublin Hospital Trust Board, the Medical Research Charities Group, and the Irish Health Research Board. RIFTFS is governed by a Board of Directors with members from University College Cork, University of Dublin, the Health Service Executive, University College Dublin, The Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society.
So Prof Clancy, no doubt drawing multiple salaries from his various jobs in these various quangoes and charities, is really only helping to provide evidence for the Irish Government’s policy of creating a tobacco free society. When did the Irish Government adopt this policy? Did they consult the Irish people about it? Did they say to them, "Look, we’re thinking of creating a tobacco-free society. To improve people’s health and all that. Would you like a tobacco-free society? Let us know. Your word is our command. We are, after all, a democracy. And by the way, would you like an alcohol-free and salt-free and sugar-free and fat-free society as well while you’re about it?"
I bet they never asked the Irish people at all.
And that’s the problem. In recent years, it seems that governments everywhere have started to decide for themselves what sort of society they’d like to be governing – rather than societies deciding what sort of government they’d like governing them, which was the old, fuddy-duddy, democratic scheme of things. Perhaps that’s why it’s called ‘post-democratic’.
All across Europe, governments have been deciding that they want to create a tobacco-free society. It’s happened almost overnight, and in complete unison. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether governments are left wing or right wing, they’re all agreed that they want a tobacco-free society, and that they have a perfect right to make this happen – by banning smoking, raising the duty on tobacco, pushing tobacco under the counter, removing cigarette machines, and so on.
It seems that modern European governments no longer represent their peoples: they instruct them. And when the EU Lisbon treaty is ratified early next year, the EU will be instructing the entire European people big time.
And since both left wing and right wing and centre parties all appear to be lined up behind this new post-democratic political order, it means that any protest vote that just shifts from one mainstream political party to another will end up voting in the same left-centre-right political consensus. You’ll get the same policies, but they’ll be administered by a different talking head. You can cast as many protest votes as you like, but you’ll still end up having the same medicine rammed down your throat. It’s a one-party state, but with a range of optional plug-in presidents and ministers.
It’s not that democracy has actually been suspended though. You can still vote for fringe parties which aren’t members of the Consensus. But in Britain we’ve seen in the past week how fringe parties like the BNP are treated: they’re howled down by TV studio lynch mobs.
It can’t be very surprising that left wing, socialist governments should want to instruct people how to live their lives. Big government socialism always has a strong authoritarian tendency. What is rather surprising is how conservative governments seem to have signed up to the same notion of nanny state bullying. Perhaps it’s that conservatives are very often authoritarians, and so they’re quite happy with an authoritarian state, just so long as the state is authoritarian about things that conservatives like to be authoritarian about.
Or maybe it’s that politicians of all parties can’t resist brown envelopes. The UK parliamentary expenses scandal has certainly shown that UK politicians are more than interested in looking after their own interests.
I wonder what Eastern European countries must be wondering, now that they have enjoyed a brief interlude of freedom after they shrugged off their former Communist one-party authoritarian governments, and before they fell under the rule of another even larger EU one-party authoritarian government?
But the outline of British and European politics over the next decade or more is perhaps beginning to take shape. It will be governments versus peoples. It will be about governments trying to get people to comply with their edicts, and the people refusing to do so in small ways and in large ways. A European resistance will emerge to fight tyrannical and unaccountable European and national governments.
It could all get very interesting.