I’ve just been listening live to the Talksport discussion of the proposed outdoor ban in Stony Stratford (I think there’s a listen again option). It ran for about an hour or so from 10 pm, and in the introduction the show’s host came out very strongly against the ban, saying that this wasn’t about health, but about freedom of choice, and it was the thin end of the wedge. He said that Paul Bartlett, the councillor who’s calling for the ban, would be speaking shortly.
And we waited. And we waited. And Paul Bartlett did not come on air. And the host said that he’d agreed to come on air, and they were ringing his number, but there was no reply. “Paul Bartlett, are you there?” he asked.
With no sign of Bartlett, he spoke instead to our very own Dick Puddlecote, who spoke in a very measured and reasonable way, saying that it was a step too far, and even quite a few non-smokers had had enough of the way smokers were being treated, and one was even coming up with him to Stony Stratford on Saturday.
I suspect that, in the absence of Bartlett, DP had a better opportunity to say what he wanted to than he would otherwise.
A few callers came on air, and (initially) none of them thought that an outdoor ban was a good idea. The general response seemed to be that there were plenty of other things that councils needed to do.
Meanwhile Bartlett still hadn’t showed, and it looked like he wasn’t going to, but finally at 10:50 pm he came on. And the first thing he said was,
“Nobody’s come on air and said what’s good about smoking.”
(Update: H/T Man Widdicombe, his exact words were: “The interesting point about the emails and the texts you had is that not one person has said why smoking is good for you.”)
And then went on to say that it wasn’t just about litter, but about health and disease. Asked whether the council would vote for the ban next Tuesday, he became evasive. Asked whether he’d spoken to other councillors, he said he’d been in contact with some of them over the past couple of weeks, and said he’d had one or two replies, but didn’t say whether they were supportive or not.
Later on, a few callers came on to say they agreed with Bartlett, but didn’t think he was doing his cause much good.
In retrospect, given what Bartlett first said, I can only suppose that he’d been sitting listening to the show, and not answering his phone. Because how else did he know that nobody had come on air to say anything good about smoking?
As I saw it, Bartlett has proved to be a great example of an obsessive antismoker. Someone was saying in the comments here earlier that Deborah Arnott comes over as very calm and measured. By contrast, Bartlett comes over as a complete nutter. I hope that he’s been heard by millions all over Britain, because he’s a great example of antismoker insanity. And I suspect that having him on air does an awful lot of damage to the antismoking cause. Apart from an initial word of support from Amanda Sandford, the professionals who would normally be everywhere are nowhere to be seen, leaving Bartlett crashing around like a bull in their china shop.
Not that I think Deborah Arnott or Amanda Sandford are actually any less crazy than Bartlett. I just think they don’t show it.
Another interesting thing was how a couple of the callers said that they thought the current smoking ban went too far as well, never mind Bartlett’s proposal. Why couldn’t there be smoking rooms, or better ventilation?
Anyway, more or less singlehandedly, councillor Bartlett has managed to create enough of a furore to have the villagers of Stony Stratford filling out four petitions, and getting people like me coming from all over the country (and even from Russia), as well as UKIP leader Nigel Farage. It’s all set to be a bloody defeat for Tobacco Control.
P.S. Thanks for all your helpful suggestions for my placard. They were very useful. As a result, I’ve now pretty much settled on THE FIGHTBACK STARTS HERE and ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. If nothing else, it might come in handy at another demo, say, against hospital or school closures or something. It’ll be a General Purpose Placard.
P.P.S. I listened to the show live, and if I knew how to do it, I’d have recorded his exchanges with the show’s host, and produced a transcript of it. Because it’s not that often that one of the complete antismoking nutters gets heard on radio. I think it’s pure gold. And that Tobacco Control will be working hard to make sure he gets swept under the carpet and forgotten. And you absolutely must read Leg-iron’s hilarious comment about him.