H/T Will for this TV audience interview of Nigel Farage…
…which ended (27:00) with these exchanges:
Moderator: The lady here.
Lady here: Presumably one way you deal with an ageing population is to have us all die of smoking-related causes.
Nigel Farage: Oh dear, we’re back to smoking again, are we?
Lady here: …But it is an issue. You say you’re not a retrograde party, however you want to take a backward step on the smoking ban, and to be perfectly honest your policies seem anachronistic across the board.
Moderator: Very briefly.
Nigel Farage: I’m getting a bit of stick here as a smoker. We all have our sins…
Lady Here: It’s okay, I smoke.
Nigel Farage: Oh do you? Well you’re a sinner too.
Moderator: You’ve got 10 seconds Nigel.
Nigel Farage: Number one, the national health service, smoking-related diseases cost the NHS 2 billion pounds a year, tobacco revenue is about 11 billion pounds per year. Second point, would you say that Germany was an uncivilised, retrograde country, modern Germany?
Lady Here: I don’t know. You’d have to ask your wife.
Nigel Farage: And she’d tell you that, unlike us, they exercise common sense, so when they brought the smoking ban in, within 6 months they’d reversed the ban and allowed separate smoking rooms. The state can’t tell us how to live our lives.
Lady here: Common sense…(incomprehensible)
Moderator: We’re going to have to leave it. I’m going to have to say goodbye while they’re still talking. That’s it from the audience here in Birmingham. Let’s say thank you to Nigel Farage.
I must say I was a tad disappointed with his response here.
Firstly, he seems a bit defensive about smoking (“Oh dear. We’re back to smoking again.”) Secondly he describes smoking as a “sin” (“We all have our sins”). And also he doesn’t really answer the charge that relaxing the smoking ban would be “retrograde”.
His answer is that a) smoking brings in more tax revenue than it costs in smoking-related disease, and b) Germany relaxed its smoking ban 6 months after introducing it.
On the latter point, my understanding has been that smoking bans in Germany are all regional, and some places have tough smoking bans (e.g. Bavaria), while others have hardly any bans at all. In what regions have smoking bans been relaxed?
But on the former point he’s really conceding that there really are “smoking-related diseases”. So he’s conceding at the outset that smoking is both sinful and harmful.
I’ve said it before, in respect of Forest’s Simon Clark and Angela Harbutt, but really, what’s the point in conceding everything from the very beginning? You’re on a hiding to nothing. You may as well draw a dotted line around your throat with “Slit here” written next to it. Smokers are never going to win anything this way.
All the antismokers’ claims should be contested. Every single one of them. Nothing should be accepted as an established fact. Absolutely nothing.
But what interested me most was the “retrograde” charge. In fact, the Lady Here used three different adjectives to describe UKIP’s smoking policy (and UKIP as a whole): “retrograde”, “backward”, and “anachronistic”. Clearly she’d thought out her question very carefully, to use three different adjectives all meaning the same thing.
But sitting up behind that question is an idea of “progress”, which is that whenever some new law is introduced, it constitutes “progress”, and the world is somehow automatically a better place for it. The best sort of answer to such a claim is to point out that some kinds of “progress” – e.g. off the edge of a cliff – are not in the least desirable, and in such circumstances it’s best to turn back – i.e. step “backward”, or make a “retrograde” move. If Nigel Farage had said something like that, he could then have then followed up by pointing out the ill effects of smoking bans in the form of broken communities and bankrupt pubs, and the need to step back.
But he didn’t. Instead, he conceded more or less everything. No wonder he doesn’t like questions about smoking, and hardly ever mentions the subject.
All that said, I’ll still be voting for UKIP next week, of course. For at least they still want to relax the smoking ban. But unless they take a much more robust line, they’re never going to get anywhere.