H/T Rose for this editorial in the Sunday Express backing UKIP:
It invites change with its far-reaching, fully costed and independently verified manifesto based on old-fashioned common sense:
Establishing grammar schools in every town, where academically bright children can benefit from a demanding education.
Reforming our smoking laws, which are so draconian that they have led to pubs, the social hub of most communities, shutting at a rate of 31 a week.
Using the £11.7 billion we pay in foreign aid every year to help fund important projects at home.
Recognising the importance of Armed Forces veterans and rewarding them with affordable housing – 500 to be built every year because one in every 10 homeless people served Queen and country.
Down the years, I’ve seen quite a few isolated opinion pieces in newspapers griping about the smoking ban. But I think this is the first time I’ve seen an editorial in a major newspaper describing the ban as so draconian as to be causing pubs, the social hubs of communities, to be closing in droves.
Since an editorial represents the view of the newspaper, rather than the opinion of an individual commentator, it suggests that it’s a consensus view among a number of people. And, unless the Express has always been anti-smoking-ban, it also represents a shift in the consensus.
Furthermore it’s the first time I’ve seen the smoking ban being given the same weight as concerns like education, foreign aid, and the Armed Forces. It’s seen as something that seriously matters. And that’s new too.
Maybe, 10 years late, there’s a beginning of the public debate about the smoking ban that was never held a decade ago. Perhaps because, 10 years on, the social and economic damage caused by the smoking ban has become clear to many people in ways that weren’t foreseeable a decade ago.
Yet it was in fact all perfectly foreseeable. Deborah Arnott had foreseen it when she wrote, 6 months before the smoking ban came into force, that “smokers will be exiled to the outdoors”. The fracturing of the social hubs, and the bankrupting of pubs, was a inevitable consequence of that exile.
Anyway, that’s probably the most heartening editorial I’ve read in the last 10 years. And it suggests to me that public opinion on the smoking ban is changing, even if it is with glacial slowness.