The Exclusion Bill

These days our legislators seem to exempt themselves from their own legislation. It’s often said (although it may not be true) that smoking isn’t banned in the bars inside the Westminster Houses of Parliament. But it seems to be true that smoking isn’t banned inside EU parliamentary buildings, even if it is banned throughout Europe. It may well also be true elsewhere.

There are some 650 MPs in the UK parliament, and this morning I found myself wondering what would have happened if all the smokers among them had been exiled to the outdoors along with all the rest of the smokers in the UK.

I imagined a noisy parliamentary debate on a Smokers Exclusion Bill in which 80% of MPs voted one morning to expel the remaining 20% of smoking MPs from the chamber, on health grounds. And so after the vote had been counted, some 130 MPs would have trooped out of the chamber of the House of Commons, and all stood out in the streets of Westminster, singly or in knots of 2 or 3 MPs, smoking cigarettes or pipes or cigars.

But why stop there? And so I imagined that next the MPs in parliament would debate an amendment to the Bill on whether to expel all the alcohol-drinking MPs from the chamber as well, once again on health grounds. Prior to the expulsion of the smoking MPs there might have been a majority of drinkers over non-drinkers, but since almost all the smokers were also drinkers, and had already been expelled, they now formed a slight minority of MPs. And so in a second vote, Parliament would vote to expel all its drinkers. And so another 250 MPs would troop out onto the streets of Westminster, and stand around sipping glasses of beer and wine and whisky.

And then the remaining 270 MPs in parliament might have voted on a second amendment, this time on whether to expel all the fat MPs from the chamber, again on health grounds. Originally some 80% of MPs had been overweight to one degree or other, but after the expulsion of the smokers and drinkers in the previous two votes, they too had become a minority. And so after the successful passage of the second amendment another 130 MPs would troop out of the Houses of Parliament, and join their colleagues outside on the streets of Westminster.

And then, after a vote on a third amendment to exclude all male MPs, as ever on health grounds, a further 50 MPs would be expelled.

By now, I imagined that crowds of people would have gathered to hoot and jeer at the exiled MPs standing forlornly around the Houses of Parliament. BBC cameras would have arrived, and MPs would be being interviewed on Parliament Square. Some would have been expressing their outrage at what had been done to them, while others would have been pointing out that it had all been done perfectly democratically, and that the will of the parliament was sovereign.

With traffic having ground to a halt, and the noisy crowd pressing ever closer, the police would then have arrived, and finding no defensible position for the expelled MPs, would have opened the doors of Westminster Hall, and ushered the 560 expelled MPs inside.

By this time, after several more votes inside the Commons on further amendments, there would be only 11 MPs left inside the chamber, all of them women, half of them black, and another half Muslims. The remaining 639 MPs would all be inside Westminster Hall, under the protection of police defending them from the crowd outside now hammering noisily at the door.

The 11 MPs – the Eleven – would now declare themselves to be the new British government, and would rapidly start enacting new laws. Sharia law would be imposed throughout the UK. Men would have to wear skirts. Women would have to wear burqas. And so on. Within hours hundreds of new laws have been enacted.

But inside Westminster Hall, the other 639 MPs would by now be conducting their own debates. They would have declared themselves to be the True Parliament of Britain, even though their votes no longer carried the force of law behind them. And they would announce that, although they had been expelled from Parliament, they all remained the elected Members of Parliament for their local constituencies, and since these constituencies were no longer represented in parliament, they had all become independent states.

And so after this Declaration of Constituency Independence, the 639 MPs would each go back to their own constituencies, where they were now the Heads of State. And the smokers among them would repeal smoking bans in their constituency, and the drinkers would lift all alcohol restrictions, and the fat ones would lift restrictions on fast food chains, and so on. Britain would dissolve into 639 separate statelets, with only 11 others having failed to declare independence, most of them in north London.

Fighting would almost instantly have broken out between some of these constituencies, as they tried to secure key roads and bridges, and set up borders. Islington North, one of the constituencies of the Eleven, would be invaded from the north from Haringey, and Islington South would be invaded from the Cities of London and Westminster. Within days the Eleven MPs in parliament would have lost their constituencies, and been replaced by new MPs. And within a week the 639 expelled MPs, along with 11 new ones, would have returned to Parliament to repeal all the acts passed by the Eleven during their brief reign, and a great many more.

All this is very fanciful, of course. But as smokers and drinkers and fat people are declared personae non gratae, this is what is happening everywhere. I no longer think that the UK parliament represents smokers like me. Same with the EU parliament. The political fragmentation of Britain may not have been taking place inside parliament itself, but it’s been happening outside. And as the numbers of the exiled and excluded swell, they will eventually become the majority.


About Frank Davis

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13 Responses to The Exclusion Bill

  1. Rose says:

    The Smoking Ban in Westminster is entirely voluntary it being a Crown Property.

    Taxpayer coughs up for a £21,706 Commons smoking shelter

    “As they head off on their 82-day summer holiday, MPs can feel safe in the knowledge that they will still be burning holes in the wallets of British taxpayers even while they are away from the Palace of Westminster.

    Mandrake hears that they have just given approval for a Pugin-style smoking shelter to be built at the palace during their absence – at cost of £21,706.

    It is part of a £3 million facelift that will be given to their “office” during the summer recess when the bars and eateries in the building will also be spruced up. While MPs such as Kenneth Clarke are likely to appreciate the shelter, it is not strictly necessary as the building is a royal palace and is therefore not covered by the smoking ban.

    Frank Doran, the Labour chairman of the administration committee, says he had hoped that it would be possible to build the shelter between Portcullis House and Norman Shaw North as economically as possible.

    “We started off thinking we could do something cheap and cheerful, but the process had to go through Westminster City Council and English Heritage, which made it
    more expensive than one would expect. We have a duty to our employees and our staff and we thought it was appropriate to provide them with somewhere they can smoke. All the smoking areas outside Parliament are very exposed and we felt it was a health and safety issue, especially in winter.”


    MPs plan Pugin-style smoking shelter
    November 2008

    “But those who dutifully troop outside for a cigarette can currently use three, uncovered sites – on the Commons terrace, the small yard between two blocks of offices for MPs and their staff – Portcullis House and Norman Shaw South building – and part of the Speaker’s garden.

    But following a number of complaints from smokers forced to light up in the biting wind and rain, the Commons’ administration committee has been charged with working with the heritage authorities to design a shelter that would be in keeping with the Palace’s Pugin style.

    “We have had a number of complaints, or should I say that people have raised the issue, that the smoking areas are all exposed and in the open air. We’re therefore looking at providing some form of smoking shelter,” said Frank Doran MP, the administration committee chairman.

    Doran said no budget for the shelter had been fixed. However, he did say that since designing a suitable permanent shelter may take some time, a temporary one could be built in the mean time.

    One MP said the wait would be worth it. “It’s going to be the Taj Mahal of all smoking shelters and could be the country’s first neo gothic smoking shelter,” he enthused.”

    Presumably they assumed that the rest of us are made of sterner stuff.

    • Frank Davis says:

      “All the smoking areas outside Parliament are very exposed and we felt it was a health and safety issue, especially in winter.”

      London, like most cities, is a heat island several degrees warmer than the surrounding areas. It’s also in the relatively warm south of England. So if there was a health and safety issue for MPs, why not for smokers in the rest of England?,

      • Rose says:

        Perhaps MPs didn’t realise how extremely unpleasant it would be to be exiled to the outdoors, until they had already passed the ban on the rest of us.
        The Guardian article is dated November 2008 when I expect that it had become all too obvious to even the dimmest smoking MP. But they thought voting for the ban would help them give up, if you remember.

      • Rose says:

        Parliament will follow the rules
        16 Feb 2006

        MPs and peers will fall into line with the planned smoking ban even though the Palace of Westminster will be technically exempt from the new rules, it emerged last night.
        The distinctive smell of the Smoking Room in the Commons – and of the Truro Room in the House of Lords library – will pass into history to comply with the ban, administration chiefs in both Houses indicated yesterday.

        The move came as more than 20 Labour anti-smoking MPs tabled a motion formally calling for the room to be renamed the Aneurin Bevan (non-smoking) Room in honour of the founder of the NHS.
        The Houses of Parliament, as a Royal palace, are technically exempt from the proposed smoking ban and much other legislation besides.”

        “In the Commons, smoking is prohibited in much of the building, including corridors, the atrium of Portcullis House and all refreshment outlets.
        Frank Doran, the Labour chairman of the Commons’ administration committee, said: “Technically, these sort of rules do not apply here but we have always followed them.” Lord Brabazon of Tara, chairman of the Lords’ administration and works committee, echoed that view.

        After the vote on Tuesday, Labour MPs who smoke emerged joking that they were off to the Smoking Room as they were “desperate for a fag”.
        But Stephen Pound, the Labour MP who argued against the total ban, admitted that it was unthinkable for MPs to be allowed to continue smoking at work.

        “The days of one rule for us, and one rule for everybody else are gone,” he said.
        Downing Street, which has a smoking room for staff, confirmed last night that it would be complying with the new rules.”

        EU parliament does u-turn on smoking ban

        “The European Parliament’s new leadership has dropped a complete ban on smoking in the House and decided to re-introduce smoking areas, with critics saying the move sends a negative message just as the EU is boosting an anti-smoking drive.

        The ban on smoking inside the EU parliament took force at the beginning of 2007 but after the mid-January reshuffle in the assembly’s office – consisting of the president and 14 vice-presidents – the new leaders agreed to set up special smoking areas.

        French Green MEP and vice-president Gerard Onesta was heavily outvoted on keeping the ban. He said the new rules would not only send a “horrible political signal” but could also be more costly, as they will require special air filters in the designated areas, AFP news agency reported.”

      • beobrigitte says:

        “All the smoking areas outside Parliament are very exposed and we felt it was a health and safety issue, especially in winter.”
        What about Norway, Sweden, Bavaria and Poland?

        In England the smokers are expected to cope with the cold rain and the cold wind,,, London must be far worse than any of the above? REALLY?????

  2. Mark Jarratt, Canberra, Australia says:

    Fanciful yet imaginative, and dystopian. Satirical yet accurately commenting on “do as we say, not as we do” legislators and their rampant bourgeois neuroticism, including statutory fear of tobacco.🍻

  3. Smoking Lamp says:

    The MPs should do the right thing and repeal all smoking bans and related antismoking regulations. But first they need ti de-fund ASH and the other antismoker pressure groups.

  4. slugbop007 says:

    We should find people to do a fictional version of this event. There must be plenty of unemployed camera people and the like that could use the work. A new Yes, Minister series. With a twist. Would probably top the charts. BBC wouldn’t go for it, though, they are now part of the problem. Alll the rest of us smokers, from every walk of life, could join them outside the Houses Parliament. Judges, taxi drivers, street workers, lawyers, teachers, painters, writers, journalists, ad infinitum. They/we have all been demonised by this stupid law/absurd situation.


    • Frank Davis says:

      I was thinking along the lines of a little TV drama as I was writing it, imagining the speeches, the smokers trooping outside, the jeering crowd, etc, etc. It wouldn’t need any special effects or anything. No idea how such TV dramas get made.

  5. Joe L. says:

    I love it, Frank! However, the male MPs should be expelled on the basis of “gender equality” rather than “health”. “Equality” would be the excuse for the subsequent expulsions, as well. Christian MPs expelled on the basis of “religious equality,” straight MPs on the basis of “sexual equality,” white MPs on the basis of “racial equality,” etc.

  6. natepickering says:

    Frank, your rhetorical flights of fancy never fail to be entertaining and thought-provoking in equal measure.

  7. beobrigitte says:

    These days our legislators seem to exempt themselves from their own legislation. It’s often said (although it may not be true) that smoking isn’t banned in the bars inside the Westminster Houses of Parliament. But it seems to be true that smoking isn’t banned inside EU parliamentary buildings, even if it is banned throughout Europe. It may well also be true elsewhere.
    Of course tobacco control does make exceptions. Otherwise they’re out.

    It’s high time for the smoking ban to be implemented FULLY.

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