Representative Government

I’m getting rather impressed with my current Conservative MP. I can’t say the same about any of my previous MPs. The first time I ever wrote to one, he sent me a more or less one line reply saying that he didn’t agree with me. And when in 2007 I wrote to my Conservative MP to protest against the newly imposed public smoking ban, she replied dismissively to more or less say “Too Bad.” I had a similar experience with another MP. None of them really wanted to know what I thought. It was what they thought that mattered. And they all seemed to think that they had been elected to personally speak for the country, from out of their own personal knowledge and wisdom and judgment, and nobody else’s. They were, in short, special people. They were anointed people. They were people who counted. Nobody else did.

But my current MP doesn’t seem to think like that. Last year, shortly before the Brexit vote, I listened to him speak to some of his constituents in a town hall. He was in favour of Brexit, but encouraged listeners to voice contrary opinions if they so wished. And several did exactly that. But what impressed me most was something that he let drop midway through the meeting: he said he wanted to represent his constituents. That is of course what MPs are elected to do, but hardly any of them ever seem to do it (as previous dismissive replies from MPs attested). I wasn’t sure whether to believe him.

But I’ve begun to realise that he does exactly what he said he wanted to do: he actually represents his constituents. And every time I have written to him about anything (usually smoking-related) he has replied very promptly and courteously, and said he would take up the matter with the relevant government ministry. And a few weeks later he has sent me a reply that he received.

It’s set me wondering whether the whole trouble with government, more or less everywhere in the world, is that there are far too few of the sort of diligent representatives who see it as their primary duty to represent the people in their constituency or district, and not to just represent themselves. And the result is that government becomes a sort of exclusive social club to which new members are occasionally elected, and who conduct the business of government in a series of transactions inside that exclusive club. The only job of the electorate is to periodically pick a new member for the exclusive club, and then leave them to get on with the job without any further reference to them. And government by such an exclusive club of insiders is one which must become increasingly detached from its electorate, because it will increasingly have its own separate values and beliefs – which are in some cases the exact opposite of those of its electorate.

This is my own feeling about the British political class, and the European political class, and also the US political class: they are all members of a separate, elite class.  And they all regard themselves as possessing superior wisdom and judgment than any of the poor, dumbass voters who elected them.

In fact, I found myself thinking that the “Deep State” and even the supposed “New World Order” are the natural outcomes of the emergence of a separate, elite political class which has abandoned the task of representing the people who elected them. They are what happens when people in government come to believe that they, and they alone, know better how to govern than the people who elected them. There’s probably a “Deep State” in every country in the world, filled with people who feel fully entitled to govern those countries. And when these fully entitled people meet up, as they do from time to time at conferences, with other fully entitled people from other countries, they may indeed see themselves as a sort of elite “New World Order”.

And nobody better exemplifies this vast sense of personal entitlement than Hillary Clinton, who – a year after the event – still can’t believe that she wasn’t elected to be President of the United States. And this failure of hers, and of the British government to win the Brexit vote which it confidently expected to win, were perhaps the first flexings of the muscles of electorates who have grown tired of self-important politicians telling them what to do, rather than listening and acting on their behalf. One example of this, in the USA, is Steve Bannon setting out to topple next year as many of the unaccountable Republican representatives and senators as he possibly can. It’s early days, but we may be beginning to witness a global insurrection of electorates everywhere against their own entrenched political classes.

But all this is an aside from the matter at hand, which is the email that I received from my MP yesterday in response to the email I sent him in mid-September about prison smoking bans. And as he had promised, he had taken up the matter with government, and had forwarded to me the rather lengthy response he had received from the Ministry of Justice on the subject of Smoking In Prisons.

I won’t bore you with the contents of the letter from the MoJ, which really only confirmed the government’s plans to continue to roll out smoking bans in UK prisons (apparently about half of them have already got them). I’m still studying the letter, but what struck me as most remarkable was that it only cited health reasons as the justification for these bans. Shouldn’t a letter from the Ministry of Justice have been expected to cite reasons related to justice? For almost the entirety of my case is that these prison smoking bans are highly coercive, and deeply unjust. But reading this letter from the DoJ, you could almost have supposed that it had actually been written by the Department of Health. And perhaps these days all UK government ministries are actually proxies for the DoH. Health is the only thing that matters. Justice be damned.

And quite possibly honesty be damned as well. For in one sentence the author declares that HMPPS fully appreciates how difficult quitting smoking can be for some prisoners. This makes it sound as if the problem is that some prisoners are trying to stop smoking, but have yet to succeed. But I don’t imagine for a moment that this is the case. What is transparently obviously the case is that some prisoners have no wish whatsoever to stop smoking, and they are now being forced to do so against their will. They are being coerced. HMPPS may as well have said that they fully appreciate that some victims of pickpockets have difficulty in being relieved of their wallets, as if they wanted to be relieved of them. No they don’t: they just don’t want to be robbed.

I will be replying to this letter. It will probably take me a few days to formulate a response. But for once in my life I think I have an MP who wants to represent me to the government, whether or not he actually agrees with me. And he’s doing it because that’s what he thinks is his job to do.

About Frank Davis

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20 Responses to Representative Government

  1. Rose says:

    Perhaps you might refer him to this new report.

    Violence and self-harm in UK prisons continue to surge
    26 October 2017

    “Ministry of Justice data shows assaults inside jails increased to a record high of 27,193 incidents in the year to June 2017

    Violence in prisons has increased to record levels, according to new figures released by the Ministry of Justice, with 27,193 incidents of assault and serious assault in the year to June 2017.

    Over the same period, there were 41,103 incidents of self-harm, with a rise of 10% in April, May and June compared with the previous quarter. In women’s institutions, there were almost twice as many incidents of self-harm as there were prisoners.

    The number of assaults on prison staff rose by 25% in a year, up to 7,437 in the period leading up to June. Of the attacks on prison staff, 798 were serious assaults.”
    “There were 300 deaths in custody in the 12 months to September 2017. Of those 77 were self-inflicted”
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/26/uk-prisons-violence-self-harm-continues-to-surge

    The results of which are hardly unexpected.

    Smoking may mimic effect of antidepressants
    2001

    “Cigarette smoking may have effects on the human brain similar to those of antidepressant drugs, and this may explain the high rate of smoking among depressed people and their resistance to quitting.

    Researchers have noted previously that depressed people are more likely to smoke and are more resistant to quitting. However, it was unclear if nicotine or other chemicals taken in during smoking directly affected the brains of people who were depressed.”
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1172948/

  2. Clicky says:

  3. Vlad says:

    ##Health is the only thing that matters. Justice be damned.##

    Well, health is all that matters. If you’re ill, even billions of $$ can’t save you (see Steve Jobs). The problem is that DoH is involved in propaganda and social engineering but calls that health.

    • smokingscot says:

      Yup. Nail, head.

      Jackie Kennedy. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

      David Bowie. Liver Cancer.

      Joe Cocker. Lung cancer.

      Joe smoked about 40 a day until 1991 when he quit. He died in Dec 2014. However Joe beat up on his body something terrible for decades with drugs, alcohol and sex all in there at some point.

      To me he proves that quitting does not therefore guarantee you’ll be hunky dory after 10 years. In fact I suspect that quitting smoking can of itself bring on lung cancer.

  4. Rose says:

    The problem is if you rely on old time prohibitionists for your beliefs and solutions there is a considerable risk that things will go horribly wrong, like the pubs shutting down after ASH assured government that they wouldn’t. Then you have to spend time and effort trying ways to absolve yourself of responsibility, that nobody believes anyway having watched it all happen.

    Old style smoking cessation medications from when anti-tobacco zealots tried banning people from smoking before – and Lucy Gaston.

    “The legislative campaign against smoking began in earnest in the 1890’s. Cigarettes were the primary target; pipes and cigars initially were excluded from the battle, but later the scope was broadened to include public smoking in any form, as Mr. Bamberger and his associates would find out. Although the campaign attracted a number of organizations and individuals, particularly the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, its most indefatigable warrior was a now almost forgotten WCTU alumna named Lucy Page Gaston.

    Born in Ohio in 1860 and raised in Illinois, she came early to the reform business when, as a student at the Illinois State Normal School, she led raids on local saloons and tobacco shops. She began her anticigarette campaign in the early 1890’s, after ten years as a school teacher and Sunday-school instructor and after having been a full-time WCTU worker and journalist. Initially she confined her efforts to the Chicago area, but in the late 1890’s she branched out into neighboring states, addressing school and church assemblies (audiences already primed by the thousands of antismoking tracts distributed by the WCTU), organizing girls’ and boys’ anticigarette organizations and administering the “Clean Life Pledge” en masse: ”
    ” Convinced that anticigarette legislation was necessary to protect the youth of America, Gaston haunted city halls and state capitols, demanding prompt action and, to that end, making life miserable for any state legislator or town councilman unlucky enough not to see her coming. Once anticigarette laws or ordinances were passed, she pressed for strict enforcement.”

    “In 1913 Gaston and Dr. D. H. Kress opened a smoking-cure clinic in the Women’s Temple in Chicago, the Anti-Cigarette League headquarters, and soon were flooded with repenitent cigarette smokers, mostly small boys but also a chorus girl or two. The “cure” consisted of painting the palate with a silver nitrate solution and chewing some gentian root whenever the smoking urge returned.”
    https://www.americanheritage.com/content/thank-you-not-smoking

    Having looked up silver nitrate to see what it’s used for, apparently it’s extremely caustic and these days used for burning off warts and verrucas, presumably the gentian root was really to heal the chemical burns., I’m sure we remember people painted purple with Gentian Violet from our youth.

    “Helping smokers to quit” in 1930’s Germany

    “Dozens of preparations were available to assist people in quitting smoking, ranging from a silver nitrate mouthwash (1 part in 10,000 was said to create an unpleasant taste for tobacco) to a substance known as “transpulmin,” injected into the bloodstream to produce a similar effect (it was said to bond with the terpenes and other aromatic compounds in tobacco, producing an unpleasant sensation). Trade-name compounds such as “Analeptol” and “Nicotilon” were offered,”

    “Legal sanctions began to be put into place in 1938. The Luftwaffe banned smoking in its barracks that year, and the post office did likewise. Smoking was barred in many workplaces, government offices, hospitals, and rest homes. “No-smoking” cars were established on all German trains, with a fine of two reichsmarks to be levied for violators. The NSDAP announced a ban on smoking in its offices in 1939, at which time SS chief Heinrich Himmler announced a smoking ban for all uniformed police and SS officers while on duty.”

    “The Journal of the American Medical Association that year reported Hermann Göring’s decree barring soldiers from smoking on the streets, on marches, and on brief off-duty periods. Sixty of Germany’s largest cities banned smoking on streetcars in 1941.”
    http://toxicology.usu.edu/endnote/Proctor-Nazi-war-tobacco

    Perhaps next time round they’ll look at the science properly.

  5. Vinny Gracchus says:

    The public health movement has been captured by lifestyle controllers. They seek to capture all government under the guise of “health”. Their interests have little to do with health and all to do with power. They seek totalitarian state with their “projects” given priority. Tobacco control was/is their first project. Unless tobacco control is destroyed stand by for more oppression on many fronts.

  6. Rose says:

    Finnish police reject preliminary investigation into tobacco industry’s “light cigarettes”
    27.10.2017

    “Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation has decided not to launch a preliminary investigation into tobacco firms for selling so-called light cigarettes. A group of more than 33 medical and legal experts has called for a probe into suspected aggravated abuse and even murder by companies marketing the tobacco products as a healthier alternative to regular smokes.”
    https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/finnish_police_reject_preliminary_investigation_into_tobacco_industrys_light_cigarettes/9905352

    Probably a good idea.

    According to industry documents from the time, “light” cigarettes were suggested by Ernst Wynder of the American National Advisory Board

    Ncab Subcommittee Meeting 741101
    November 1st 1974 page2

    “Dr. Wynder felt that regulatory action should cover the entire spectrum of smoking dependent diseases and that if the 1974 average tar and nicotine contents of cigarettes (18.4 milligrams,and 1.27 milligrams respectively) are acceptable to the majority of smokers, there is no reason they should not be acceptable to all smokers.

    The labeling of cigarettes with a precise tar and nicotine content may not be specifically clear to the consumer, and a qualitative label of °light” may be allocated for all cigarettes below 12 milligrams of tar and 0.8 milligrams of nicotine, hoping that the consumer would find a more immediate signal for his choice.”

    “Dr. Wynder also voiced strong concern that legislative attempts at cigarette regulation would have little chance of being approved ,and expressed his favor for recommendations to encourage voluntary regulation by the cigarette industry.”
    https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/docs/#id=mkch0119

    The little holes round the filter seem to have been the idea of other eminent anti-tobaccco scientists of the time too.

    Changes in Cigarette Construction
    “The burning rate and the amount of air mixed with the smoke while the cigarette is being puffed can be altered by the use of cigarette paper of greater porosity, and by providing aerating mouthpieces.”
    https: //www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/docs/#id=slxm0005

    • smokingscot says:

      Again, bang on.

      I’m sure I’m not the only one who did it. If I had to bum a fag and all I could get was a “light”, then I’d rip off the filter – and it turned out it was a very pleasant smoke.

      Even Silk Cut White. With filter, just warm air. Sans filter, pretty okay.

    • beobrigitte says:

      NBI: Previous rulings say tobacco firms not liable

      According to police, tobacco firms’ liability for smokers’ illnesses was previously dealt with in several courts. The NBI noted that final judgments still standing have ruled that tobacco companies were not guilty of gross negligence and were nor strictly liable for the illness of complainants.

      The investigative body also said that the request for an investigation did not specify the individuals suspected of committing the alleged offences. It added that based on the request there was no reason to suspect a crime or crimes and that an investigation would not be launched as a result.
      I do agree with the ruling that tobacco companies are NOT liable for the illness of complainants.Why should they? Just as much as e.g. MacDonald etc. being liable for obesity and it’s related complications of complainants.
      Perhaps people could consider taking responsibility for their actions; we DO NOT have to buy what is marketed.

      The letter co-signed by Professor Erkki Aurejärvi and a group of more than 30 legal and medical experts estimated that light cigarettes have been responsible for the deaths of roughly 60,000 people in Finland.

      The letter calling for the investigation also referenced official testimony from previous legal proceedings, which stated that consumers “had quickly embraced the idea that light cigarettes were a healthier alternative.”
      So we have >30 legal and medical experts (and an x number of complainants) who just cannot grow up and believe whatever adverts tell you? Also, ADULTS are expected to make choices and sort the mess, if it was the wrong choice. Deal with it.

      I guess, we all can complain about getting old. That is something out of our control.

  7. waltc says:

    Ah, but in their minds, health not only tops justice, it IS justice. Surely it’s unjust to let you get sick and even more unjust to the others you sicken with your filthy unnecessary habit. But if you write to your MP with those stats Rose gave, why not cc the Justice Dept guys who wrote the letter he quotes?

    On your other topic:
    Last nite I fell into a lecture in the neighborhood by an Oxford prof/author/BBC panelist on a subject billed as something like Democracy in Crisis. Apparently the crisis in democracy is caused by the dumb voters who, in both the US and UK, are simply getting it wrong. Nor is it the job of their august representatives to represent the opinions and wants of their constituents, but to do what is “best.” Brexit and Trump were clearly not “best,” and the choices themselves were threats to democracy.

    When it came to Q and A, I asked him how democratically-voted choices could be anti-democratic, and how Brexit, specifically, which sought to bring democracy closer to home and wrested from unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats could be anti-democratic instead of its very essence. For an answer, he hurled buckets of sophistic justifications and in some ways reminded me of Hillary and the Dems and the constructs of the elites. I.e. in Britain the people were uninformed, bombarded with fake news and, besides, it rained.(sic) And further, considering countries had contractual input into Brussels, the EU was actually MORE democratic than parliament was.

    So goes the thinking of our mutual intelligentsia.

    • Frank Davis says:

      That Oxford prof sounds like one of the entitled elite. BBC panelist is further confirmation. They will all be swept away, come the revolution.

      It didn’t rain today. In fact, it was very sunny, if not very warm. I sat outside a pub with a beer and a cigarette, most likely for the last time this year..

  8. Joe L. says:

    Frank, while I think it’s great that you currently have a responsive MP, I must ask if he provided any insight along with the forwarded letter from the MoJ, or if he gave you any guidance as to what you should do next, or better yet, what he could do to further help you?

    Having a responsive representative is great (and sadly a rarity these days), however he’s not very much help if he simply acts as a courier, forwarding emails back and forth between you and other departments of government.

    • Frank Davis says:

      He seems to be acting more as a courier than anything. He hasn’t taken a side on this (although I know he voted against the UK smoking ban). It raises the question of whether a representative should have his own opinions, or simply act as a transmission system for other people’s. I don’t know the answer to that.

      • Joe L. says:

        I’m not well-versed in politics, but I don’t think a representative should provide his or her own personal opinion on any issues raised by his constituents. In fact, I think that would be very inappropriate. However, I believe he/she should provide advice to concerned constituents as to how they should proceed (petition, demonstration, etc.) in order to most effectively enact change on a particular issue.

  9. jaxthefirst says:

    Being as one of the basic tenets of the justice system is to ensure that similar crimes are punished in a similar manner across the board, I wonder how long it will be before some canny lawyer manages to negotiate a reduced term for a convicted criminal he/she is representing, on the basis that being forced to give up smoking as well as serving the xxx years normally handed out for similar sentences, represents “extra” punishment, for which a reduction in the term might compensate?

  10. Rose says:

    Niacin

    “Beer has several B vitamins, according to the NetWellness website, a service of several Ohio universities. Of the B vitamins present, the United States Department of Agriculture’s national nutrient database reports that beer is richest in niacin. Also known as vitamin B3, you’ll find 1.828 milligrams in a 12-oz. glass of beer.
    https://www.livestrong.com/article/263290-list-of-vitamins-in-beer/

    Great beer RIP-OFF: British drinkers pay 10 TIMES on tax a pint than German counterparts
    FIGURES showing British beer drinkers pay 10 times as much tax on a pint as their German counterparts have prompted new calls on Philip Hammond to cut the duty in his Budget next month.”
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/872044/Beer-tax-Britain-Germany

    There must be a strong puritan streak in successive British governments. Just because people enjoy things that contain noticeable amounts of vitamin B3 doesn’t make them addicts that need taxing out of their traditional habits.

    I’m a great believer in human instinct

  11. Pingback: Continuing My Protest Against UK Prison Smoking Bans | Frank Davis

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