The Mounting Distrust Of Government

As an aside from Smokers Army considerations, the Italian election last Sunday set me thinking.

With final results in from Sunday’s national elections in Italy, the depth of the defeat for the left can be fully appreciated with the resignation of the leader of the Democratic Party (PD) and the severely diminished presence of the center-left coalition in Parliament.

According to the Italian media, elections left the PD “prostrate” while the center-left coalition itself has “disappeared” from the electoral map charting political predominance across Italy’s 20 regions.

The tabulated election results show the center-right coalition taking 267 seats in the House (with 124 of these going to the League) and 136 in the Senate, nudging aside Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party as the de facto leader of the center-right. Forza Italia will have taken 104 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (House) and 57 in the Senate.

In second place, the upstart 5-Star Movement (M5S) took 228 seats in the House and 113 in the Senate, making it the single largest party in the new legislature. As electoral maps illustrate, the M5s stormed through the south of Italy with percentages as high as 50 percent, while the League dominated the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. 

Why is there such a strong shift to the political right happening?

Somehow or other this reminded of something Ronald Reagan one said:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

And I remember that the first time I heard that, back in the 1980s during Reagan’s presidency, I didn’t really understand what it meant. Why should anybody be frightened of the government? Weren’t they the most benign organisations? Weren’t they there to help, and provide services that private enterprise couldn’t or wouldn’t?

But back then, of course, I was a bit of a lefty. And the left always has great faith in the power of government. The left see government as Good, and private enterprise (aka capitalism) as greedy and heartless and self-centred and only interested in making a profit.

And I’d grown up in Welfare State Britain, and it was all I’d ever known. And it seemed perfectly good to me.

I think it takes the government to do something really nasty to them before that leftist illusion gets shattered. And in my own case the really nasty thing the government did, in July 2007, was to introduce the public smoking ban.

I was by that time much more centrist than leftist, and I’d been voting Lib Dem for the previous 25 years. For I saw myself as being not leftwing enough to vote Labour, and not rightwing enough to vote Conservative. The Lib Dems looked like the right place for me. They were Liberal, and they were Democratic: that’s what was written on the tin.

So it was with profound dismay that I learned that almost all the nice, touchy-feely Liberal Democratic MPs that I’d been voting for all those years had voted for the smoking ban. What was “liberal” about that? The Lib-Dems weren’t in the least bit liberal at all.

I then started voting for UKIP. Or rather, I started voting for Nigel: the Nigel Farage whose public image was of a cheeky chap who liked a beer and a cigarette (like I did).

So at the last election, after Nigel had stopped being the leader of UKIP, and the party had rescinded its commitment to introducing smoking rooms into pubs, I finally bit the bullet and voted Conservative. I didn’t really see myself as being a conservative (I always imagined them wearing brown shoes and tweed jackets), but there was nobody else to vote for.

And another kick in the teeth from big government came when the EU parliament voted, in lat 2009, for a European smoking ban, complete with show trials for prominent offenders. Up until that point I’d been pro-Europe, and saw the EU as another benign organisation. But when they banned smoking they stopped looking at all benign. In fact they started looking oppressive and dictatorial. And my enthusiasm for the EU began to rapidly fade. And soon it was gone.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the European political class seemed to be populated by wise, urbane, sophisticated, far-sighted people with names like Jacques Delors. But they all seem to have vanished now, and the the new European political class is petty and vindictive and bullying. e.g. towards Greece, and now also towards Britain, and increasingly anyone who dares to disagree with them at all.

And so from being a pro-government leftwinger I metamorphosed into an anti-government rightwinger. And I seem to be becoming more an more anti-government with every passing year.

And I can’t help but think that the same metamorphosis has been taking place all over Europe. For any smoker anywhere in Europe is going to be feeling the force of the state, in the form of one smoking ban or other. And quite likely drinkers and stout people have been feeling it as well.

Add to that, of course, the callous disregard almost all governments now seem to have for their own citizens, as they ship in immigrants over their protests, or favour alien cultures over their own native cultures (e.g. halal meat), or put Islam before Christianity.

In many ways, in Europe, far more than in the USA, the state has become omnipotent. And the smoking bans that have swept across Europe were an expression of omnipotent state power. And the European political class have been enjoying unfettered power for so long now, that they simply don’t bother consulting their own citizens any more. They know best what’s good for everyone, and they feel entitled to govern in whatever way they see fit.

But if the EU and the UK Labour party reached high tide in the early years of the the 21st century, the tide is now ebbing away very fast. People have seen what unfettered government can do, and they don’t like it. And they’ll all each have 101 examples of state power in action that they have witnessed, and they’re utterly sick of it.

It started with Brexit. And now it’s continuing with the rout of the statist Italian left. But it’s only just started. And it’s going to repeat itself in every country in Europe. And it will bring an end to the pretensions of the imperial EU, and much else beside. And it will bring about an almost total eclipse of the Left, such is the depth of the anger.

And it’ll stay that way until the Right in their turn become as unbearable as the Left.

But I suspect that day is a very long way away.


About Frank Davis

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18 Responses to The Mounting Distrust Of Government

  1. Tony says:

    For almost twenty years, Nigel Farage, with his pint and a fag, was vilified by the Establishment. Called a ‘gadfly’, a ‘swivel eyed loon’ and worse, he is now the most prominent British politician on the International stage. By a country mile.

    He has formed close, working political alliances with both the Italian League and the 5 star movement. He counts Bepe Grillo as a personal friend. I believe he is the only British politician ever to be counted as a close friend by an American president, both before and after election.

    The UK and EU establishment hate him. I suspect the loathing is particularly strong at the top of the civil service. The fact that the current government continues to snub him is highly damaging to the UK’s international standing.

    He is still a UKIP MEP and is joint president of the EFDD group in the EU Parliament.

    BTW UKIP have reverted to their 2015 manifesto. The smoking room pledge is back.

    • Roobeedoo2 says:

      They have? Good.

      That’s where UKIP went massively wrong at the last election. Both the Tories or Labour ran on a Brexit is happening platform. UKIP should have been campaigning on what other bullies we could get shot off, like the smoking, eating, drinking priests at PHE. That way they could have retained some of the conservative and labour voters they’d pinched over the years.

    • beobrigitte says:

      BTW UKIP have reverted to their 2015 manifesto. The smoking room pledge is back.
      I’m sorry, I can’t find the smoking room pledge in the 2017 manifesto. Please send a link.

      • Tony says:

        The smoking room pledge was dropped from the 2017 UKIP manifesto. BUT, after the election, the 2017 manifesto was dropped and UKIP reverted to the 2015 manifesto which does include the smoking room pledge. See my full response below.

    • smokingscot says:

      Re smoking rooms.

      That was a statement made by Bolton and he – in a fit of pique – has tried to start his own political party.

      We must await the new party chairperson to discover if s/he feels it’s a worthy inclusion. Certainly their then Health Spokesperson Louise Bours was passionate about the smoking ban and while she went along with the smoking room exemption when Nigel was boss, I believe her gut tells her to fight that sort of thing now.

      And Suzane Evans was of a similar mind when she stood for election as leader This tells me she’s now their Health mouthpiece.

      Quite why Nuttal went with the vote losing female mutilation and burka is a mystery to all bar himself. UKIP voters may feel they’re bad things, but last year at the GE – even now – they feel there are about 1000 things that are far more important.

      Perhaps it was the fact their main success – Wales – did not have a commitment to repeal the smoking ban in any way that swayed him, though I suspect that’s implying intelligence of an order above that sad soul’s abilities.

      However, as I allude to in my January post, a contrarian position on many issues are the staples of all the real “populist / nationalist” parties. The Freedom Party in Austria and it’s counterpart in the Netherlands sussed that out and both of them were rewarded at their respective elections.

      It’s something UKIP could well bear in mind when they finally get their act together.

      In the same essay I bemoan the fact they do not have the smoking room exemption on their website. But I know they lost their PR man and I assume it’s some rank amateur who’s been given that task, albeit until a professional can be persuaded to join them.

      With respect to Mr. Farage, he is indeed one of a kind and he regularly features on the front page of the Express for some put-down on his radio show.

      Compare him to Mr. Salmond and his pathetic attempt to maintain a public personage on RT. I believe less than 6000 people actually watch his derisory drivel.

  2. Smokers’ rights activists have for years said that government would start going after drinkers and the obese in the same way they’ve gone after smokers. It hasn’t happened yet, and I see little evidence that it will happen. On most British TV productions that we see here in the states, smoking is either non-existent or confined only to loathsome characters. Even the most admirable characters do a lot of drinking in these productions. For some reason, tobacco seems to represent a unique threat.

    • Joe L. says:

      I agree that tobacco seems to represent a unique threat. However, I think there is plenty of evidence that drinkers and the obese (among other lifestyles) are being targeted in a similar fashion.

      Three things off the top of my head set tobacco apart:

      1.) Anti-tobacco propaganda has been drilled into people for a long time; it’s had a lot of time to incubate and permeate society. Obesity as an “epidemic” is still in its infancy, relatively.

      2.) Tobacco companies have been neutered. They are prohibited from advertising as well as from funding studies suggesting the positive effects/benefits of tobacco. They aren’t allowed to fight back. This type of regulation has not (yet) been imposed on alcohol and fast food companies.

      3.) The secondhand smoke myth. This alone made tobacco a very unique “threat.” Non-drinkers and non-obese are not directly affected by their counterparts (except for the occasional drunk driver). With the SHS myth, it converted a lot of non-smokers from being ambivalent toward smoking to being fearful, thus making it easier to pass regulations. Note that the obese have, like smokers, been blamed for higher healthcare costs to all, which is about the closest they have managed to portray them as a threat to the general population (still nowhere near as scary as SHS).

      Also, alcohol is a tougher nut to crack due to the disaster that was Prohibition a century ago. They need to work slowly and carefully with alcohol, as a relatively recent precedent has been set.

    • Tony says:

      I’m surprised you have that impression. Perhaps there is more sanity in the US.
      In the UK, the healthists are on a roll. Minimum unit prices for alcohol legislation has been passed in Scotland and they’ll be after the rest of the UK soon.

      There is a major CRUK scare mongering campaign telling people that obesity causes cancer. Unfortunately it seems a lot of otherwise intelligent people have been cheering this on and claiming health costs are higher for obese people and so making them out to be villains who’re destroying the NHS. Try an Internet search for ‘Smokers and the obese cheaper to care for’ for the real cost information.

      They are lining up plans for diseased liver porn pics on alcoholic drinks and the list goes on and on and on and on…

    • RdM says:

      Thailand started with graphic warnings on alcohol containers as far back as 2015, I think.
      A search on “thailand alcohol warning labels” may lead further.
      Of course, there is also this sort of warning;-

      (I’m not sure how long that will last, an ebay link.)

  3. Rose says:

    Talking of the EU, having got away with it once, they are after us again for an even larger sum.

    PM blasts Brussels demand to pay £2.4 BILLION to EU

    “THERESA May has attacked the European Commission after it demanded Britain pays more than £2.4billion (€2.7bn) in customs duties apparently lost to fraud.”
    “The Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, sent the UK a demand for £2.4bn of underpaid customs duties on cheap Chinese fashion imports.
    But Theresa May’s spokesman said the UK Government “does not recognise” the figure, claiming it was vastly inflated.”

    “Britain has two months to respond to the Commission’s arguments, after which EU officials will take a decision.
    If Mrs May’s Government fails to comply with that decision, the Commission can refer the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).”


    23 Oct 2014
    “David Cameron is fighting to stop Britain being forced to pay an extra £1.7 billion to the European Union due to the success of the British economy.
    The Prime Minister was ambushed with a demand from the European Commission for the extra cash because Britain’s economy has performed better than other economies in Europe since 1995.

    The bill is due on December 1 and Mr Cameron is particularly enraged because Brussels accountants are also preparing to give France back £790 million as its economy performed less well than Britain’s.
    Tories have been stunned by the news which comes just weeks before the critical by-election in Kent next month, which they will fight against Ukip, and as the European Parliament seeks additional increases to next year’s EU budget, at a extra cost to British taxpayers of £680 million.

    The Prime Minister was holding talks at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday night in order to try and find allies to oppose the increase, which will push up Britain’s EU membership bill by 20 per cent this year.”

    ” A senior EU source told the Telegraph that the scope for a legal challenge was non-existent.
    “This at the commission’s discretion. It is automatic, there is nothing Britain can do about it,” said the official.”

    24 Oct 2014
    Why now?

    “A new measure – known in bean counter jargon as ESA 2010 – was introduced this September across Europe and the developed world.

    It’s main change was to include more financial and capital transactions into measures of national wealth.
    EU accountants working in the European Commission then used the new system over September to work out new national dues to Brussels, a one off payment because of the new system”

    Where does the UK’s illegal market fit into this?

    “Prostitution and illegal drugs are contributing around £10 billion a year to the British economy, according to official data released last May.
    More than half of that – £5.3 billion – is attributable to prostitution, according to estimated figures from the Office for National Statistics. Illegal drugs are worth £4.4bn.

    Other illegal activities, such a the smuggling of alcohol and tobacco, are already included in GDP and make up some £300m.

    Illegal drugs and prostitution are worth 0.7 per cent of British national wealth, which is roughly the same proportion as agriculture, gambling and accommodation services which includes hotels, bed and breakfasts and caravan parks.”
    http: //

  4. beobrigitte says:

    And so from being a pro-government leftwinger I metamorphosed into an anti-government rightwinger. And I seem to be becoming more an more anti-government with every passing year.
    I used to believe in what I voted for. I suppose I used to be a left winger, too. But the left wing was the most susceptible to FEAR and fear mongering……. and the money the fear mongers promise if their idea of a society becomes law.
    I was hopeful, when the Tories entered the stage after long years of Bliar dictation that made him a rich man.
    I was disappointed.
    Then UKIP removed the smoking room pledge from it’s manifesto in 2015. I guess I wasn’t the only smoker who turned her/his back.


    • smokingscot says:

      I contacted the BNP before the last election and they confirmed their position on smoking rooms in pubs only. (UKIP is smoking rooms without caveat).

      However they’re tainted and even I feel rancid for mentioning them. They have absolutely no chance of winning anything in my part of Scotland and they seem to be talking to a very small number of people.

      There are a couple of nebulous statements on their website that could be interpreted many ways.

      But looking at their health policies and IMO the final bullet point says they’re pretty much mainstream.

  5. Tony says:

    The smoking room pledge was dropped from the 2017 UKIP manifesto. BUT, after the election, the 2017 manifesto was dropped and UKIP reverted to the 2015 manifesto which does include the smoking room pledge. Here’s a recent article on an influential although unofficial website summarising it.
    ‘“We are very proud of our ‘Save the Pub’ Campaign.” “We will: Offer tax breaks to smaller breweries to encourage micro-breweries; Keep the current excise duty scheme that exempts from duty cider and perry made by small domestic producers; Amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms;” “Oppose minimum pricing of alcohol and reverse” “packaging legislation for tobacco.” (Being forced to smoke outside everywhere I go is a major irritant. Also, placing all tobacco in the same green packaging merely hinders cashiers when serving smokers, causing holdups for other shoppers.)”

    The full 2015 manifesto can probably be found easily enough on the Internet.

    That article about Suzanne Evans being health spokesman is out of date. The current spokesman is Julia Reid. Unfortunately I suspect she’s not well disposed towards smokers. In this article she appears to believe public health stories about e-cigs but is against medicalisation of them.
    On the other hand, I’m pretty certain that the interim leader, Gerard Batton is likely to be on our side.

    • Tony says:

      P. S. I suggest everyone here reminds UKIP members/officials of the pledge at every opportunity. Stressing that smokers are still allowed to vote and that there are lots of us.

  6. Daniel Ward says:

    I’m not sure it’s a Left or Right issue in as much as being a civil libertarian issue. Tony Benn was of course an out an out left winger, yet he wouldn’t have ever dreamed of persecuting smokers, he was a proud smoker himself, as the Blair Labour government did or the Tories have continued to do. It’s the Tories that have introduced plain packaging, brought in laws to hide cigarettes under screens and slapped an enormous tax on cigarettes, much more so than Labour did under Blair – in fact wasn’t it the Tories under Thatcher (!) that started taxing fags in the place? UKIP on the other hand pledged in their manifesto not to introduce plain packaging in their 2015 manifesto. Hunt is a chief nanny statist and May is a statist too, who has decried the market freedom and social media on a number of occasions. Hammond has increased tax on fags twice over the past year.

    Salvini, of the so-called “far-right” on the other hand has pledged to increase maternity pay and unemployment benefit, which are most certainly not right wing policies and something that the Tories would never introduced (he’s the one I would have voted for btw if I was Italian).

    The hard right Philippino leader Dutetre on the other hand has gone to war with tobacco.

    When it comes to trampling all over civil liberties, unfortunately Britain is the European leader, as demonstrated by our smoking ban coming in a few years before anyone else’s.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think both the Scots and the Irish had smoking bans before the UK ban. And in many US states, there were smoking bans 10+ years earlier than them even.

    • I’m not sure it’s a Left or Right issue in as much as being a civil libertarian issue.

      Indeed, it would be an awkward proposition to maintain that persecuting smokers in the way Duterte does is any less statist / ‘leftist’ than “increas[ing] maternity pay and unemployment benefit.”

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