Continuing on with the theme of yesterday’s post, I remember someone in the Beatles or the Rolling Stones once saying that they never knew which of their songs was going to be a hit. Which struck me as being like a comedian saying he didn’t understand why people found him funny.
Perhaps the same is true of politicians, and they don’t know why people vote for them.
But I can speak for myself about why I’ll vote for some politicians, and not others. And I don’t vote for Nigel Farage because he’s anti-EU: I vote for him because he’s a smoker who sticks up for smokers.
The only time I’ve heard him speak in person was in a pub in Stony Stratford, where he’d come to support a protest against a proposed street smoking ban. He didn’t talk about the EU at all that day. And yet it was opposition to the EU that got him into politics, not opposition to smoking bans. I only visited Stony Stratford once, but he visited it 3 or 4 times. All of which says that Nigel Farage was even more passionate in his opposition to smoking bans than I was.
These days my view of all politicians is entirely determined by their attitude to smoking and to smoking bans, and by nothing else. I like Nigel Farage because he drinks and smokes. I liked Tony Benn because he smoked a pipe. I loathe Hillary Clinton because she’s a virulent antismoker. Same with Michael Bloomberg. The only thing that I find disappointing about Donald Trump is that he doesn’t smoke big Havana cigars in his gilded residence in Trump Tower. I have contempt for people like David Cameron and Theresa May who were smokers at the time of the UK smoking ban, but never spoke up against it, and either quit smoking or pretended not to be smokers.
The same applies to political parties and political organisations. I voted Liberal Democrat for many years until 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted for the UK smoking ban. After that I never voted for them again. It’s the same reason why I’ll never vote for the Labour party: 90% of Labour MPs voted for the smoking ban. If I vote Conservative these days, it’s not because I’m a conservative, but because that’s all that’s left for me to vote for.
The same also applies to the EU. I used to be pro-EU – until the EU parliament voted in 2009 to ban smoking throughout the whole of Europe. Overnight I swung from being pro-EU to anti-EU. Recently I’ve become even more intensively anti-EU, since I learned that it’s been calling on member states to ban smoking since 1989 (if not before). Why else is the EU disintegrating other than the fact that it has expelled 150 million European smokers from polite society? What a monumentally stupid thing to have done!
It even affects my perception of individuals. Queen guitarist Brian May plummeted in my estimation when I discovered he was an antismoker. The same happened with the philosopher Karl Popper. And the author Leon Tolstoy. And conversely individuals rise in my estimation when I discover that they smoke. They suddenly become likeable, the instant they light a cigarette, or puff on a pipe, or pull on a cigar. What would Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall have been without cigarettes? And Clint Eastwood in A Fistful Of Dollars without a cigar clamped between his teeth? Or Churchill without his cigar? Or FDR without his elegant cigarette holder? Or avuncular Uncle Joe Stalin without his pipe? Wasn’t WW2 a war of smokers against antismokers? Did WW2 ever end?
If you want me to vote for you, all you need do is light up. You’ll be telling me everything I want to know about you.
And these days I’m wondering whether what’s true of me is true of all smokers. How is it that, within a month of creating it, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is polling at 30%, while UKIP is polling only 4%? It must be because the British people prefer the man to the party he once led. What do they like about him? He’s not the only Eurosceptic politician in Britain. It’s quite obvious to a smoker like me. But it’s probably completely incomprehensible to anyone else.
And these days I’m wondering whether what’s true of me is true of all smokers everywhere. And that the secret of the success of Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini is that they’re both smokers like Nigel Farage, and they get the votes of smokers, who recognise themselves in them.
We’re in a world war of smokers against antismokers. It’s a war of one kind of morality against another. For the past 50 or 60 years smokers have been losing. But maybe now we’re starting to win again.