Yesterday I was watching Tony Blair being interviewed. It wasn’t very interesting. In fact, in the half hour interview he said nothing of any real substance. He said he wasn’t surprised that Jeremy Corbyn had done so badly in the General Election. He said that the Labour party needed to become centrist party again if it was going to win elections again. They’d now lost four elections in a row since his days as Prime Minister. He cited various good things that Labour had done in his day (none of which I could remember).
One thing he didn’t mention that Labour had done was the 2007 smoking ban, of course. Nobody ever mentions the smoking ban. One of the odd things about that ban was that Blair stepped down as Prime Minister just days before it came into effect, and so Gordon Brown was Prime Minister on the day. And I think that if Labour has lost four elections in a row since his time, the smoking ban is the reason why. For why should any British smoker (and there were said to be some 13 million of them in 2007) vote Labour after what it did to them in 2007? And since the Lib Dems supported Labour’s smoking ban, why vote for them either?
Scottish readers may wish to correct me, but Scotland’s separate 2006 smoking ban also came courtesy of the Labour party. It was introduced by Scottish Executive Health minister Andy Kerr, who was a Labour politician and former Member of the Scottish Parliament for East Kilbride. If I’d been a Scottish smoker, I’d never have voted Labour again. Only the Scottish Conservatives opposed the ban. In the subsequent 2007 Scottish election, the Scottish National Party became the largest party in Scotland. In fact, the rise of the SNP in Scotland seems to been entirely subsequent to the smoking ban, even though the party had been in existence for many years before. Might that be because smoking bans that exile smokers to the outdoors are much worse in chilly Scotland than in slightly less chilly England?
I came across an interesting map of the recent UK election results (in the Guardian or Independent, I forget exactly where), weighted according to population.Labour red, Conservative blue, LibeDem orange, SNP yellow. It looks like the Labour party has almost been completely wiped out in Scotland.
As I see it, the fortunes of the Labour party and the Lib Dems have been in sharp decline since they conspired to introduce the UK smoking ban, And they’ve been in equally precipitate decline in Scotland as well.
But nobody ever talks about smoking bans. But if Blair had thought that smoking bans were one of his great successes, wouldn’t he have mentioned them? Perhaps the fact that nobody ever mentions smoking bans is because they are very well known to be politically and socially disastrous?
But the map above is interesting for another reason, and that is the rise of “national populism”. Brexit is an expression of English national populism. But Scottish nationalism is perhaps just the Scottish version of the same thing (although for the life of me I don’t understand why the SNP want separation from England, yet to remain in the EU). With all these separatist movements at work in England and Scotland and Northern Ireland, we may well see strong centrifugal forces acting on the UK in coming years.