Smokers Are Voters Too

Diary of a Political Campaign

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Tuesday
May052015

Simon Hughes, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#39 – Bermondsey
Who would have guessed Simon Hughes would be listed as a 'friend' in a list of predominantly vulnerable seats? That shows how desperate my search to find opponents of excessive regulations has become and how far the Lib Dems have sunk in the polls! Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2010 to 2014 and a junior minister since 2013, Hughes surprised many observers when he voted against plain packaging, one of only two Lib Dems to do so. (The other was Jeremy Browne who is not standing again.) It was even more remarkable because in 1996 Hughes sponsored a Private Member's Bill to ban cigarette advertising. Three years later, when the Labour government introduced its own legislation, Hughes complained that it hadn't gone far enough. He particularly objected to the delay in banning tobacco sponsorship for F1 and snooker. Well, beggars can't be choosers and Hughes has to be better than the almost certain alternative, another Labour MP happy to tow the party line on further tobacco control.

2010 majority: 8,530 (19.1%)
Estimated number of smokers in Bermondsey: 15,530*
Principal opponents: Labour
Friend or foe: Friend (just)
Target rating: Vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Tuesday
May052015

Ian Austin, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#38 – Dudley North
In terms of tobacco control there are many politicians with a record just as bad and possibly even worse than Ian Austin. Nevertheless he supported the smoking ban (2006), voted for plain packaging (2015) and is defending an extremely marginal seat so he qualifies easily for my list of 'target seats'. He's also prone to comments that leave him open him to ridicule. In July 2013, for example, after ministers postponed legislation on plain packaging, he accused the Government of “taking the advice of big tobacco companies and their wealthy lobbyists more seriously than the views of young people”. According to the Telegraph's Michael Deacon, "Mr Austin had met some young people who had told him plain packaging was the way forward." Well, indeed. Time, perhaps, for Mr Austin to get his coat.

2010 majority: 649 (1.7%)
Estimated number of smokers in Dudley North: 12,158*.
Principal opponents: Conservative
Friend or foe: Foe
Target rating: Vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Tuesday
May052015

Paul Uppal, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#37 – Wolverhampton South West
Really struggling now to find 'friendly' incumbent candidates in marginal seats. I've included Paul Uppal because in 2010 he voted to amend the smoking ban and in March 2015 he voted against plain packaging. Like many of his colleagues however he also voted to ban smoking in private vehicles (carrying children). Nevertheless, as I've said before, it was courageous for a Tory MP to vote against his own government weeks before a general election (especially when he's defending a marginal seat and needs all the resources he can get) so credit to Uppal for sticking to his principles when, frankly, it would have been easier to throw in the towel and support the government or miss the vote.

2010 majority: 691 (1.7%)
Estimated number of smokers in Wolverhampton SW: 11,829*.
Principal opponents: Labour
Friend or foe: Friend
Target rating: Extremely vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Tuesday
May052015

Kris Hopkins, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#36 – Keighley
Another conundrum. Kris Hopkins was one of 74 MPs who voted against regulations to introduce a ban on smoking in cars carrying children. His reason: "I am not in favour of bringing forward changes in the law which, in my view, are unenforceable. I don’t believe it is realistic to properly enforce a ban on smoking in cars." At the same time however Hopkins said he would like to ban smoking “full stop”, adding, “And I say that as a former smoker myself.” No surprise then when the communities minister sided with the Government (and Labour) and voted in favour of plain packaging. According to Hopkins, making standardised cigarette packs compulsory was "the responsible and right thing to do". "There is nothing glamorous or exciting about smoking and the packaging cigarettes are sold in should reflect this reality." If Hopkins thinks current packaging is "glamorous" or "exciting" he ought to get out a bit more. With views like that he won't be missed.

2010 majority: 2,940 (6.2%)
Estimated number of smokers in Keighley: 13,174*.
Principal opponents: Labour
Friend or foe: Foe
Target rating: Vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Tuesday
May052015

Stephen Mosley, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#35 – City of Chester
This is Gyles Brandreth's old seat which he lost to Labour in the 1997 landslide. Mosley won it back for the Conservatives in 2010 and he's been a lot more liberal in terms of tobacco control than Brandreth would have been. In 2010 Mosley voted to relax the smoking ban; in 2014 and again in 2015 he voted against a ban on smoking in private vehicles (carrying children); and in March 2015 he completed the set by voting against plain packaging. Bravo! Chester remains a marginal seat though and if the expected swing from the Conservative to Labour takes place (helped by the collapse of the Lib Dem vote), Mosley will be gone.

2010 majority: 2,583 (5.5%)
Estimated number of smokers in City of Chester: 14,288*.
Principal opponents: Labour
Friend or foe: Friend
Target rating: Extremely vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Tuesday
May052015

Chris Williamson, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#34 – Derby North
Chris Williamson is one of those fairly anonymous backbench MPs who pops up now and again to pontificate in apocalyptic terms on issues of grave national importance. When, for example, the government postponed the introduction of plain packaging in 2013 Williamson described it as "a shameful capitulation to the merchants of death!" No surprise then that he voted for the measure in 2015 and voted against an amendment to the smoking ban in 2010. Williamson believes a new tax should be levied on fast food, tobacco and chewing gum to help councils clear up litter, and after that? Hopefully we'll never find out.

2010 majority: 613 (1.4%)
Estimated number of smokers in Derby North: 14,288*.
Principal opponents: Conservative
Friend or foe: Foe
Target rating: Extremely vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Monday
May042015

Nigel Huddleston, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#33 – Mid Worcestershire
I have a special reason for wanting Nigel Huddleston to win this safe Conservative seat. In November 2009 I wrote: "Yesterday, at the invitation of the local Licensed Victuallers Association (LVA) which represents independent licensees, we held a Save Our Pubs & Clubs meeting at The Bramingham pub in Luton. The meeting was well attended and we made some very useful contacts including Nigel Huddleston, Conservative PPC for Luton South, who even donned a SOPAC t-shirt for the obligatory photograph. Registering his support for our campaign, Nigel said: "We've had enough of Gordon Brown's nanny state. Politicians should respect people's freedom to choose." He failed to win Luton South in 2010 but more than halved the Labour majority, prompting me to write: "Nigel had the bottle to support our Save Our Pubs & Clubs initiative - he was even prepared to have his photograph taken while wearing a fetching yellow campaign t-shirt. Your day will come, Nigel, have no fear." That day has now come.

2010 majority: 15,864 (31.1%)
Estimated number of smokers in Mid Worcestershire: 14,428*.
Principal opponent: Liberal Democrat
Friend or foe: Friend
Target rating: Good

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.

Monday
May042015

Julian Huppert, friend or foe?

Between now and the General Election on May 7 I'm highlighting a series of 'target seats', those where the candidate standing for re-election has supported anti-tobacco policies, and those where a leading candidate is an opponent of excessive lifestyle regulations and policies that infantilise us all. With a few exceptions I'm focussing on marginal or semi-marginal seats.

#32 – Cambridge
Vote for plain cigarette packs marks success of Huppert's campaign:
MP Julian Huppert marked the successful culmination of his campaign for plain cigarette packaging yesterday when the issue returned to Parliament and won the backing of MPs. It follows a sustained campaign by Julian who has been lobbying the government to ban tobacco companies from using brightly coloured cigarette packaging. “This issue is so important if we are to stop future generations of young people becoming addicted to nicotine with all the health issues that brings and the strain it puts on our health services,” said Julian. “I respect a person’s right to choose to smoke but the decision needs to be taken as an adult and not as a child.” Huppert respects an adult's right so choose to much he opposed an amendment to the smoking ban that would allow adults to light up in separate smoking rooms in pubs and clubs. Go figure.

2010 majority: 6,792 (13.5%)
Estimated number of smokers in Cambridge: 15,424*.
Principal opponents: Conservative and Labour
Friend or foe: Foe
Target rating: Vulnerable

*Based on 20% of the registered electorate in 2010

Note: marginal seats have been defined as those with majorities of 10% or less that require a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose.