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« Smoking ban: opposition "orchestrated" by tobacco industry | Main | Review of the week »

What do ASH and Left Foot Forward have in common?

I have just read an article by Martin Dockrell of Action on Smoking and Health.

It's entitled Is Big Tobacco blowing smoke in Cameron’s eyes? and it appears on the "number one left-wing blog" Left Foot Forward.

I haven't got time to give it a proper fisking but I thought you'd like to know what ASH and Left Foot Forward have in common.

As you know, I don't like debates that feature only one side of an argument so we make it our business to embrace, if possible, all sides.

Sadly it's not always possible because the left, with few exceptions, refuse (or decline) to debate with us.

Last year I invited Will Straw, son of Jack Straw and the founder of Left Foot Forward, to take part in our 2010 Voices of Freedom series. To be fair he did reply but he wanted to be paid (he was the only person to raise the issue) and we didn't have a budget to pay speakers.

Will has since moved on to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an influential left-wing think tank, so a couple of weeks ago I invited his successor to speak in the 2011 series.

I sent the invitation to two email addresses but no reply. Not a dicky bird.

What has this got to do with ASH? Well, a few weeks ago I invited to Deborah Arnott to speak alongside Peter Hitchens in our debate 'Civil liberties up in smoke: what are smokers' rights in a free society?'. I emailed Debs (who I have no personal animosity towards at all) and, like the editor of Left Foot Forward, she didn't even bother to reply.

This week, taking a different tack, I telephoned ASH with a view to inviting her colleague Martin Dockrell to speak in our next debate 'Risk and the pursuit of happiness: is smoking, drinking, gambling good for you?'

The person who answered the phone sounded like Deborah but wasn't. (They must be cloning little Deborahs.)

"This is Simon Clark from Forest," I said. "Can I speak to Martin Dockrell?"

Pause. Ten seconds later:

"He's in a meeting."

I left my number. "Can he call me back?"

Four days later I'm still waiting for that call. (Perhaps he was too busy writing for Left Foot Forward.)

PS. ASH and Left Foot Forward aren't the only lefties to decline our regular invitations to speak. The list is endless. But at least the likes of Polly Toynbee took the trouble to reply and decline gracefully.

As far as Debs and Dockrell are concerned, it's not just the refusal to debate I find depressing. It's the lack of class.

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Reader Comments (7)

There is something deeply neurotic and intolerant about both the left and ASH. I have had the pleasure of meeting two senior ASH people and before meeting them I have said to myself, don't lose your temper, don't rant, don't be confrontational and in fact I have gone out my way to be polite and courteous.

Both times they ending up picking a fight with me, shouting, ranting and bullying. One called me a liar in front of 10 people at a dinner table and the rest of the restaurant no doubt heard too. The other time I had just returned to a table took a sip of my water and they started raising their voice angrily denouncing me as not an expert.

It seems free speech and an alternative opinion is anathema to them.

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 17:05 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

I couldn't agree more with the lack of class comment, I guess they believe that they are above having to display good manners because after all, they are in the right and all smokers are currently considered less popular than your average child molester therefore do not deserve a response

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 17:51 | Unregistered CommenterLiana Murphy

I always notice Dave, that this type of person, as you so rightly class them - "The left and Ash - deeply neurotic and intolerant" their argument is hardly ever reasonable or debatable; you either agree with them or they go red in the face and start screaming at you.

I know that some say we should approach them and try to put our point across, and believe me I do try from time to time, but as you have pointed out, it always ends in a torrent of abuse from them. How dare they accuse you of not being an expert on this subject! That alone shows their lack of common sense and knowledge.

But, can I ask you one thing? What on earth were you doing sitting in the lion's den with people like this - surely you knew you would be attacked? These people would attack Jesus Christ if they thought it conducive to their overall plan!

p.s. Were you really drinking 'Water?'

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 18:14 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood


You obviously have missed all the fun in Spain. I was in Amsterdam as a guest of the British Medical Journal debating "Is smoking a disease or a habit."

More importantly my appearance on CNN with Ms. Deborah Arnott of ASH on outside smoking bans.

Get a large Havana, pour yourself a large port and enjoy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 18:26 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

Rather you than me Dave!

I don't drink port Dave, Brandy is more to my liking.

You still haven't answered the 'water' question????

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 20:18 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

Deborah Arnott acknowedged in your interview Dave, that smokers have rights.
Where did she get that one from ? Thats a new one on me !

Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 21:00 | Unregistered Commentermark

What do ASH and Left Foot Forward have in common? hmmm that is a very intriguing question and I have no idea, but I'm very curious about the answer. I have another good question, what do fx and 4rx have in common??

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 15:21 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

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