Stephen Williams wants to be public health minister
Friday, June 14, 2013 at 17:00
Simon Clark

Just finished recording an interview for Sunday Politics West (BBC1).

Main guest was local MP Stephen Williams, chairman of the All Party Group on Smoking and Health (run by ASH) and the politician who helped launch Plain Packs Protect.

Invited to comment on the forthcoming ministerial reshuffle and his own political ambitions, Williams declared:

"I'd like to be public health minister."

You read it here first!

Update on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 18:14 by Registered CommenterSimon Clark

The tobacco item on the programme covered plain packaging.

It began with a short film and then moved on to a studio discussion featuring Stephen Williams, me and James Heappey, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Wells who I was told also favours plain packs. In fact, he sat on the fence.

I'm biased, I know, but I thought they got a pretty easy ride. In contrast I was interrupted more than once by the presenter who also accused me of representing the tobacco industry.

I returned the not-so-friendly fire, pointing out that, yes, Forest receives funding from tobacco companies, and why not? What's wrong with tobacco companies supporting their consumers?

The questions seemed pre-scripted and at the end the presenter asked me if I would continue campaigning if I visited the local cancer ward, or something like that.

Yes, I shot back. This is about personal responsibility and tobacco is a legal product.

I probably sounded a bit testy, which wasn't my plan, but the truth is I quite like interviews like that.

Bullet points and messages that have been going through my head for hours in advance are forgotten and it becomes a bit of a bun fight, which I enjoy.

Ironically Stephen Williams and I never came to blows at all. Instead he was able to sit back and watch while the presenter and I had our little exchange.

Writing as the former director of the Media Monitoring Unit, a job I carried out with great diligence (!) in the latter half of the Eighties, I believe that where you've got two guests on either side of the debate presenters should remain impartial.

The presenter should play devil's advocate only when one side of the debate is not represented. (Or one of the guests is Alex Jones.)

Oh well, it was a pleasant enough trip. I am now on the train home. Estimated time of arrival, 9.00pm.

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