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« Cheesecake, freedom fascists and Conservative principles | Main | Another conference calls »
Tuesday
Oct042016

Humble brag

A rather magnificent 500 people attended the Forest/Tobacco Manufacturers' Association reception in Birmingham last night.

OK, the exact figure was 499 but you'll forgive the exaggeration.

In total 620 people registered to attend Eat, Smoke, Drink, Vape and it was as well they didn't all turn up because the capacity at Nuvo was exactly 500.

In fact, as late as Friday evening we had only booked the ground floor bar (capacity 250) because the anticipated attendance was 200.

With numbers rising rapidly over the weekend we took the decision to book the upstairs bar as well. Thankfully it was available otherwise I'm not sure what we would have done.

Registered guests included MPs, councillors, parliamentary researchers, journalists, broadcasters, lobbyists and, gratifyingly, a great many supporters.

Anyway last night's attendance was a record for a Forest event, beating the 400 who attended Politics & Prohibition in Bournemouth in 2006, and the 390 who attended our Revolt In Style dinner at The Savoy in London in 2007.

If nothing else therefore we proved that Forest can still attract a large audience of all ages (and occupations) and they don't come just for the free food and drink, neither of which are in short supply at party conference.

Equally important is the message and this year's theme was simple. Whatever we choose to put in our mouths (ooh, matron) it's our choice.

But how to get that message across? Addressing a noisy crowded bar is no mean feat and in the circumstances our speakers did a fine job.

Giles Roca, director-general of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association and my co-host for the evening, spoke up for the tobacco industry.

Paul Scully, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam, declared, "The day the government tells me what food I can put in my mouth is the day I know we don't have a liberal government."

And LBC Radio presenter Iain Dale – who freely admits he doesn't like smoking – spoke up for many when he said, "Government has a role to warn, it doesn't have a role to dictate."

Iain concluded his speech with these words:

"I think Forest, [and] the TMA, do an absolutely fantastic job defending freedom. It's great to see so many people here tonight supporting them and I hope they continue to do so for a very long time."

He also got the biggest laugh of the night with an off-the-cuff heckle during my (short) introduction.

Sadly it doesn't work in print. Like all the best things, you had to be there.

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Reader Comments (1)

Congratulations on another successful event.

Exaggeration? If you worked on the other side that always appears to have a problem with accuracy when it comes to figures - particularly how many smokers die and what we cost the NHS - that 499 attendance would be 499,000 and the 620 registered, it would be 620 million ;)

Honesty on this issue these days is refreshing.

It's OK for Iain Dale or anyone else to hate smoking but it is never OK for anyone to hate smokers nor to decide based upon their own hatred what smokers should or shouldn't be forced to do. I wouldn't have such a big problem with the anti-smoking industry if they attacked the product but not the consumer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 12:16 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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