Undemocratic bullies
Monday, June 27, 2016 at 16:47
Simon Clark

I voted Leave.

So did my children who are 19 and 21.

I don't think they will mind me mentioning it because they each posted a thoughtful comment on Facebook.

On Friday my daughter Sophie (right) sent me a series of texts from a house in south London:

Dad, it's kicking off now. People are angry.

My friends are all unhappy. I'm having to keep it cool.

Things are tense.

If we'd lost we wouldn't be making such a fuss.

God knows there are cranks and extremists on both sides of the referendum debate but my daughter is right.

Had Remain won, even by a tight head, the overwhelming majority of Leavers would have accepted the result with no more than a grumble.

That's the nature of democracy. Win some, lose some. Get over it.

Anyway, so much has been said and written since Thursday I'm reluctant to add to the cacophony, but here's an observation.

If you're on Twitter you'll have noticed that tobacco control campaigners are almost universally opposed to Brexit.

The most explicit reaction was tweeted this morning by the University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group which set up the controversial Tobacco Tactics website:

Brexiters admit they have no plan and campaign based on lies. Unbelievable. None of these people fit to lead @BBCr4today

— Tobacco Research (@BathTR) June 27, 2016

What's unbelievable is the fact that a "tobacco research group", part of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, "one of the five UK Public Health Research Centres of Excellence", and "funded by a number of organisations including the Medical Research Council, Government bodies and Charities" thinks nothing of engaging in a political battle about the UK's membership of the European Union, and doing so in a highly partisan way.

Of course there are parallels between tobacco control and the more strident, undemocratic Remainers. For example:

1. In 2006 public opinion was strongly against a comprehensive ban on smoking in all enclosed public places (Office for National Statistics). Despite that tobacco control persuaded government to ignore the more nuanced wishes of a significant majority of the people and impose regulations with no exemptions for private members' clubs or pubs that didn't serve food.

2. In 2012 the Government's plain packaging consultation resulted in a huge majority opposed to the policy. Ignoring this inconvenient fact tobacco control continued to lobby government until the PM bowed to pressure and legislation was finally passed in 2015.

3. Tobacco control routinely treats people like idiots, portraying all smokers as addicts who want to quit. Snobbishly these middle class crusaders imply that smokers (the majority of whom are working class or from poorer backgrounds) are too stupid to make choices for themselves. They must be 'helped' to quit, even if that means restricting choice and imposing punitive taxation on those who don't want to give up.

Over the last few days we've witnessed a similar refusal by some Remain advocates to accept the outcome of a legitimate, democratic plebiscite that attracted one of the largest turnouts in British voting history.

Sound familiar?

We've also seen a groundswell of bullying and intimidation with many people reluctant to admit to friends or work colleagues that they voted to leave.

Bizarrely even those pro-vaping public health campaigners who have spent the past few months complaining bitterly about the EU's Tobacco Products Directive and its impact on e-cigarettes supported Remain when it must be obvious to all that the UK government has a far more liberal attitude to e-cigs than any other EU member state and vapers will probably be better off if the UK is outside the EU.

Finally (for the moment), what should we make of the fact that Diane Abbott is the new shadow health minister?

The next time our paths cross it would be nice if she referred to me by name rather than jabbing her fingers in my direction while talking dismissively (and contemptuously) of "people like him".

It's that kind of attitude that has brought Labour to its knees.

But it's not just Labour. Politicians of all parties are guilty of an arrogant refusal to engage with people whose opinions or habits differ to their own.

And that attitude has seeped into all areas of public life including public health.

The underlying message is, "We know better than you and you will do as we say."

Last week a majority of the voting public chose to rebel. Whatever happens in the months and years to come it was a glorious moment.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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