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« Farewell, Sunday Politics | Main | That Tobacco Control Plan debate – another view »

What is it with politicians and pubs?

Is there a touch of hypocrisy about the Mayor of London fighting to "protect" the capital's "iconic pubs"?

This month, responding to figures from the Office for National Statistics that show a loss of 1,305 pubs in London since 2001, Sadiq Khan said:

"The traditional London pub has been at the heart of London's communities for hundreds of years, but sadly these pubs continue to face a long-term decline in numbers.

"As mayor, I have made safeguarding and growing London's night-time economy a priority and am doing all I can to protect the capital's iconic pubs.

"By creating the most pro-pub planning strategy the capital has ever seen I've shown what can be done, and I want to see the Government and local authorities match my ambition and help protect these key community hubs for generations to come."

Eight months ago he said something very similar when he first announced his plan to protect London's pubs.

“Pubs across the capital are often at the heart of our communities or of historic value and should be protected by local authorities in order to protect the capital’s unique character.

“From historic watering holes to new pop-up breweries, nothing defines the diverse and historic character of the capital better than the Great British Pub.”

To put these comments in perspective, it's worth noting that Khan – who was MP for Tooting from 2005 to 2016 – voted for the smoking ban, an act of cultural vandalism that had a huge impact on London's inner city pubs.

Many smaller pubs were hit because they didn't have the space to provide an outdoor smoking area. Consequently many smokers gravitated to larger pubs that did have an outside space or beer garden.

This is borne out by ONS figures that show that the number of large (50 or more employees) and medium-large (25-49 employees) pubs have almost doubled in London since 2006 (before the ban was introduced).

In contrast the capital's small pubs (those with fewer than ten employees) have been decimated, with 44 per cent closing during the same period.

Crucially, the number of large and medium-large pubs are relatively few compared to the traditional inner city pub so despite the number of large pubs increasing from 35 in 2006 to 60 in 2017, and medium-large pubs increasing from 210 in 2006 to 410 in 2017, the drop in the total number of pubs has been catastrophic.

This is because London's small urban and inner city pubs – those we know were hardest hit by the smoking ban – have fallen from 2,905 in 2006 to 1,680 in 2017.

It doesn't take a genius to work out what would happen if the smoking ban was extended outside. Even the larger pubs with beer gardens would be threatened with a potentially significant loss of business.

How ironic then that the Mayor of London – the man who has vowed to "protect" the capital's "iconic pubs" – was reported last year to have endorsed proposals to extend the smoking ban to beer gardens and al fresco dining areas.

Although his office subsequently backtracked, I have no doubt he would ban smoking in beer gardens and al fresco dining areas if he thought he could.

This after all is the man who, when he was an MP, supported the idea of extending the smoking ban to more public spaces including public parks.

Indeed, we were interviewed on BBC Radio London in 2014 and part of our exchange went like this:

Sadiq Khan: "Legislation changes behaviour."

Me: "You really are patronising!"

Presenter: "What do you want to ban next?"

SK: "If I can discourage my children, and your children [my emphasis], to start smoking that is a good thing."

In short, I would take with a pinch of salt anything Sadiq Khan says about protecting London's pubs. Far from offering a solution, he – like many politicians – is part of the problem.

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Reader Comments (7)

Nailed it again Simon. The hypocrisy of these bullies is astounding. Perhaps we need legislation to change the intolerant and discriminatory nature of these pretentious MPs.

The last thing I want is these thugs preaching hate and intolerance to my children. He should get his grubby hands off other people's kids.

Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 14:23 | Unregistered CommenterPat nurse


We all know what will save the pubs that are left, either repeal or alter the smoking ban to allow the proprietors of the pubs to allow smoking inside if they wish, however everybody including the politicians and the anti smokers know which pubs would be the most used. An example I can give through experience is when we used the ferries to the continent prior to the ban, it used to be three deep at the bars on the overnighted ferries, if you wanted quick service you went to the one no smoking bar on board because you got served instantly, the reason being it was mostly empty.. Since the smoking ban all the bars are now mostly empty, as all the smokers are confined to the outside decks in all weathers, therefore no sane person is going to pay anyone who mistreats their customers like this. Alas though the company directors seem to be thick as they are continually losing money due to the empty bars on board.

Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 19:06 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

Saving pubs is easy... Just repeal or amend smoking bans!

Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 22:04 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I think the thing is, rather worryingly, that anti-smokers like Khan have actually now genuinely started believing their own rhetoric that “bans are good for business,” that the catastrophic and sudden decline in the number of pubs – coincidentally starting as it did in the second half of 2007 – is nothing to do with the smoking ban, and that everybody – even smokers – like the ban. They’ve heard it said, and said it themselves, so many times that they’ve essentially brainwashed themselves into now believing that all that stuff – said prior to the ban as a means of getting MPs to vote for it – is actually true. I have no doubt that if anyone had the temerity to suggest to Mr Khan that one way to "save" all those "iconic" London pubs that he claims to love so much would be to once again make them a jolly sight more welcoming to their erstwhile best customers, he would look at you with genuine disbelief, such is the distance between his understanding of reality and reality itself. I don't even think it's because he's anti-smoking himself any more. He now genuinely believes it all.

The worrying thing is that if people like Khan (and he's certainly not the only one) can convince themselves that if they keep on saying and hearing the same mantras time and time and time again then they’ll somehow magically come true, with respect to smoking, then there’s nothing to stop them from doing exactly the same thing in respect of anything else that they want to be true, even if it isn’t. It’s self-delusion writ large, on a scale and depth which, quite frankly, only specialist psychological techniques could reverse, which is somewhat frightening when evidenced by those awarded the kind of extensive powers which enable them to inflict their rose-tinted, but totally incorrect, version of reality on the rest of us.

Monday, July 23, 2018 at 1:10 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Khan will fail. Like most other anti-smokers he's got no idea of the problems he's causing, like the closure of so many outlets and the confinement of many smokers to their homes who no longer go out socially.

As Simon said something similar in another recent post ''we are getting to the hard core of smokers who will not easily be persuaded to quit'.

Khan seems to think that by taking away peoples freedoms that by using phrases like 'for the children' etc that we are stupid enough to support him. We've got to show him that we are not.

Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 3:38 | Unregistered CommenterSchabbs

I'm surprised you allowed them to set the arbitrary date for the closure of pubs from 2001 thereby diverting attention away from the real problem - what relevance has this date, if any ?

The relevant date is 2007 when the smoking ban was enforced!

I Don't know the figures for London but I expect them to be similar to the national trend. Figures for UK that were quoted a few years ago are still relevant to the smoke ban and its effect on pubs;

2005 - 2 per week - 104 pubs closed

2006 - 4 per week - 208 pubs closed

After smoking ban;

2007 - 27 per week - 1409 pubs closed

2008 - 38 per week - 1973 pubs closed

2009 - over 52 pubs were closing every week (over 7 pubs closing every DAY!).

Don't let them get away with this attempt to trivialise the HUGE effects of smoke bans !!

Friday, July 27, 2018 at 17:51 | Unregistered CommenterKin_Free

Schabbs. As I said on that post, we are not "hardcore" - a term associated with hard drug users and bandied about by antis to describe lifelong, dedicated and committed smokers to promote the pathetic addict theory and make others see us as heroin addicts. Let's not stoop to their level. Let's try to avoid using the offensive derogatory language those that despise us have designed for us.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 at 10:49 | Unregistered CommenterPat nurse

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