More thoughts on snipers and smoking

Greetings from Edinburgh.

Flew up yesterday and am currently sitting outside Petit Paris in the Grassmarket, glass of wine in one hand, iPad in the other.

The sun is shining and on the table in front of me are copies of the Herald, Scotsman, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.


Talking of newspapers, I see my previous post - and the extraordinary article Snipers could soon snuff out smoking - has attracted some comment.

If I'm honest, I can't agree with those who want to bring in the Press Complaints Commission or, worse, the police.

Let's put it this way. I believe in free speech and that includes the right to be offensive. Do you really want the author of 'Snipers could soon sniff out smoking' sacked or charged with an offence? I don't.

What I want is for people to understand that the war on tobacco (and now smokers) has gone far enough. Stony Stratford, and now this, has drawn a line in the sand.

We should make our feelings known to the editor and to other interested parties, but let's not fall into the trap of becoming as intolerant as our opponents.

Personally I welcome the publication of 'Snipers could soon sniff out smoking' because it demonstrates the folly of the crusade to 'denormalise' a significant minority of the population.

Attempting to be humorous, Alan Dee took this policy to an absurd level, for which I'm grateful.

The villains however are not journalists like Dee or even editor Lynn Hughes, who I understand is contrite and regrets her decision to publish the article. (More on this later.)

Truth is, Dee and Hughes are merely reacting in a rather thoughtless way to the green light that has been given by successive governments to demonise smokers.

Thanks to government policy on tobacco, and the relentless campaign to denormalise smokers, the inappropriate nature of 'Snipers could soon sniff out smoking' never occurred to them. Smokers, you see, are easy targets. Literally.

My advice? Email the editor (expressing your reaction) and write to your MP (pointing out that publicly-funded campaigns such as 'If you smoke you stink' have created this culture of intolerance) but I really don't see what this has to with the police.

Update: Alan Dee's article is no longer available online on Hemel Today. See here.

Not sure about the digital edition of the Herald & Post.

More to follow.


"Snipers could soon snuff out smoking"

Let's put it down to bad timing.

This week's issue of the Luton Herald & Post (published on Thursday) describes in detail how people smoking on the streets of Luton should be shot by a "squad of licensed snipers" to save the Health Service the cost of looking after them in later years.

Oddly enough I can't find the article, by columnist Alan Dee, online (perhaps it's been removed following the news from Norway), but I've seen the digital edition and I thought you might like to read it in full. (I'll post it shortly.)

H/T Sean Spillane


Out of Africa – update

Latest on my son's trip to Malawi:

Week two: all suitcases have finally arrived and the team are reported to be "fit and healthy and just back from the Dwambazi climb".

Dwambazi climb? I really should have paid more attention at that parents' evening back in January.

Update: I am told the group is doing "conservation work". I dare say I'll find out more when they get back.


Review of the week


Notes from the north west

I'm in Manchester today, discussing plans for a new event at the Conservative party conference in October.

The aim, if it comes off, is to create a must-see annual attraction that combines crowd-pleasing entertainment with a serious political message.

It's a difficult trick to pull off but I have an idea that I think could work. Watch this space.

In the meantime I can reveal details of the event we are organising - in association with the Clubs and Institute Union - at the Labour conference in Liverpool in September.

See poster above.


Stony Stratford - spread the word

As others have already reported, Cllr Paul Bartlett has suffered a serious setback in his attempt to ban smoking outdoors.

About My Area has the story here – Stony Stratford Smoking Ban: Town Council Rejects Bartlett's Proposals.

See also: Stony Stratford meeting overwhelmingly rejects Bartlett proposals (Dick Puddlecote).

To date, however, the only mainstream reference I can find to this uplifting news is in today's Daily Telegraph: The tiny town that refused to give in to a fresh-air fascist ('Stony Stratford is a jewel for standing up for the right to smoke outdoors', Bryony Gordon).

This news must be disseminated far and wide otherwise the only 'story' people will remember is Stony Stratford set to ban smoking in all public places (Daily Telegraph, June 29).

That's how bandwagons start.

So spread the word. Write to your MP and to your local newspaper. Tell them what happened in Stony Stratford. (When writing to your MP send him or her copies of relevant reports.)

Shout it from the rooftops and don't let this moment go to waste.

PS. Forest Eireann's John Mallon writes: The message from Stony Stratford. See also: The new religion (Smoking Out The Truth).


Should entire towns ban smoking?

On BBC Radio Derby this morning.

Ten-minute discussion starts around 15 minutes in.


Stony Stratford latest – motion to ban public smoking postponed

STOP PRESS – from the MK News:

The motion to ban smoking in Stony Stratford will not take place at tomorrow's town council meeting (Tuesday) and will now be discussed at the next meeting in September.

As reported in last week's MK News, Councillor Paul Bartlett was planning to postpone his motion as he believes his opponents' arguments are 'flimsy' and they need more time to prepare.

Stony Stratford Town Council has now confirmed the discussion will not take place at tomorrow night's meeting, and has been moved to September 20.


My interpretation of this is that Bartlett's motion was heading for a massive defeat following the hugely successful protest on Saturday, so he has taken his ball home in a fit of pique, no doubt hoping that, come September, his opponents will have lost interest and the fuss and bad publicity he has generated for the town will have died down.

Fat chance, pal.