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The day the people spoke

Just back from Stony Stratford.

Fantastic turnout for Dick Puddlecote's Stony Standoff, or whatever it was called.

It rained heavily all morning (thank goodness for my Smokers Welcome umbrella!), yet Dick counted 80 protesters and more arrived after that.

To put this in perspective, at the boat party on Wednesday I told Dick to be happy if 20 people turned up and ecstatic if there were 50. The final attendance was almost double that.

Some familiar faces (Chris Snowdon, Dave Atherton, Pat Nurse, Gawain Towler), but the vast majority – including Frank Davis and Tom Paine – were new to me.

Some had travelled a considerable distance to be there, but I was pleased to see plenty of local people too. ("Paul Bartlett's ambulance is killing me!" shouted one. Eh?)

Apart from Nigel Farage, who arrived late from a UKIP event and had the floor to himself, the other speakers were Conservative MEP Roger Helmer, Patrick Hayes of the Institute of Ideas (and a columnist for The Free Society), Bill Etheridge of The Freedom Association, and David Odell, chairman of Stony Stratford Business Association.

I'll link to other posts and reports as they are published, but I would like to think this was the day when people finally said "Enough is enough".


Rod Liddle on health fascists

H/T Dick Puddlecote – and News International, publishers of the Sunday Times. (Credit where credit's due.)


Join Dick Puddlecote in Stony Stratford

Whatever you are doing tomorrow, postpone – unless you are going to Stony Stratford.

I can't speak highly enough of this initiative by blogger Dick Puddlecote who has organised, off his own bat, a protest against the proposal to ban smoking in all outside areas in this small Buckinghamshire town.

Idle chatter – on blogs, websites etc – is not enough. If you live within two hours of Stony Stratford I urge you to support Dick's effort.

This could light the fuse for a genuine grassroots revolt against excessive tobacco control. Over to you.

Protestors will gather from 11.00am at the Vaults Bar, High Street, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, MK11 1AQ. Speeches around midday.

Full details on Dick's blog.


Looking for David Hockney

Third video from the Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception.

It features Suzy Dean who is a columnist for The Free Society. Her latest article – Porn: what women want? – is published today.


Amend the ban? The people speak

Following last night's Smoke On The Water (see earlier post) ...

... here is the second of three videos from the Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception at the House of Commons on June 29.

Features interviews with Forest Eireann's John Mallon (above), former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik, Paul Staines (blogger Guido Fawkes), Patrick Hayes (Institute of Ideas), jailed landlord Nick Hogan, publicans, members of the Working Men's Clubs and Institute Union, and David Hockney.

It's ten minutes long (there's an edited version on YouTube) but there are some good quotes and we didn't want to leave anyone out.

Feel free to post this or other videos from the Save Our Pubs and Clubs channel on other blogs and websites.


Is this the most odious man in Britain?

No, not Rupert Murdoch.

Gordon Brown.

I wanted an inquiry into the beastly media, but those horrid civil servants wouldn't let me (Daily Telegraph), Labour's former leader follows his successor's lead (Independent), Mr Speaker snarled like a Hyena as the red mist descended (Daily Mail)


Day after the party the night before

Still in London following last night's Smoke On The Water boat party.

The event took place under leaden skies but the expected showers failed to materialise and guests were able to experience The Elizabethan's unique sliding roof. This gives passengers a great view of some of London's best known buildings and bridges, and it's particularly atmospheric after dark when the coloured lighting on landmarks such as County Hall and the London Eye can be seen so clearly.

I first booked this Mississippi-style paddle steamer for a party in, I think, 1995. Smoke On The Water was the sixth time I have hired it and it has never let me down. Its only failing is a rather small bar that can cause a bit of a bottleneck for drinks, but that normally resolves itself following the initial surge. (Anticipating this problem, guests were offered a free glass of wine to kick start the evening, but we very quickly exhausted the 80 bottles we had set aside. Thirsty work, smoking.)

We had an excellent six-piece band, Urban Blue, who played a mixture of jazz, funk and soul, and between sets I was delighted to introduce our two guest speakers, blogger Dick Puddlecote and David Nuttall MP. Experience has taught me that speeches and stand up receptions are not a good mix (people are far more interested in drinking and continuing their conversation) and last night was no exception.

Nevertheless Dick and David both spoke with great conviction and the message was very clear and very simple. The fight for smokers' rights will continue for as long as it takes and far from going away (as some people predicted it would after the smoking ban in 2007) the 'movement' is actually growing, to the extent that 'ordinary' smokers like Dick have been emboldened to organise their own protest events.

Likewise, David Nuttall has no intention of abandoning the cause, unlike some of his fellow MPs. There is a small group of independently-minded MPs to whom we are very grateful for their support and with the help of David and others like him we intend to build on that.

It's worth noting that MPs' researchers (if not MPs) were out in force last night. I spoke to one (significantly, he's also a local councillor) and he is very keen to help. Watch this space.

In total, almost 250 people attended last night's event, very close to capacity. Interestingly, while there was some overlap, it was a very different crowd to the 200+ people who attended our Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception at the House of Commons two weeks ago. Much younger, someone noted. If we could combine the two groups it's not unrealistic to think we could attract at least 500 – maybe more – for an even bigger event. Smoke In The Park, perhaps?

To date Forest's record attendance is 400 for our Revolt in Style dinner at the Savoy Hotel in 2007. In 2006 a Politics and Prohibition themed event at the Conservative conference in Bournemouth attracted a similar number to the Royal Bath Hotel. In fact, that event was so popular hotel staff had to stop people coming in, citing "elf 'n safety"!

Can you imagine ASH attracting similar support? No, neither can I. The conundrum is, how to convert the popularity of social events like Revolt In Style and Smoke On The Water into hard political currency.

PS. Loving the superfast broadband in my hotel. (Each room comes equipped with its own iMac. Bliss.)

I'm not one of those who considers broadband (fast or slow) to be a human right (ridiculous idea), but it does improve the quality of my life enormously.

Sadly I have to check out in a couple of hours otherwise I would happily stay here all day.


Message to ministers – amend the ban

Light blogging only for the rest of the week.

Here is the first of three videos from the Save Our Pubs and Clubs reception at the House of Commons on June 29.

I'll post the others shortly, or you see them now on the Save Our Pubs and Clubs YouTube channel. Click here.