Diane Abbott wants smoking banned outside Olympic venues

Spent the morning at the House of Commons. Very quiet. MPs are away this week.

Whilst I was there I got a call from London Tonight, ITV's London regional news programme. They wanted a quick response to the 'news' that Labour MP Diane Abbott wants smoking banned in all Olympic parks in 2012. That means indoors and outdoors.

I was interviewed, sitting on a bench, in Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament. The sun had disappeared and we had to film under a tree to escape the light rain. It was cold, wet and miserable.

I paraphrase. "This isn't China," I said. "Britain isn't a dictatorship. The Olympics should be an opportunity to celebrate Britain as it is, not as politicians would like it to be. Are they going to ban alcohol and people who are overweight as well?"

Update: Olympic smoking ban? (London Tonight). They used a different bit of the interview!


The Free Society ... on Today's radar

A breakthrough of sorts, I suppose.

Yesterday I was contacted by a producer on the Today programme. I've been on the programme a few times and I assumed that they wanted to talk about World No Smoking Day (May 31).

But no. They wanted to contact Simon Hills, associate editor of The Times Magazine. Simon is a regular contributor to The Free Society and he recently wrote a piece entitled What's wrong with being posh?.

The article had caught their eye and they wanted him to take part in a discussion about "posh" people. (Well, it is a bank holiday.)

Eventually they plumped for someone – the Telegraph's James Delingpole – who could go into the studio. Nevertheless, as Simon commented later, "It's good that they're reading the website".


Hemming: British culture "being eroded"

From today's Sunday Express:

Fresh from reducing Ryan Giggs’s injunction to a pile of ashes, Lib Dem MP John Hemming is lending his support to another campaign calling for urgent changes to the smoking ban.

He is joining Tory Greg Knight and Labour’s Roger Godsiff in demanding the Government amend the ban to allow struggling pubs and clubs to offer “well-ventilated rooms” for smokers.

The campaign believes it unfair that smokers are forced to stand or sit outside and that our laws are draconian compared with the rest of Europe. The pub industry claims the ban has had a “devastating” impact on trade and flies in the face of the Coalition’s philosophy to allow individuals to make their own choices.

Anti-secrecy crusader Mr Hemming, who fancies himself as a possible party leader and who will help host a reception for the Save Our Pubs And Clubs campaign in Parliament next month, said: “British culture is being eroded at the moment.”

See: Giggs's nemesis fumes over ban.


Voices of Freedom 2011

Our 2011 Voices of Freedom series starts on Wednesday.

The first discussion, 'Civil Liberties: Up In Smoke', will ask the question "What are smokers' rights in a free society?". Chairman is Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and speakers include Alex Deane (formerly Big Brother Watch), Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday) and Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood, an unshamed smoker and a member of Forest's Supporters Council.

Venue is the IEA, 2 Lord North Street, Westminster. Drinks will be served from 6.15pm and the discussion starts at 7.00.

The first debate coincides with the publication of a report by Simon Davies of Privacy International, with a foreword by Joe Jackson, that is also called 'Civil Liberties: Up In Smoke'. I have a copy in front of me and it looks rather good, as it should. It was designed by Forest's own Dan Donovan. Copies will be available on the night.

The Voices of Freedom series is organised by The Free Society in conjunction with The Manifesto Club, Democracy Institute, Adam Smith Institute, Liberty League, Forest and The Freedom Association who will all be represented at one time or another.

The 2011 programme will also feature participants from the TaxPayers Alliance, Demos, Institute of Ideas, Liberal Vision, Progressive Vision, Academics for Academic Freedom and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

And Toby Young.

Click here to download the full Voices of Freedom programme. For latest news on speakers visit The Free Society.

To register for any of the events (including the Smoke On The Water boat party on Wednesday July 13) email events@thefreesociety.org telephone Nicky Shepherd on 01223 370091.


Health is the new religion

Abomination, abhorrent, despicable.

Just been on The Stephen Nolan Show (BBC Radio Ulster) and those are just three of the words used by callers to describe smoking in the open air.

Funnily enough, when I hear those words in a Presbyterian accent I automatically think of the Rev Ian Paisley.

Well, they say that health is the new religion.


Best smoking area? No thanks!

Our search for the pub with the best smoking area has suffered a setback.

Following an appeal to friends of Forest, supporters of the Save Our Pubs & Clubs campaign, and readers of this blog, we received an encouraging number of nominations and some warm comments.

The next step was to write to the landlords, inviting them to complete and return the official nomination form, which they had to sign.

So far so good. Unfortunately very few recipients returned the form by the closing date, so this week, with the deadline extended to May 27, I asked a colleague to chase them up.

Some licensees responded positively but several said they didn't want to receive an award for Best Smoking Area. One landlord – a belligerent Australian – went even further.

"Best Smoking Area?" he raged. "I'm bigger than that." Pause. "You get me?"


A favor de Philip Morris

Spoke to an Argentinian journalist who rang Forest from South America last night.

Uruguayan has introduced some of the toughest tobacco control measures in the world including graphic health warnings that cover 80 per cent of a cigarette pack,front and back. In response Philip Morris is suing the government for lost revenue.

"El tabaco es un producto legal y la gente debería poder fumar sin ser hostigada," I told her. "La gente que fuma ya sabe que es potencialmente dañino para su salud, pero este tipo de iniciativas fomentan la discriminación contra los fumadores."

Well, that's how it was translated.

See: Por qué Philip Morris considera a Uruguay una amenaza? (BBC World)


Smoke ban reception update

Reaction to the Save Our Pubs & Clubs reception at the House of Commons, announced yesterday:

The Morning Advertiser has the story here: Pubs invited to smoke-ban event.

See also: Save Our Pubs & Clubs plans Commons reception as it lobbies for ‘smoking rooms’ (Public Affairs News) and Campaigners lobby MPs to change smoking ban‎ (Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review).

Thanks to londonmum for posting the announcement on The Sun discussion forum: Save Our Pubs & Clubs - smokers alert!!

Ditto Angela Harbutt for posting on Liberal Vision: Save Our Pubs & Clubs – join us in Westminster on June 29

Please let me know of any other reports or links. Events such as this need to develop momentum so if there are any other bloggers reading this we'd appreciate a plug!

PS. To Frank Davis who commented, on our Facebook page, "Thanks for the invitation. I don't think I need to lobby my latest MP. He's one of the few who voted against the ban", I couldn't disagree more.

We have to keep lobbying those who are onside in order to maintain their support. If MPs don't hear from constituents on this issue they will think it no longer matters or that public support for the ban is almost universal.

As any political campaigner will tell you, never take the core vote for granted. Get your supporters out, then target the swing voters.