Saturday
Jul162016

Voices of Freedom 2016

A feature of this year's Freedom Dinner was the inaugural Voices of Freedom Awards.

Credit to Ranald Macdonald, MD of Boisdale Restaurants. Earlier this year we were throwing around ideas, wondering how we could breathe new life into the dinner, when Ranald suggested we present some awards. But what to call them?

In 2010 and 2011 Forest organised a series of panel discussions called the Voices of Freedom Debates. We've considered bringing them back because they were pretty successful. In the meantime it seemed appropriate to co-opt the name for the awards.

We then needed a logo.

In 2008 Forest launched The Freedom Zone with The Freedom Association. Dan Donovan designed the logo and we commissioned this website to promote the event.

I've always liked the original Freedom Zone logo and as Forest still owns it, and the website, and it's not been used for eight years, I asked Dan to adapt it for the Voices of Freedom Awards. How's that for recycling?!

And so to the actual awards.

Naturally our guest speaker Rod Liddle was presented with the very first Voices of Freedom award. Further awards were presented to the following with these citations:

Barry Curtis

This award is for someone who has taken up the fight against one of the nastiest of nanny state policies. For most consumers the smoking ban is illiberal and pointless but in practice it's an inconvenience, robbing us of the joy of chatting away in a cosy pub over a pint and a fag, forcing us to stand outside in all weathers like lepers when we want a smoke and breaking up conversations with non-smoking friends.

For patients at psychiatric units, however, ever tighter bans have become a real threat to their well-being. Many units are now banning smoking even outdoors. For those unable to leave the building freely, that means no smoking full stop. For many mental health patients smoking is a considerable source of relief from their symptoms. Such bans deny them that relief and a small but important degree of autonomy when almost all other freedoms have been taken away. On top of that, by forcing staff to act as police to prevent smoking, the vital trust between medics and patients is undermined.

Our award winner, a former patient himself, has stood up for the rights of patients, launching a campaign to try to draw society's attention to this terrible loss of liberty. It gives us great pleasure to present this award to ... Barry Curtis.

John Mallon

Our next award winner first came to our attention in 2003, before the introduction of the smoking ban in Ireland. After the ban was introduced in 2004 we noticed he continued to write letters to the newspapers, pointing out the negative impact of the ban, and for several years he appeared to be the sole voice of reason in Ireland on this thorny subject.

In 2010, when we launched Forest Ireland, he was the obvious choice to represent smokers in Ireland. He has done that job now for six years, impressing everyone he meets with his charm and common sense. In an extremely hostile climate – the media in Ireland are far more hostile to smoking and the concept of smokers’ rights than their counterparts in the UK – he appears regularly on radio and, occasionally, TV.

At times it’s been a lonely and thankless task but I’m delighted to say he’s here tonight, still smiling, still drinking, still smoking. Ladies and gentleman, in recognition of grace under fire, we present our international award to ... John Mallon.

Chris Snowdon

Our next award winner is a writer and researcher. He first came to our attention eight years ago as the author of Velvet Glove Iron Fist: A History of Smoking. In fact we were so impressed that Forest hosted a party at Boisdale of Belgravia to mark the book’s publication.

As Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs he appears regularly on TV and radio. His work focuses on pleasure, prohibition and dodgy statistic and he has authored a number of publications including Sock Puppets, Euro Puppets, The Proof of the Pudding, The Crack Cocaine of Gambling and Free Market Solutions in Health.

His crimes and misdemeanors include calling Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH a "chronically deluded neo-prohibitionist”. Anti-smokers accuse him of publically critcising leading tobacco control scientists by referring to them as “zealots” and “extremists”. He is of course 100 per cent correct.

He is now regular contributor to Spectator Health where his incisive, pithy articles have acquired a cult following, partly due to his transparent loathing for Jamie Oliver, a feeling many of us share. Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of our next Voices of Freedom Award is … Chris Snowdon.

Claire Fox

Our next award winner is regularly invited to comment on developments in culture, education and the media on TV and radio programmes such as Question Time and Any Questions?. She is also a regular panellist on The Moral Maze on Radio 4.

She’s a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party who has been widely criticised and praised for her libertarian belief in the need for minimal governmental control and her outspoken support of free speech in all contexts.

After the closure of Living Marxism, which she published for three years from 1997, she founded the Institute of Ideas with a view to creating a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint. On the back of that she organises the annual Battle of Ideas festival that currently takes place at the Barbican in London every October.

The winner of this award believes that fear of giving offence is killing democracy and stifling truth and her new book I Find That Offensive!’, published in May, has deservedly won many plaudits and is a must read. She’s an inspiration to many people. Ladies and gentleman, our final Voices of Freedom award goes to … Claire Fox.

Update: Rod's speech, which I posted here yesterday, has also been published on The Spectator website together with a short video clip. Click here – Rod Liddle’s Freedom Dinner speech: Labour’s Jew-bashing, the anti-Brexit mob and Tim Farron.

The Times' Diary and the Daily Mail also featured comments from Rod's speech.

Friday
Jul152016

Rod Liddle's Freedom Dinner speech

I promised you the speech journalist and broadcaster Rod Liddle gave at the Forest Freedom Dinner this week. Blogger Guido Fawkes called it "the best political speech this year". Another guest said it was "the best after-dinner speech I've ever heard". Another tweeted, "Rod Liddle is upsetting lots of people this evening, the trouble is it's very funny." I'm not sure speeches like this work so well in print. Perhaps you had to be there to enjoy it fully. I'll let you be the judge. For the record, it still makes me laugh even without the laughter and applause of the audience.

--------

ROD LIDDLE

MANY THANKS for inviting me here tonight. I have been told that I was picked to deliver this address from among a very large list of people, solely because I have children and am a mother. This gives me great empathy and understanding and also the right to amend my CV whenever the feeling takes me. That was a star which rose and fell rather speedily, wasn’t it? Before we even learned how to pronounce her name.

We live in interesting times, do we not? It is quite possible that within a few months England’s most long-standing political leader will be a man called Tim Farron. I heard Tim on Any Questions last week and he spoke with great uncertainty and anxiety, like a man who fears that he may have left the gas oven on at home and is contemplating calling the emergency services. Soon we will have to regard him as a titan of politics, a colossus.

And then there is my party, Labour, which is fine fettle, no? There will be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s sane and rational leadership from a woman called Angela Eagle – swoop, swoop. She is the sister of the former cabinet minister Maria Eagle, which prompted one MP to say that Angela was the lesser of two eagles. And also that she wasn’t even the best politician in her own family. Not even the best … well, who could imagine Labour making that sort of mistake?

Angela is also a lesbian, which is fine by me. But this is presumably the next stage in the lesbian takeover of British politics. Both the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Conservatives are led by lesbians. I don’t know the sexual preferences of Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru – any port in a storm, I would guess.

But this is all very commendable, especially as I read recently that lesbians are actually much scarcer than is popularly thought – almost endangered – and that we should perhaps consider a reintroduction policy in selected areas, much as has been accomplished with red kites in the Chilterns. It will be a fine sight to see lesbians once again soaring on outstretched wings across Beaconsfield and Henley, gimlet eyes scouring the terrain for carrion. But rumours of their scarcity have clearly been exaggerated.

All of this is keeping Labour from its most important work, which is kicking me out of the party. I was suspended a month or so ago for the crime of having suggested that adherents of Islam were not always entirely kindly disposed towards Jewish people. I know, it beggars belief how I could have possibly reached this conclusion. I’d probably had too much to drink.

Anyway, I got an email shortly after from a man called Harry who said I was suspended but could present my case at a "fact finding" hearing. I would be allowed to take a friend with me but the friend wouldn’t be allowed to speak. I suggested that suspending me before the initial fact finding hearing had a slightly, how can I put it, Soviet ring to it. Harry replied that my suspension was a “neutral” act. I would have thought a neutral act would have been to NOT suspend me, but there we are.

This was all part of Labour’s frankly hilarious investigation in anti-Semitism which gave the party a nice clean bill of health and was presided over by a woman who presides over all of us, Shami Chakrabarti. Shami is also Chancellor of Essex Univerrsity, visiting fellow at Nuffield College Oxford, an honorary fellow at Mansfield College, master of the bench of the Middle Temple, governor of the British Film Institutue and holds honorary degrees from three more universities.

It’s nice she was able to squeeze Labour’s Jew-bashing into her packed schedule. Indeed so prolific is Shami within publicly funded bodies, quangos, the third sector and education that I was able to create a parlour game called Six Degrees. Basically choose any arts council, charity or quango, look down the list of trustees and you’ll be able to get to Shami within an absolute minimum of six moves and more usually two.

This is because it is a very small pool of people who run all this stuff and they are all chosen for the same reason – they share precisely the same bien pensant opinions and, usually, affluent background. This is the new establishment, the people who in a sense govern our country. People who are appointed to stuff, who are on the boards of all of our universities, who run the arts programmes, the charities, everything which costs the taxpayer money. Always appointed – no interview needed. The same names, over and over again. The new great and the good.

Gramsci would have been proud of this march through the institutions. When you dig away at each name it’s not easy to find a reason why they’ve been appointed. I was rooting through the names on the BBC Board of Governors a while back and came across a woman of whom I’ve never heard. So I searched out her biography to find out her back story. All it said was Mahmuda has spent her career upholding standards in public life. You can imagine meeting her at a party, can’t you?

This stuff has a point right now. You will probably be aware of the sort of weirdo authoritarian censoriousness currently gripping our students. The banning of speakers from left and right because they transgress some fatuous shibboleth these cossetted and mollycoddled idiots think of as sacred. Feminists banned from campuses because they’re not sure about transgendered people. Islamists banned because they’re not mad on feminism. Jews banned because they’re not sure about Muslims. Sombreros banned because they might offend Mexicans.

The idea is to create a safe space where these people – supposedly our intellectual elite – can exist without anything, ever, challenging their world view. As if they have a right not to be contradicted or offended. As if what they believe is it, and there’s an end to it.

We sometimes portray this hilarious – but genuinely totalitarian tendency – as being an affliction of youth. I’ve written about this and said much the same thing. But it’s not, really. The universities in which these kids are taught are scarcely better. The same political and cultural hegemony applies, a suffocating refusal to allow freedom of speech and dissenting views.

It’s there in all of those quangos and third sector bodies I mentioned before – an absolute refusal to tolerate dissent from the approved socially liberal views. It’s there in the BBC. You can see it in the Guardian which has recently started denying readers the right to comment on articles which it thinks might be controversial – the site called, with exquisite irony, Comment is Free. Its writers were miffed when people started posting opinions which ran counter to their own. So they banned the comments, all of them.

And more than anything it's there in the deranged and apoplectic response from some Remainers to our vote on June 23. It's not enough that they may disagree with the decision to withdraw from the EU. I can understand that: it was a close call for me. But the screaming tantrums and the bedwettings, the toys thrown out of the pram, the tears before bedtime and the stamped feet! The demands that because working class people were allowed to vote the whole thing should be run again. Oh DO fuck off.

And you are left with the same conclusion you reach with those students. That these people are utterly unused to being contradicted. They have no experience of being gainsaid, of being told that they might be wrong, of being on the wrong side of the argument. And so they react with an incandescent fury and a sense of outrage and also, in this particular instance, with the massed ovine bleat of raaaacccist, like lobotomised sheep. Very angry lobotomised sheep. And they gather in Parliament Square and they sign petitions which somehow they think is more democratic than the actual vote. They are deranged, I think, these people.

Still, we are out, although for the next two years stuff will procede as normal as we are still beholden to European Union directives which insist that the tobacco industry and the sugar industry and the fast food industry are basically agents of Satan tempting a gullible and cretinous public with evil.

No more so than with cigarettes, of course. I think I was slightly angrier with Tony Blair for banning smoking in public than I was with him for invading Iraq, which is a rather selfish way of looking at the world. But one adapts as a loyal consumer, much I have done with the packaging issue. These days I always ask the tobacconist for a packet of cigarettes that has that chap with an enormous tumour growing out of his throat. I much prefer that to the one which shows inadequate semen.

The argument has always been – from the same neck of the woods as those people I’ve mentioned before – that you are, to quote a smug and complacent phrase they often use, on the "wrong side of history". That, in essence, freedom of choice, like freedom of speech, is actually a tyranny rather than benediction. They think it is not a freedom at all because other people – never themselves – are somehow oppressed by it, oppressed by freedom.

And so they demand ever greater restrictions on your products, more regulations and, best of all, price hikes so that it is the poor who really cop it. They are the ones who suffer through paying more for their treats – the smokes, the burgers, the alcohol. Because they are the stupid ones whose lives need to be regulated. Other people. It is always other people who binge drink, isn’t it? We just have three or four rather agreeable bottles of Sancerre. That’s not binge drinking. Cheap cider is binge drinking.

And they do all this because of course they know best. Like the students with their safe spaces and the Guardian restricting free speech for other people, and like the howls of outrage from the anti-Brexit mob, they cannot bear to gainsaid. You’re on the wrong side of history.

Ah, well. As we have seen, one can be on the wrong side of history until history suddenly and rather capriciously switches sides – as it did on June 23 this year. The other people, particularly the poor, became sick of being told what to do. And they rebelled. It may not seem so to some of you Remainers worrying about your overseas contracts right now, but in the end that rebellion is good for you too. It was a vote for freedom of choice.

Following his speech Rod was presented with our first Voices of Freedom Award (below).

Thursday
Jul142016

Notes from The Freedom Dinner 2016

We could not have been happier with this year's Freedom Dinner.

Tuesday night's event at Boisdale of Canary Wharf exceeded expectations and the reason was pretty simple.

Rod Liddle, the former editor of Radio 4's Today programme, now associate editor of The Spectator and a columnist for The Sun and Sunday Times, gave a brilliant speech.

It was acerbic and very funny but there was a serious message concerning freedom of speech and freedom of choice.

I'll post the full speech tomorrow but here's the reaction of one guest:

Yes, it was that good and it was reflected in some of the emails and comments we've received. Here's one:

"Last night was a complete triumph! The venue was as good as ever, the food was perfect, and I think Rod Liddle gave the best after-dinner speech I've ever heard."

No event goes entirely to plan so there were a few hiccups.

There were a record number of guests – 170 – including several MPs and peers and we discovered quite late in the day that they had to remain in Parliament until 7.00pm when there was a vote.

That meant putting dinner back 20 minutes so they could get to Canary Wharf without missing the start of the meal.

That, in turn, meant more drinking time on the terrace for guests who had arrived at 6.15. Well, you can guess the rest.

Anyway there was a great turnout for this fifth (sixth?) annual event – MPs, peers, parliamentary researchers, journalists, political bloggers and friends of Forest.

Think tanks (Institute of Economic Affairs) and campaign groups (TaxPayers' Alliance) were represented.

We even had a world famous economist, Deepak Lal, who came as a guest of Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas).

And let's not forget Nancy Dell'Olio who is famous for other things but added a welcome touch of glamour.

We had a guest from the United States (who flew in that morning) and two from Ireland.

We were delighted too that Vapers In Power accepted an invitation to join us. ViP brought ten guests and added to the sense of inclusiveness.

Forest welcomes smokers and vapers to all our events and as Boisdale has a suitably liberal attitude to vaping they could vape quite happily in the restaurant.

See photos of the event here.

An innovation this year was the Voices of Freedom Awards. We presented five awards, one to Rod Liddle, the others to Chris Snowdon, Claire Fox (Institute of Directors), John Mallon (Forest Ireland) and Barry Curtis who campaigns for smokers' rights in psychiatric units.

I'll write a separate post on the awards later but this tweet is quite revealing, I think.

Monday
Jul112016

Warning: explicit content

Now here's a delicious irony.

In 2011 singer-songwriter Annie Dressner recorded a song (her own composition, I'm guessing) entitled 'Cigarette'.

Delightfully it includes this refrain:

"And so I smoked a cigarette so I can taste you in my breath."

As I explained in my previous post Annie is currently campaigning to ban smoking in children's playgrounds.

According to an interview I've just done with her on BBC Radio Ulster she believes smokers should set a good example to children.

I assume she won't be playing 'Cigarette' to her own child any time soon.

Monday
Jul112016

Mum's the word

I was quoted in the Sunday Times yesterday.

It followed a request to comment on a story that first appeared on Friday in the Cambridge Evening News and Huffington Post.

The latter reported:

A mum has launched a petition calling on the government to ban smoking near children's playgrounds because of the danger of secondhand smoke.

Annie Dressner, a mum-of-one from Cambridge, was inspired to create the petition after an incident with a smoker in her local park.

You can read about this isolated "incident" via the links above but what struck me most were Dressner's comments about second and even "thirdhand" (sic) smoke:

"Secondhand smoke has around 4000 chemicals, 50 of which cause cancer, and many others which are very dangerous, especially for children and pregnant women.

“Thirdhand smoke is the smoke that is leftover as residue on surfaces. If, for example, someone is smoking on a seesaw, the dangerous chemicals from that smoke will then be touched and possibly ingested by the children who will next use that playground equipment."

Naturally these remarks were published without contradiction. Only the Sunday Times took the trouble to include a dissenting voice (mine):

"There's no justification for a ban on smoking in children's play areas, voluntary or otherwise. Very few adults smoke in playgrounds and there's no evidence that smoking in the open air is a health risk to anyone else, including children."

Given this free publicity (the 'story' has also appeared online in The Sun, Mirror, Mail and Independent) Dressner's petition is gathering some momentum, although I suspect that will quickly fade once the news agenda has moved on.

She does however seem quite motivated, as a quick glance at her Twitter account shows:

Impressively (or bizarrely, depending on your point of view), she seems to be targeting ministers and public health campaigners in France as well:

What next? Tweets to the Pope, Putin and President Obama?

It's worth noting too that the petition, which was launched on July 2, has its own Twitter account, Smokefree Playground (@smokefreeplay).

Oh, and here's another tweet, posted by Dressner on June 27, four days before the launch of the petition to ban smoking in children's play areas.

Fancy that!

Update: I'm scheduled to be on BBC Radio Ulster with Annie Dressner from 12.30 to 1.00pm. Looking forward to it!

Saturday
Jul092016

Tobacco company targets "smoke-free world"

Spotted on the Philip Morris International website:

We are currently seeking a highly-qualified econometrician to join our international Corporate Affairs Research and Strategy team in Lausanne, Switzerland.

As part of our efforts to advance a smoke-free world [my emphasis], we are looking for a candidate to help us better understand, quantify, and model the impact of various fiscal and regulatory policies on adult smoker conversion to RRPs [Reduced Risk Products] as well as develop relevant socio-economic impact models.

The successful candidate will work closely with colleagues in Corporate Affairs and Research & Development ...

Words fail me. Almost.

Last year I concluded a short speech at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum in Bologna by saying:

The bottom line is, most consumers want choice and the freedom to choose between a wide range range of tobacco and non-tobacco vapour products.

It's up to industry and regulators to accept and meet that demand and put the consumer first. So my message to the tobacco industry, as it's been every year I've attended GTNF, is this:

Embrace harm reduction, embrace e-cigarettes, embrace other new technologies including heat not burn and others that have yet to be invented, but don't forget who your core customer is.

There are enough groups trying to marginalise and stigmatise smokers. The last thing they need is the tobacco industry turning its back on the millions of adult consumers who enjoy smoking and don't want to quit.

For the record, Forest last received a donation from Philip Morris in 1997. Call me psychic but I don't think we'll be getting another one any time soon!

PS. Just read the job details in full. Under 'PMI is an Equal Opportunities Employer' it says:

PMI is also committed to sustainability across our entire business ... Our commitment to sustainability is not complete without first reflecting, and acknowledging, the societal harm caused by our products. This is why we are leading a full scale effort to ensure that cigarettes are ultimately replaced in society [my emphasis]. For more information, please visit www.pmi.com.

Funnily enough I've been a minor cheerleader for heat not burn technology, including PMI's Iqos system, on the basis that it appears to offer a halfway house between combustible and electronic cigarettes while staying faithful to consumers who want to consume tobacco.

I would happily encourage people to switch from combustible to heat not burn or electronic cigarettes if that's their choice, and I likewise support every attempt to develop less harmful nicotine delivery devices that satisfy existing smokers.

What concerns me is the language. A "full scale effort to ensure that cigarettes are ultimately replaced in society" is the sort of target you expect public health fanatics to set.

If the aim is to put every effort into developing a range of non-combustible products that smokers enjoy as much as cigarettes, allowing them to switch with equanimity, fine.

For smokers however a "full scale effort to ensure that cigarettes are ultimately replaced in society" conjures up a more illiberal scenario involving coercion, restrictions and further heavy-handed regulations designed to force consumers to switch or quit cigarettes completely.

I appreciate the fine line a company like PMI is treading because I'm sure the goal is not to prohibit smoking but to encourage and manage an orderly transition from combustible cigarettes to non-combustible products without losing too many customers en route.

The problem is, if they come across as 'anti-smoking' and are unwilling to support adults who continue to smoke (because they enjoy it), the long-term impact on consumer relations is anyone's guess.

At risk of repeating myself, the key issue is choice. Whatever the health risks, smoking tobacco is a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

If PMI's goal is a "smoke free world" in which cigarettes have been completely replaced by non-combustible products that's their prerogative, but it won't happen in my lifetime nor, I imagine, in my children's lifetime.

In the meantime what does it say about PMI's commitment to freedom of choice and the rights of millions of consumers who smoke their products that they are actively endorsing a "smoke free world"?

As someone commented on Forest's Facebook page, it's like a big brewer pursuing an alcohol free world.

Good luck with that!

Friday
Jul082016

Dinner date

Today is the closing date for nominations for the inaugural Voices of Freedom Awards.

The awards – to be presented at The Freedom Dinner at Boisdale of Canary Wharf on Tuesday – are designed to recognise the work of those who have consistently opposed excessive regulations on lifestyle issues.

The highlight of next week's event however promises to be our guest speaker, the irrepressible Rod Liddle, associate editor of The Spectator and a former editor of the Today programme.

A non-apologetic smoker, Rod currently writes weekly columns for The Spectator, The Sun and Sunday Times so we're delighted he accepted our invitation.

To give you an idea of how big a draw he is, a recent event – An Evening with Rod Liddle – had to move to a larger venue not once but twice to meet the demand for tickets.

No surprise then that this year's Freedom Dinner has attracted a record number of guests and is now fully booked.

The work doesn't stop with putting bums on seats, though. Today we've been working on the table plan and cross referencing that with a list of dietary requirements.

Here's one:

"No pork, no lamb, no beef, no prawns, no egg, no cheese."

Er, they have heard of Boisdale, haven't they?!

Another requests "No orange." Now that's a first.

MPs, journalists, parliamentary researchers, an iconic Seventies' TV star ... The Freedom Dinner 2016 is shaping up to be the best yet.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday
Jul052016

Small world

Michael (now Lord) Forsyth was the first person I ever worked for.

He offered me a job after we were introduced by Madsen Pirie and Eamonn Butler, founders of the Adam Smith Institute.

The meeting wasn't planned. I was in London for an interview with a business magazine and after the interview I'd arranged to meet a friend from university.

We met at The Albert, a Grade II listed pub in Victoria Street. Madsen and Eamonn were with my friend, and Michael was there too.

At the time he was the youngest director of a public relations company based in Fleet Lane, a stone's throw from Fleet Street where it was my long-term ambition to work.

He invited me to drop by and see him the following day and within 24 hours I'd been offered a job on a salary of £3,500 per annum rising to £5k after six months.

I jumped at the chance although in hindsight it probably scuppered any hope I had of working for a national newspaper because in those days PR execs were not viewed kindly by old school journalists.

The following year Michael founded his own company, Michael Forsyth Associates, and took me and another colleague, Kevin Bell, with him.

Including a secretary there were four of us in a small office in St Andrew's Hill, a narrow Dickensian-style street on the other side of Ludgate Hill.

We were on the top floor. (There was no lift.) A sandwich shop occupied the ground floor. The Observer was a short walk down the hill, just past the pub.

That was 35 years ago.

Today Michael is a member of the House of Lords while Kevin is one of the leading members of his profession, described by The Times as a "PR guru".

By coincidence Kevin was a friend of Stephen Eyres, Forest's very first director, who I remember visiting the office on one or two occasions.

That was my introduction to "smokers' rights".

I mention all this because I couldn't help noticing all the positive tweets Michael attracted last night following his intervention in a House of Lords debate about e-cigarettes and Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive:

In a short debate on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, Lord Forsyth said: "This is a classic example of gold plating of European regulations by the UK health department."

Full report here.

Oddly enough the last time I saw Michael was at the wedding of Neil Rafferty, Forest's former spokesman in Scotland.

Neil previously worked for the Sunday Times Scotland and Michael and I ended up on the same table in a marquee in a rural setting somewhere near Stirling.

Neil went on to co-found the Daily Mash.

As for Kevin, the last time I saw him was at the unveiling of a statue of Adam Smith in Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Also present were Madsen Pirie, Eamonn Butler and ... Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.

It's a small world.

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