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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Debating Plain Packs

In a few days, The University of Bristol Debating Society will hold a debate on plain packs.  Arguing for plain packs will be Stephen Williams MP, our Super Twat of the Month for April, and an unknown debater -- ooh, the suspense.  Arguing against plain packs will be Simon Clark and Christopher Snowdon.  I don't know if the event page on Facebook is an accurate gauge of how many people will go to the debate but at the time of this writing 33 people have indicated they will go.  As chance would have it, I will be out of the country and cannot attend.  I do hope someone films and/or transcribes the debate, but I have a good idea of all the arguments anyway, so it's not that important.

I have no idea what form the debate will take.  Will it be Oxford-style or Parliamentary or other?  Will the audience be allowed to ask questions or are they merely observers?  If the former, I do wonder if it will be hostile, because my experience with our young adults at uni are they are taught to be idealists and socialists rather than realists or free-thinkers.  Not all of them, though.  At least there will be refreshments, there is that...I think we can all agree that everyone from all walks of life loves refreshments.

What I do know is that there will be no calling anyone a Nazi or a filthy communist or anything particularly divisive, at least not by the four debaters.  A debate is not about attacking the individual; it is meant to challenge an idea or belief.  It may get heated at times, but it will be polite disagreement, because that is how these things almost always go.  So if anyone is hoping for a brawl, you won't see one.  After the gig, they will all chat amicably for a few minutes as if they've been acquaintances for years, because even though they are on opposing sides of the issue, they are not enemies.

I believe I already know all of Stephen Williams's answers to any of the questions that will be posed.  I know precisely what he will argue because he has already argued for it in Parliament, and the script that he is reading from has not been written by himself.  He is merely an actor playing his part.  I do not believe Williams is capable of thinking up anything new or original on this subject.  Perhaps he will surprise me, but I wholly doubt it.

I also believe I know how Chris and Simon will argue, because I have read or listened to everything they have said on the subject to date.  They have both made good arguments in the past, but all of these have failed to resonate with the vast majority of those in the government health racket and those in the media who all believe they have a mandate to protect you from yourself, and to do your job as parents.  I do not think their arguments will surprise me either.  But who knows?

So I suppose the questions are:  Is there any point to having this debate?  Will this debate affect the outcome of the public consultation in any way?

I think the answer to the first question is: "Not really," but it will give us all something to write about for a few days. And we can then tell ourselves that our words matter and will make a difference.

The answer to the second question is a simple yet emphatic "No."  That outcome has already been decided.  The only thing that can derail it will be the coalition deciding not to go forward, and I seriously doubt that they will or even can stop it now.  So it will happen, because people are stupid and believe the rhetoric, because politicians are more interested in their own careers and to be seen as doing good for your children rather than doing what is right and proper for all of us equally.

And there will be plenty of legal battles to follow, and it is there that the true debate will begin and none of the current debaters will be invited to those hearings.