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Wednesday 6 March 2013

Dirty Tricks

For the past few weeks, it's been a struggle to write new blog posts. Every time I sat down to write a new post, either somebody else had already covered it on their blog or something else happened and I decided to abandon my draft.  It happened again yesterday. I was working on a new post, tentatively titled "Black Hole," which was about how we've heard nothing about the plain packs consultation from Andrew Black at the Department of Health, when the political editor of the Guardian,
Ministers are to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes along the Australian model with legislation this year, after becoming convinced that the branding is a key factor in why young people start to smoke.

The legislation, to be announced in the Queen's speech in May, is also expected to ban smoking in cars carrying anyone aged under 16 years. Ministers acknowledge that the ban is likely to be difficult for the police to enforce, but they believe peer group pressure will have an impact similar to the ban on drivers using mobile phones.

David Cameron referred to the possibility of introducing plain packaging last week, without putting a timetable on it. Ministers are convinced that the ban is necessary to take the next step to reduce smoking in the UK.

"We are going to follow what they have done in Australia. The evidence suggests it is going to deter young smokers. There is going to be legislation," said a senior Whitehall source said.
Interestingly, my draft post anticipated this precise course of action happening even to include a total ban on smoking in all private vehicles (regardless if children are present) because that's the only way such a ban can be enforced.  The only difference in my draft being that Andrew Black's plain packaging consultation report would be released first (eventually) and then the government would enact its totalitarian legislation for plain packaging and add the smoking in private vehicles ban to the legislation.

The Guardian article claims that our government, with its so-called "open mind," has already made its decision without ever seeing the consultation report. I would have thought that government would at least pretend to go through the motions. Yet, I also believe that the government made its decision before the consultation was held, and that everything to date has been merely a box-ticking exercise designed to give the illusion of fairness and democracy.

So what's happening?  Is this yet another one of ASH's and CRUK's dirty, under-handed confidence tricks, as suggested by both Christopher Snowdon and Simon Clark?  Or is our government so brazen in its disregard for democracy and its citizens that it will abandon all pretence of fair play and do whatever it likes?  Could it be both? I think so.  Indeed, our ministers aim to deceive us at every opportunity, for here we see Stephen Williams MP, who is ASH's front man in government,  re-tweeting the Guardian article as though it is fact:

I think it is obvious that the government does not have an open mind.  It never had an open mind about this. The consultation never would have happened if the unelected civil servants hadn't already made up their minds on behalf of the elected MPs, who will do as the civil servants tell them.  Let's look at Patrick Wintour's article again and note the source.
"There is going to be legislation," said a senior Whitehall source said.
Who is this source?  Andrew Black?  Some other unelected tyrant who knows what's best for you?  And why did the Guardian run this piece before the consultation report has been published?  And why hasn't the report been published?  The consultation closed 10 August 2012, and here we are in the first week of March 2013.  Almost all consultations have their findings published within three months, and yet this one has been mysteriously delayed for an additional four months. This is unprecedented.  And it reeks of corruption and deception.

Perhaps we should expect Andrew Black's report any day now. Perhaps the Guardian article is advance notice.  And when Black's report does get published, what kind of trickery and deception will we find in it? 

I think we all know the answer to that.