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Last minute reshuffle @DHGOVUK announced…

By Editor
March 27th, 2015 at 2:15 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

HAT TIP: Simon Clark

Following on from Wednesday’s post, we were nudged to read an excellent and revealing post over at Simon Clark’s Taking Liberties blog.

the subject of the blog is this tweet…

dedicated DH team

For those of you who don’t know the faces in this picture. From left to right they are …

Andrew Black (civil servant) tobacco programme manager at the Department of Health

Deborah Arnott from ASH

Jane Ellison MP (Conservative) and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health

Paul Burstow MP (Lib Dem)

Really? When did that re-shuffle happen? Does David Cameron know? Was Jeremy Hunt informed? If we randomly turn up, do we stand a chance of getting a job?

Seriously though….. Surely it is now time for Eric Pickles to sit down with William Shawcross to sort out “charities” that are indivisible from Government departments? Having “charities” that escape all the scrutiny of Government, but are part of the “dedicated team” is surely intolerable?  But that, according to Jane Ellison (current Health Minister), is precisely what we have.

Ps. Not sure when Paul Burstow got promoted to the Department of Health – someone should update his wikipedia entry.

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Lib Dem MP admits #PlainPacks failure

By Editor
March 25th, 2015 at 4:28 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Government lobbying government

Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow made a remarkable confession in Parliament on Tuesday. Whether it was intentional or not, only he knows, but this is what he said

“I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to undertake a programme of research into the costs and benefits of introducing an annual levy on sales to be paid by tobacco manufacturers, with the proceeds to be used to support tobacco control measures, to discourage young people from starting to smoke tobacco, to help existing tobacco smokers to stop smoking; and for connected purposes.”

Of course what he actually means is this

“Now that we have managed to get plain packaging of tobacco through Parliament, my fellow anti-smoking campaigning chums who have earned vast sums of taxpayers money from Tobacco Control in recent years are deeply worried. The Government may actually stop handing over taxpayers money to them. To put my good friends minds at rest, I wonder whether we could all agree to force the Secretary of State to find some more pointless, evidence-free drivel to put before you to keep them busy for a while longer.  The evidence-free drivel I have in mind is to “prove”  that an extra tobacco tax should be levied and handed over to my smoker-hating mates to see them through to their fat pensions. They have a whole raft of persecutions sitting on the drawing board that they can dust off. With a few £millions in the bank they can keep their jobs and their pensions dreaming up some more evidence-free drivel for you all to swallow. And have a load of cash left over to lobby you all at every twist and turn (that is what I meant by “connected purposes” btw) – which won’t break any lobbying rules because, ha ha, it won’t technically be taxpayers money.”

Well you can see his point. Handing over swathes of taxpayers cash to so-called “charities” to be used for lobbying the very government that handed over the money is coming to an end slowly but surely. If the likes of ASH can’t get it’s money from Government to lobby Government, they will have to convince medical research charities to fleece even more cash from their supporters who think their donations are going on a cure for cancer. So on the face of it, bringing in a law to take an extra slug of money from tobacco companies and handing it directly to the anti-smokers brigade would neatly side-step the horny issue of not using “taxpayers” money to keep them all in jobs and allow them to lobby Government (national and local) to their hearts content.

But wait just a minute. We were told that the introduction of plain packaging was the very thing we needed to “discourage young people from starting to smoke tobacco” and “help existing tobacco smokers to stop smoking”. Yet here we are, just days after the parliament voted to bring in plain packaging, witnessing the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Smoking and Health himself admitting it will do no such thing! They don’t just need a few thousand to mop up the few remaining smokers, they need £millions a year to do the very thing they told everyone plain packaging would do! Oh dear.

The ever-vigilant Dick Puddlecote quotes one MP who spotted this tom-foolery immediately. Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies was quick to his feet highlighting this very point…

“I particularly wanted to oppose the Bill because the right hon. Gentleman has done us all a great service. He has let the cat out of the bag. Of course, the Government have already accepted ASH’s campaigning on banning smoking in cars where there are children, which is completely unenforceable. They have also accepted the plain packaging of tobacco, which is completely idiotic. Of course, the Government accepted those policies because ASH told them that if they did so the amount of smoking in the country would plummet. We were told that if we introduced plain packaging it would be absolutely fantastic because all of a sudden cigarettes would not appeal to young people and children and that would close the gateway into tobacco use. The whole policy was based on that premise.

That policy has not even been implemented and already the right hon. Gentleman is saying, “Actually, that was all a load of tripe. It won’t make any difference whatsoever. What we need now is a levy on the tobacco industry so that we can do some research to find out why young people smoke and then try to stop them smoking”….

“The point is that this is just the latest campaign from ASH. Every time it advocates the introduction of another measure, it tells us that that is what the Government need to do to tackle tobacco, but as soon as it is implemented we are told that actually it was a load of old cobblers and now we need something else.”…

Quite [note in addition to smoking in cars with children ban, we have also seen the introduction of the cigarette vending machine ban, and the tobacco display ban in this parliament. They were also meant to discourage young people smoking and yet the effectiveness of these has also yet to be evaluated].  You can read more from the magnificent Mr Davies over on Dick Puddlecote’s blog. It is a joy to read.

Of course, both Labour and the Conservatives seem hell bent of spending any extra tobacco levy on reducing the national debt or paying for more nurses and doctors. It seems unlikely that IF the Treasury does get it’s hands on some extra cash from Tobacco that it will go to feathering the nests of anti-smoker campaigners.  All in all we should thank Paul Burstow for his public confession that plain packs is a “load of cobblers“.

As for ASH and its APPG on Smoking and Health, last month the Department for Communities and Local Government announced it was going to ensure that Government payments to external groups do not support activity that could influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties. It applies to any activity that could influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants or legislative or regulatory action.  Eric Pickles said that he hoped to roll this out across central government.  Let’s hope that Jeremy Hunt moves swiftly to ensure that this Government rule is stringently enforced over at the Department of Health and the many sub committees it funnels its cash into.

And given Burstow’s admission on plain packaging, here is hoping that the Liberal Democrats throw their full support behind this new anti-lobbying, anti-sock puppet measure.

To find out more on this issue read : “ASH In The Trough Edition”

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Lib Dems : All process, but no real plan

By Editor
March 23rd, 2015 at 2:03 pm | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

HAT TIP: Dan Hodges has written an interesting article in the Telegraph, identifying that Lib Dem HQ is throwing many Lib Dem seats to the wolves in an effort to “survive” – funneling central money into only those constituencies it deems “winnable”.

The Telegraph article states that hard-headed Lib Dem HQ has ceased funding to a vast raft of seats, employed a US based analytics company to develop a system for micro-targeting key constituencies, and plan to ramp up Nick’s profile massively in the coming weeks. The Lib Dem leader will be “asked to “walk through the flames” one MP apparently warns (not literally, we hope, but who can tell?).

So far so good – although who knows the cost of the US company – in our collective experience they never come cheap. The Lib Dems did need a more rational system to dispersal of the, comparatively, limited money it raises. The old “system” (wide-spread flinging of money across the board) witnessed in previous campaigns was clearly not working. So that is a clear improvement on the past. And putting Nick out front is clearly the right choice. With a lame set of policies he is one of the few assets the party has remaining.

Also to be welcomed is the eventual acknowledgement that the perennial Lib Dem mantra ” It feels good on the doorstep”… is about as reliable as a support bra without the wires.

“A few will try to argue ‘But it feels really good on the doorstep’. We have to explain to them that it may feel like that, but it isn’t like that.”

Shame then, with all this marketing magnificence brought into play, no one thought to spend some time and thought on the actual product. Lame policies, contradictory values and dull assertions that “we are nicer than that lot but more responsible than the other lot” is hardly going to set the world on fire – or win votes for that matter.

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The death of the Focus leaflet

By Editor
March 14th, 2015 at 3:52 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

Voters up and down the land will be overjoyed to discover that Focus leaflets will no longer be a feature of the Lib Dem election campaigns. At least that appears to be what they are saying…?

focus leaflet HAT TIP Carl Minns for spotting this one at Lib Dem Spring Conference in Liverpool earlier today.

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What are the Lib Dems for?

By Editor
March 14th, 2015 at 12:12 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in conference, Liberal Democrats

HAT TIP:  In case you missed it Mark Littlewood (former Lib Dem spin doctor and co-founder of Liberal Vision) had an interesting article in the Telegraph yesterday, to coincide with the start of the Lib Dem Spring conference. Kind it is not. Accurate it is undoubtedly is.

The essence of Littlewood’s point is that the Lib Dems have no message to the voter – other than to promise to be less mean that the Conservatives and more financially hard-headed than Labour… “to water down the convictions and ideals of our main political opponents“. This is certainly borne out by speeches being made up and down the country by Lib Dem MPs, highlighting what the Lib Dems have stopped the Tories doing over the past five years and why Labour can be trusted to go it alone for the next five.

And that is the problem, he says, no one knows what the Lib Dems are for.

“Obviously, there is nothing intrinsically immoral or wicked about such a proposition, but it certainly doesn’t get the pulse racing. There simply aren’t going to be millions of voters trooping to polling stations in May because they are passionate about injecting just a dash more moderation into our government. On the big questions facing Britain, the LibDems don’t sound radical at all. Is the overall tax burden too high or too low? Does the state intervene too much or too little in our lives? Is our relationship with the EU too close or too loose? Very often, the Lib Dems seem to believe that we have the balance of everything more or less right and just need a very small tweak here or there.”

[Agreed. Whether you like them or hate them, you have to accept that the parties on the rise, UKIP, Greens, SNP have conviction and passion by the bucket-load and none of them are in any doubt that things need to change for one reason of another].

Littlewood suggests that even if 20 or 30 Liberal Democrat MPs do make it back to Westminster, and by some chance find themselves back in coalition “it is hard to be at all sure what on earth they would do with it”.

Quite. So, what is the point of voting for them? – it’s like ticking the “don’t know” box on a multiple choice question. Perhaps Liverpool will provide some answers.

You can read the full article here.

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