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Steve Webb appears lonely

By Tom Papworth
July 20th, 2012 at 3:57 pm | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

The first line of this makes Steve Webb look decidedly lonely.

 

Next time you see Steve, be sure to give him a big hug!

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Is there a scandal brewing or just a big fat lie?

By Angela Harbutt
July 13th, 2012 at 12:03 am | 16 Comments | Posted in Government, health

Serious questions are being asked today about Andrew Lansley’s stance on the consultation on the standardised (plain) packaging of tobacco.

Before the consultation was announced Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Times (13th Apri 2012l)  that the government did not work with tobacco companies as it wanted them to have “no business” in the UK. That set a few warning bells ringing.

Just a few days later, however, announcing the start of the consultation, his stance seemed to be more moderate. Andrew Lansley was insisting that his mind was “open” over proposals to strip cigarette packets of branding as a consultation on the plans was launched.

It is therefore surprising to find that the publicly funded pro-plain packs web site is claiming the Secretary of State is indeed, now at least, a supporter of plain packaging.

It is not clear when he became a supporter of plain packaging, but as this is a government funded body claiming it, I assume that is true? I am currently running the Hands of Our Packs campaign, opposing the introduction of plain packaging (no government money). I can’t imagine claiming that any Minister, health or otherwise, is against plain packaging, without checking with them first – no matter how many additional signatures it might draw into the campaign.

So I think that Andrew Lansley has some explaining to do? If he doesn’t then the campaign asserting that he has already made his mind up certainly does -particularly considering the source of its funding. It is all starting to look very curious indeed.

Angela Harbutt heads up the campaign Hands Off Our Packs. The campaign is funded by Forest – Freedom Organsiation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.

UPDATE:

A letter has now been sent to the Department of Health requesting a response to the following questions:

1. Is it appropriate for the Secretary of State for Health to be listed as a supporter of plain packs (by a campaign that receives public money) in the middle of a public consultation on the issue and before the DoH has published its report on the consultation?

2. What action will the DoH (or the Secretary of State) take on this matter?

Let’s see what the Department of Health has to say.

It is also interesting to note that two of the authors (including the lead investigator) of the Department of Health’s (emphasis own) “independent academic review of the existing evidence” relating to plain packaging are also listed on the plain packs protect web site as “supporters” of plain packs. The authors – Gerard Hastings and Linda Bauld are identified by the cmapign as being not quite so “independent” in their thinking as one might have hoped.

For more information and further updates go to the  “TAKING LIBERTIES” web site where the story is unfolding..

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Nick Clegg: Letter to Lib Dem members re Lords Reform success

By Editor
July 10th, 2012 at 11:36 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Letter from Nick Clegg to Lib Dem members  10.26pm, 10th July 2012

“Dear ……..

This evening we overwhelmingly won an historic vote on the Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill – a Bill that will finish something our party started a century ago.

This is a huge triumph for our party, and a clear mandate to deliver much needed reforms to the House of Lords.

As David Cameron and I have both repeatedly made clear – in the Queen’s speech, in May 2011 in the White Paper and in May 2010 in the Coalition Agreement – the Coalition Government is committed to reforming the House of Lords. And we have every intention of delivering it.

The Liberal Democrats have worked closely with our Conservative partners to bring forward a Bill they could support. We have been reasonable and looked at acceptable compromises at every stage. That is why we agreed to withdraw today’s timetabling motion, to allow the Conservative team in Government take more time over the summer to talk to their backbench colleagues.

When we return in the autumn to vote on this again, we fully expect the Conservatives to deliver this crucial part of the coalition deal – as we have delivered other coalition policies. At the same time, we will increase the pressure on Labour to, as the Guardian put it this morning, ‘simply stand up and do the right thing’ and support these reforms in votes in Parliament when it really counts.

We have been waiting for Lords Reform for 100 years. Today we took a huge step towards delivering it. There will be many more tests ahead, but with your help we will continue to make and win the case for reform.

Best Wishes,

 Nick Clegg

Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

 PS If you haven’t already, it’s now as important as ever to show your support for Lords Reform and sign the petition here.”

Seriously ?

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Could the increasing popularity of harm reduction products impact cigarette consumption?

By Guest
July 10th, 2012 at 11:55 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Government, health

Not if the Public Health Industry has its way

One obvious failure of the 2006 Health Act is the fact that the much vaunted smoking ban has had no impact on smoking prevalence in the UK. Not that those people who rely on the mainstream media for news would necessarily be aware of this as the pampered public health industry has gone to some lengths to hide the negatives and is even now clinging to patently false claims of alleged benefits. Sadly the media seems quite happy to indulge this penchant for deceit and the DoH has gone out of its way to ensure the outcome of a “review” by paying a tobacco control activist to come up with the “right” conclusions.  Harsh words perhaps, but how else does one explain a scientific advisor with no science qualifications and a less than objective public profile?

Despite the poisonous environment created by the media, the public health industry and the DoH, harm reduction alternatives seem increasingly popular and may therefore be more likely to impact on cigarette consumption than tobacco control inspired crack downs.  These alternatives will certainly not appeal to all smokers but the evidence from Sweden is that significant numbers of people choose safer forms of tobacco given the option. Sweden does not have especially low levels of tobacco consumption but the popularity of oral tobacco in the form of snus mean that it does have a low incidence of male cigarette consumption and also the lowest incidence of lung cancer in the EU

Although the Nordic tradition that contributes to the success of snus in Sweden does not exist in the UK where less harmful tobacco formats are in any case banned, legal smoking alternatives such as e-cigarettes do seem to be increasingly popular as evidenced by the fact that mainstream retail outlets like WH Smith are now promoting them. In a country where government is actively pursuing policies of denormalization and intolerance towards smokers it is perhaps unsurprising that a product that mimics some of the pleasure obtained from cigarettes but can be enjoyed in public is a potential winner. After all, as the marketing blurb says, e-cigs can be enjoyed legally anywhere. This is not strictly true as e-cigs are specifically banned on Virgin flights for example, but as water vapour shouldn’t trigger smoke alarms, vapers might risk a crafty one in the toilets.

Faced with the obvious benefits of harm reduction, we might expect the politicians, the media and the likes of CRUK to embrace snus and e-cigs as safer alternatives to smoking.

They don’t.

CRUKs otherwise often informative Web pages barely mention e-cigs and contain only a short ill-informed and misleading section on snus. This low key and dismissive attitude typifies tobacco control output and partially explains the EUs collectively miserable record on harm reduction which gives Clive Bates former head of ASH cause for concern. Bates criticises public health failure under 3 headings:

  • Public health science ignored and abused
  • Ethics and consumer rights violated
  • EU legal principles disregarded

Jean King, CRUK’s director of tobacco control says:

“There has been little research into how safe e-cigarettes are. And there’s also very little regulation to control these products or their marketing. The only way to be sure of any risks or benefits is through rigorous testing.”

As a product lacking known carcinogens is likely to be relatively beneficial, one would expect the public health industry to have mobilised its vast resources to perform at least some testing as a matter of urgency.

It hasn’t.

The industry is apparently much more interested in its on-going war with “big” tobacco and smokers as evidenced by the vast amount of effort and (public) money it has put into vanity projects such as shop display bans and plain packaging campaigns.  If our divided, fear ridden society is genuinely concerned about exposure of children to the very sight of age restricted products why not consider selling such products in age restricted shops or sections within shops? That way, children don’t see displays or packaging, adults can choose their product without feeling like they are buying a class A drug and our money could be spent on something more useful.  I am not necessarily advocating this policy but I am suggesting that it has not been considered because it is insufficiently aggressive towards the tobacco industry and not as humiliating for smokers as the tobacco control preferred alternatives.

It is hard not to believe based on the available evidence, that the public health industry is motivated more by its hatred of certain other industries and its constant need to satisfy its own justifiably  fragile ego than it is by any genuine concern towards us as individuals. How else can one explain the myopic adherence to its “quit or die” dogma and the breath-taking arrogance of continuing this one-dimensional approach in the light of the historical evidence and human experience?

It is noteworthy that “big” industry in the form of tobacco companies and major retailers are popularizing harm reduction alternatives while the public health industry and UK government pointlessly pursue “plain” packaging apparently as part of a utopian project for a brave new smokefree world.  Utopian projects are, as they always have been, fundamentally and necessarily illiberal.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:  Smokers-State Aprroved hate and Intolerance is UK policy,   Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation?What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists and Public Health Success?

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Liberty related Links

By Barry Stocker
July 6th, 2012 at 7:08 am | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

The latest edition of the BBC Radio 4 program Analysis is on The Gold Standard.  I’m not an advocate of the gold standard (that is the view that all currency should be based by gold reserves) myself, but it is important to keep discussing whether it or fiat (created at will) forms of money are better for economic stability and a liberal society.  We should certainly also welcome the BBC engaging with free market ideas.  The presenter does come down against the gold standard in the end, but gold stand advocates (sometimes known unkindly as goldbugs) are given a full chance to explain the case for it.

Bleeding Heart Libertarians has been in a long exchange with a prominent left leaning blog Crooked Timber about state regulation of employee rights.  It’s an entertainingly aggressive exchange between various contributors at these two group blogs.  There are too many items to provide links, but the relevant posts are easy to find by visiting the home pages.  At Liberal Vision we are supporting BLH arguments about the importance of choice between employers in a free market, as the basis of employee freedom, but checking the other side’s arguments at CT is recommended as well.  Tyler Cowen has intervened on the BLH side at Marginal Revolution.  Left leaning blogger Matthew Yglesias also weighs in at Slate, but closer to the BLH argument than the CT argument, which shows why we should be willing to talk to, and try to influence, anyone who is open to hearing classical liberal and libertarian ideas.

The leading online philosophy resource, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, has just updated an entry on Catherine Macaulay, an eighteenth century historian and philosopher, who was a prominent advocate of what was then called republicanism, which is what we would call classical liberalism now.  Beware of attempts by left-liberals to steal the republican heritage, since ancient Rome and Greece, for themselves though.  Catherine Macaulay does not appear to have been related to the famous Whig-Liberal historian and politician, Thomas Babington Macaulay.  She was a distinguished thinker and polemicist in her own right, a part of our heritage at Liberal Vision.  (Hat tip to Philosophy Feeds on Twitter).

Recently out in paperback, Gerald Gaus’ The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World.  First published in 2010, this work of  classical liberal thought has become one of the most influential books in political theory around.  A very academic approach, but for those who like that kind of thing essential reading.  Gaus is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, where his colleagues include David Schmidtz, a leading academic libertarian.  I’m hoping to meet Schmidtz soon at an international academic summer school in Istanbul, where I will contribute a session on Tocqueville,  Schmidtz is one of the star speakers/tutors.  Both Gaus and Schmidtz are involved in the University of Arizona’s Freedom Center (Schmidtz was the founding director), which brings together academics concerned with liberty form Arizona U and across the United States.  Gaus was the founding editor of a well known academic journal, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, which is a great place to find academic material of a classical liberal and libertarian orientation.  Gaus and Schmitdtz are a large part of the reason that Arizona U’s philosophy department is a world leader in political philosophy.  The leading exercise in ranking philosophy departments, The Philosophical Gourmet Report made that department the number one department in the English speaking world for political philosophy.

So lots of great news from Arizona about the rising influence of classical liberal, and libertarian ideas, in the academic world, and there is more from other places in academia, the blogosphere and so on.  Be of good cheer liberty lovers.

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