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Stephen Williams is not a liberal

By Angela Harbutt
November 16th, 2011 at 4:18 pm | 27 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, Liberal Philosophy, Nannying, Nudge Dredd, Personal Freedom

Stephen Williams may be a member of the Liberal party but he is no liberal. Yesterday he wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice championing the nanny state with the bizarre piece entitled, chillinglyHow to damage tobacco brands“. Why would any liberal (and especially a member of Parliament) living in the free world wish to damage any legal company’s brand?

I have pretty much said my piece over on the comments page so I won’t repeat it here. What I did think worthy of mention was the reaction to the piece in the comments section. Overwhelming  the contributors were against what Stephen Williams MP had to say – some puzzled, some angry and some downright apoplectic. Could it be that liberalism is finding it’s voice? By jove I think it might!

Here are a few choice comments – go read the full conversation over on LDV….

“Shameful from a so-called liberal politician”

“What is it with you people and your irresistible urge to meddle?”

“There appears to be a pathological inability to leave people alone to live their lives how they choose”.

“Surely there are for better ways for Mr Williams to be spending his time”

“Open displays of tobacco in shops that make smoking seem like a normal part of everyday life…Well that will be because it is! I’m not a Mark Littlewood/FOREST type fundie but stuff like that could drive me that way!” (Updated due to author request)

stuff like that could drive me that way”

“’I’m afraid Stephen Williams’s proposal fits in the category of “something must be done””

“This is terrible -stupid idea – I don’t know one person who smokes because the packaging looks good”

“Wars have been fought to give people freedom of choice and not be dictated to by a governing body”

“I’m very unimpressed by this trendy streak of statist authoritarianism that certain Lib Dems seem rather proud of”

“Never been a smoker and never want to be but if the party got behind this kind of policy I’d be right out the door”

“Wasn’t the “Liberal” in the party name enough of a clue?”

Well said, one and all.

Ps…. Stephen Williams is the Lib Dem MP for Bristol West and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. The anti-smoking group ASH  provides administrative support to the group. Draw what conclusions you will.


Stephen Williams was kind enough to respond to my comment over on LDV…

“Angela – you don’t provide any evidence for your assertion that the indoor smoking ban has caused the decline of local pubs. Many pubs have flourished since 2007 as they are now more attractive places for the majority of the population to socialise. I now eat and drink in pubs that I wouldn’t have considered entering 4 years ago. Pubs that have adapted to the change by offering good food and activities have thrived. Pubs that did not respond to changed circumstances have not. The latter are at more risk from ridiculously cheap alcohol in supermarkets….which is one reason why I am in favour of minimum pricing for units of alcohol. And yes responsible governments do have to act on obesity – rising levels of diabetes and heart disease are hardly causes for liberal celebration

and just to really ruin your day (:-) perhaps you’d like to read another posting on my own blog: “

My reply:

“Dear Stephen – thank you taking time from your busy schedule to reply to my comment..

But actually .. It’s not “my day” you are ruining – it’s “my party”

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Ed Miliband’s tuition fees policy would favour people on £72k pa

By Julian Harris
September 27th, 2011 at 6:30 am | Comments Off on Ed Miliband’s tuition fees policy would favour people on £72k pa | Posted in education, Government, Labour

Liberal think tank Centre Forum has been busy crunching some numbers, and their findings don’t make happy reading for Labour’s seemingly-doomed leader.

Ed Miliband has made a big socalist play of his alleged plans to force nasty bankers to subsidise cheaper degrees for the bright teenage children of  hard-working families.

Yet through its complexities, Miliband’s plan would typically benefit “graduates in their fifties earning £72,500”.

The study says: “Virtually no one in the bottom half of the earnings distribution, and virtually no one under the age of 35, will stand to gain from Labour’s plan.”

The policy of lumping further taxes on the financial sector “will be harmful during a period of economic recovery”.

It also adds: “Given the way that the student loan system works, the majority of the gains are illusory – what government gives on one hand, it takes back on the other.”

Indeed. Taking with one hand to give back (less) with the other. Nice to know someone else has noticed that.

Anyway, it looks like Our Vince is happy with the report:

“I would urge anyone attracted to Labour’s proposals to read this very informative analysis,” Vince said. “It makes clear that the policy only benefits wealthier, older graduates, and it exposes Labour’s claim that they want to help young people as completely false.”

You can read the report BY CLICKING HERE .

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The fightback starts here…

By Angela Harbutt
July 15th, 2011 at 11:22 am | 2 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, Personal Freedom, UK Politics

Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire, UK, is a small market town, with a long history and a serious claim to ownership of the term ‘cock and bull story’. At the height of the great coaching era, when Stony Stratford was an important stopping-off point for mail and passenger coaches travelling between London and the North there was much rivalry between the two main coaching inns – The Cock and The Bull -the two inns fighting to see which could furnish the most outlandish and scurrilous travellers’ tales…..

You might be forgiven therefore for thinking that the latest news to emerge from this sleepy English town was a nostalgic revival of that old tradition. A PR man’s great idea to get Stony back onto the map with a story of outlandish proportions that people would sit up and take notice of this quintessential haven of Englishness. But it isn’t a stunt – though people are certainly taking notice.

Four years since the law to ban smoking in enclosed and semi-enclosed public buildings was introduced in England.. One English Parish –  the Parish Council of Stony – has now decided that they want to introduce a bylaw to ban smoking outdoors….in the streets, parks, and every other scrap of outdoor space that the Parish has control over.

The law to ban smoking indoors was never intended to go as far as it did. The original idea was to exempt private clubs and to let pubs provide smoking rooms. But egged on by the highly funded anti-tobacco lobby, Parliament’s paternalistic fervour took over and Parliament pushed through a blanket prohibition instead. That was a shameful act – one that a growing number of MPs feel, rightly, was not Parliament’s finest hour.

Now the people of Stony face an even more draconian ban, led by one Mr Bartlett, to ban all smoking outdoors. His arguments for imposing an outdoor ban would be funny were it not so serious…. He believes that the smoking ban would ‘make the environment cleaner’ and prevent ‘harm’ to children. He is quoted as saying :

 “Why should people have the freedom to smoke in my face, pass on diseases and spoil the environment? ….. When you walk through the high street in any town smoke is in your face and harming you and any children there…. Smokers then get their butt, which is full of saliva, and chuck it on the floor…It costs millions to clear street rubbish, and goodness knows what a child could pick up from them…”

I personally agree that the sight of cigarette butts on the streets is unsightly but on that basis you would ban every sweet, snack, soft drink and fast food sold in Britain. We already have the facility in this country to punish littering – just enforce them surely? As for the idea that puffing smoke into the open air can somehow “harm” children, or that discarded butts are spreading plague-like diseases throughout the UK is both ignorant and ridiculous. How such an ill-informed and inflammatory statement can be made by an elected official is simply beyond me.

This is NOT the free Britain we know and love.  As a nation we are still, thank goodness, proud of our individual freedoms and our tolerance of others. We are a nation of co-operative compromise – finding ways to accommodate the opinion and desires of the majority, without opressing the minority. 

Smokers have up until now largely accepted the laws laid down by Government. But you can only push a mild man so far – and no further. Smokers were bemused but now furious at the puritan’s increasingly outrageous accusations about the effects of smoking on others. They were surprised but now angry at the level of bile and hatred that these claims have incited. They were driven out of the pubs for reasons that were never proven nor clear – NOW they are to be cleared off the streets. They have rightly had enough.

Non smokers too are now joining the smokers in their fight. Many have come to realise from the rhetoric and growing hysteria of the puritans that once smoking has been “wiped from the face of the earth” these same people will turn their bile on drinkers, fatties, clubbers or any other section of society subject to their disgust and scorn.

So the fight back starts here. Smokers and non-smokers, businessmen and private citizens, young and old are taking to the streets this Saturday in Stony Stratford to say NO. We the people have for centuries past rubbed along together, altered our habits to accommodate changing social views, found happy compromise where differences emerge. We don’t need Government, local or national, to do it for us. And certainly not when it leads to people being driven off the streets based on daft ideas and groundless assertions. Nor will we allow to pass, unchallenged, measures that incite intolerance or victimisation of our friends and neighbours. And mostly we will not tolerate bullies – especially self-serving elected bullies who abuse their power.

If the bullies and puritans get their way in Stony Stratford we will see a ripple effect across the country – and they will be coming to your town and coming for you next. The fight starts here. Details of Saturday’s event..

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Charley Says… That’s one more Quango gone!

By Tom Papworth
June 24th, 2011 at 12:41 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Government, Nannying, Privatisation

News reaches us today that the Government is to close the Central Office of Information, the government marketing agency that has been making propaganda films since 1946.

As a Government Trading Fund, the CoI didn’t receive direct taxpayer funds; it made its money by selling services to other government departments and to local and regional authorities. However, this created an extra level of bureaucracy that was unnecessary and costly.

Frankly, I very much doubt that we need government to tell us not to play with teapots, that you can survive a 50 megatonne nuclear strike by turning off the gas and electricity or sitting under a bridge, and that you can lose your bird if you don’t know how to swim (bird, n. derogatory term used by Government for a women, usually portrayed as a ditzy girl who flits between partners depending on their ability to swim). An easy £525 million could be saved by cutting all government information films.

But if we really must make them, perphas we could turn to the private sector to make them more intesting.

The Government says... No more Charley!



Creating a coalition narrative

By Simon Goldie
May 16th, 2011 at 9:29 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in coalition, Conservatives, Government, Liberal Democrats

If the coalition partners accepts that they needs a separate narrative separate, and it is unclear if they do, how would you create such a story?

The story has to begin with the wishes of the voters. No party was given an overall majority and given the economic conditions the country faced in May last year, the parties came together to govern in the national interest. This is territory already well trodden by Nick Clegg and David Cameron. The trickier part is to find a way to explain the aspirations of the coalition while allowing for the narrative to show the different identities of both parties.

Both Clegg and Cameron have talked about changing the relationship between the State and the citizen.  On some policies they clearly agree while on others they have opposing views on the best way to remake the State.

A framework that allows the parties to discuss the coalition and explain to the electorate what it is attempting to achieve, may also be one that can give each party the space to distinguish itself. The remaking of the State could be the the thing that will drive that story.

There is a further narrative possibility here as well: the new politics. Cameron made it clear when he was in opposition that he wanted to move away from ‘Punch and Judy’ politics that characterises Westminster and turns off voters. A politics that recognises that not everyone agrees with everything, that no one person can have a monopoly on good ideas is one way of explaining why politicians who sit around a Cabinet table may argue but can work together too.