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Move over tobacco there’s a new bad boy in town..

By Angela Harbutt
February 2nd, 2012 at 3:10 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in health, Nannying, Personal Freedom

Tobacco has a rival for being the baddest guy in town.  Not alcohol. Not chocolate. Not Fat.  It’s sugar !

A report over on the BBC website tells us that  Prof Robert Lustig, from California Universitry (obviously), argues in the journal Nature that sugar is the new demon.  Sugar he says is as damaging and addictive as alcohol or tobacco and new policies such as taxes are needed to control soaring consumption of sugar and sweeteners. According to the professor

“It [sugar] meets all the criteria for societal intervention that alcohol and tobacco meet.”

The BBC report goes on to say… “The researchers acknowledge that they face “an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby.  But…with enough clamour for change, tectonic shifts in policy become possible”.

Can you see just how wonderfully well the anti-tobacco industry’s little tricks can be so easily adapted to other food stuffs . Tell people its “addictive”, talk about  “evil corporate companies” (Big Tobacco must more impressive than “powerful sugar lobby” but heh), create a “clamour for change” (that’ll be another two universties agreeing with the first one and all their mates making loud noises). And hey presto you have more than enough to convince the Government that it has to “take action”.

Any suggestion that tobacco control is not leading a huge pack of health lobby groupies, eager to apply any anti-tobacco  successes to their own particular cause and using much the same methods to achieve them, is just laughable.. These Sugar guys are practically using the whole anti-tobacco script unedited goddamnit!.

Of course this report is from a Californian University (I think the same one that had their dabs all over a tobacco plain packaging report some time ago). But don’t get too complacent here in the UK.

Dr Peter Scarborough of the British Heart Foundation,  has already come out today saying that taxing only one type of food could have unintended consequences, such as people cutting back on fruit and vegetables to save money for other purchases. But…(my emphasis)

“If you tax fat, salt and sugar, combined with subsidies for fruit and vegetables, you’ll get healthier diets.”

So that is a fat tax, a salt tax AND a sugar tax. When will it end? I guess when we all put our foot down and say no.

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Liberal Vision votes in LDV’s “Liberal Voice of the Year poll”

By Editor


Much has been said on the subject of  LDV’s “Liberal Voice of Year Poll”. Having read a good number of thoughts, on a range of blogs and posts, about who people think should (or shouldn’t) get the vote… we thought we might lob our two-penneth in.

It probably won’t surprise you to discover that we think it should be Mark Littlewood, founder of and former contributor to this very blog.

Why? Curiously NOT because he has easily been the most effective “free market freedom fighter” of the past year. That should perhaps count… but we think there are other reasons…

First off, as many of you know (and some may have forgotten) Mark is a true liberal. Not only has he done his turn working for Liberty, Mark co-founded, and was chief spokesman for, NO2ID for quite a stint. It is easy to forget that without the simply brilliant and relentless work of NO2ID (hats off here to Phil Booth and Guy Herbert as well) we would almost certainly have seen ID cards being rolled out by now. That alone should earn him some form of recognition.

And whilst on the subject of noble causes let us not forget his stint as chief spin doctor for the party. Not many people will know the extent to which he totally modernised the Lib Dem press office – recruiting and promoting some of the brightest and the best in the business (several of whom are still doing their bit for the party in government today), changing structures and practices that made party’s press operation one the best in the business.

But perhaps the real reason why we here at Liberal Vision think that he deserves to win is that he has, almost single-handedly, championed the cause of personal freedom. He has taken on ministers over regressive plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol; tackled lobbyists over the crippling smoking ban; called for the legalisation of drugs. He has demanded time and time again that adults should be treated as adults and not patronised; not spoken down to; not dismissed by those in power. He has been THE VOICE for all those people out there who believe that Government meddling, nannying or nudging is insane, frequently counter-productive and too often unfair – but have no opportunity to say so. He speaks for millions.

Of course we should not overlook his credentials as the “free market freedom fighter” – a term that truly reflects both the passion he has for the subject and the sheer amount of work he does (when is he NOT on the media somewhere or other?). He was without any shadow of any doubt THE free market Voice of 2011. We understand that not everyone shares his views. But what people can not deny is his willingness to engage in the intellectual argument surrounding economic liberalism.

Whilst here at LV, Mark was always insistent that whenever we ran into people who disagreed with our views, the only way to tackle it was to engage and discuss. Those of you that follow him on twitter today will know that he pursues that philosophy to this day. Liberal Democrats have always valued discussion and debate more than any other party. It is one of the things that distinguishes us from the other parties. And Mark must be one of the exemplary figures in doing just that. Yet another damn fine reason why he deserves the title of Liberal Voice of the Year.

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Health Secretary shows dash of common sense shock!

By Editor
December 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am | Comments Off on Health Secretary shows dash of common sense shock! | Posted in health, Nannying, Nudge Dredd

Common sense from Lib Dem Members… now common sense from the Health Secretary… What is the world coming to? A beady-eyed reader of the Independent On Sunday brings us word that the Health Secretary has come out loud and proud stating that minimum pricing on alcohol  is not the answer. Some of you will have noticed last week that a group of leading doctors and academics were publicly calling  for the Government to bring in a minimum price on our drinks. But this has apparently failed to impress Mr Lansley!

Talking about the impact of minimum pricing, Lansley said whilst higher prices for drink can reduce consumption “It is more likely to have a bigger proportionate impact on responsible drinkers who happen to be low-income households“. Yes sir. Exactly right. Why penalise the responsible hard-up drinkers for the actions of the irresponsible minority. But wait.. there’s more……He also is quoted as saying….

Are we really saying that because a bottle of vodka isn’t £8 but £12.50 they are not going to preload with a bottle of vodka for a night out when they are in clubs where they pay £5 for a drink? That is absurd. They are still going to do this binge drinking because that is a behaviour issue. We have got to do much more to focus on what this means.

Of course this does not per se mean that the Coalition has finally embraced it’s much-flaunted “liberal-self”. We do still await next years “alcohol strategy” – though quite what any Government thinks it is doing having an “alcohol strategy” is beyond us.

And who knows what the academics will come up with next to justify their tax-funded jobs.. I guess we can depend on them not to give up that easily.

After all, it was way back in 2003 that the British Medical Association first proposed levying a 17.5 per cent fat tax on high-fat foods. It was rejected back then on the grounds that the population would reject a ‘nanny state’. (Those were the days) . And whilst Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson has gone on the record recently saying that a fat tax is “not likely”  – the sheer pressure being applied by health lobby groups means that there remains the distinct possibility that tighter restrictions on advertising and promotion of food and drink will be introduced.

But that is for another day. Today we applaud the Health Secretary for NOT automatically reaching for the legislative route just because the academics demand it – recognising the complexity of the issues involved and, perhaps, the danger of unintended consequences of Government intervention.

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Australia’s new plain packaging law for cigarettes may have got Andrew Lansley off the hook

By Editor
November 21st, 2011 at 8:48 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, health, Nannying, Nudge Dredd


HAT TIP : Mark Littlewood (formerly of this parish) has posted an interesting article over on the Daily Mail today. It concerns tobacco plain packaging – but considers it from an angle we’ve not seen elsewhere. In it he suggests that the Australian government may have got Andrew Lansley at the Department of Health off the hook. How ?

“Well, he is a Cabinet minister in a government which claims to support deregulation….Fortunately, the Health Secretary does not need to marshal a whole series of arguments to rebut the case for plain packaging of tobacco (which would, in any event, be quite hard to do – as it is difficult to rebut a case based on no credible evidence whatsoever). He can cancel his promised consultation on the subject (originally anticipated to be launched in the next few weeks), thereby saving everybody a lot of time and effort. He can then sit back and wait for a couple of years and see what independent evidence suggests the impact to be in Australia, if the legal challenge from tobacco companies fails to reverse this intrusion into free expression.”

Click on the link above to read the whole article. It’s an interesting thought. Just how committed is this government to deregulation?

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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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