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Plain Packs: Let’s get graphic…

By Editor
March 12th, 2015 at 11:58 am | No Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

367 parliamentarians (of all colours ) voted in favour of plain packaging yesterday. Be it on their conscience. Let’s look forward. What can we the average punter do?

Well, we can vote them out come May 7th – not just on the issue of plain packaging – but to send a message once and for all that we are frankly fed up with soulless zombies doing what the Whips tell them to do; tired of them playing party politics at our expense; treating adults like children; or worse, disregarding the evidence because “they know best”.

In many cases however that isn’t going to cut it. The ludicrous voting system in this country deprives most of us from expressing our anger at the ballot box, where all too often our vote simply won’t count.

So here is a neat alternative….

YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU

Get yourself a cool cigarette case at www.smoke-screenz.com

The one above [from Smoke-screenz] was featured in a previous article. It was much-admired at a recent Forest event. The case in question was self-designed [you upload your own image to the website and hey presto you have pro choiceyour very own fashion statement]. Cases are made of hard plastic with a hinged flip top.The cases are a perfect snug fit for your cigarette pack, which you just slip inside. When you open the case lid, your pack lid will open with it. Easy access to your cigarettes. Takes seconds to slip out the old pack and replace with a new one. This very short [1 minute] video shows the process from start to finish.

Iwinstonf uploading an image is too much like hard work then simply buy one ready made. If cats, cricket, or zombies are your thing, they have a case for you. If you support Crystal Palace, the Gunners or Chelsea, they have one. If you want to shout out your patriotism; your support of freedom, or just love cute cuddly bears you are catered for. At £12.95 (inc postage) they cost, at most, the same as a couple of packets of cigarettes. They are superb value [they last forever] and look [and feel] very stylish.

Of course,  these boxes carry no health warnings “from the Government” – but politicians should be careful what they wish for when they start playing politics.

 What are they going to do? …Ban boxes next?

 

 

 

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Plain Packs Roll of Honour

By Editor
March 11th, 2015 at 6:42 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

MPs have today voted by a majority of 254 in favour of plain packaging of tobacco. 367 MPs were in favour with 113 against in the free vote. Here is the full list of those who voted against the Government.

LIB DEMS: Huge congratulations to Jeremy Browne and Simon Hughes (the only 2 Lib Dem MPs that opposed the measure). Inevitably some 37 Lib Dem MPs voted in favour of plain packaging (sigh) and it was particularly disappointing to see Ed Davey, Stephen Lloyd and Danny Alexander amongst those voting in favour of plain packs. David Laws and Norman Lamb appear not to have voted at all. Nick Clegg also missed, or chose not to, vote.

UKIP continue to look like the most liberal party in Westminster. Both Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell stood up to big nanny.

LABOUR: Three Labour MPs had the courage of their convictions opposing plain packs – Stephen Hepburn, Alan Meale and Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South).

DUP: Two of the Democratic Unionist Party MPs voted against. They were Ian Paisley Junior, and Sammy Wilson.

CONSERVATIVE: A very respectable 104 Conservative MPs voted against plain packs. Here’s the list. Good to see so many from the 2010 intake on the list. Bodes well for the future…

Adams, Nigel
Amess, David
Baker, Steve
Baldwin, Harriett
Bebb, Guto
Bellingham, Henry
Bingham, Andrew
Bone, Peter
Bradley, Karen
Brady, Graham
Bray, Angie
Bridgen, Andrew
Burley, Aidan
Burns, Conor
Chope, Christopher
Clarke, Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Coffey, Thérèse
Collins, Damian
Davies, David
Davies, Glyn
de Bois, Nick
Dinenage, Caroline
Djanogly, Jonathan
Doyle-Price, Jackie
Drax, Richard
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Elphicke, Charlie
Evans, Jonathan
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mark
Fox, Liam
Francois, Mark
Fuller, Richard
Garnier, Edward
Garnier, Mark
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Gummer, Ben
Halfon, Robert
Hands, Greg
Harper, Mark
Harrington, Richard
Hart, Simon
Hayes, John
Heaton-Harris, Chris
Henderson, Gordon
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hollingbery, George
Hollobone, Philip
Howarth, Gerald
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Gareth
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirby, Simon
Knight, Greg
Kwarteng, Kwasi
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Macleod, Mary
Main, Anne
McCartney, Karl
McIntosh, Anne
McVey, Esther
Metcalfe, Stephen
Mills, Nigel
Morris, David
Mosley, Stephen
Murray, Sheryll
Neill, Robert
Nuttall, David
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Parish, Neil
Pawsey, Mark
Percy, Andrew
Pincher, Christopher
Prisk, Mark
Redwood, John
Rees-Mogg, Jacob
Robathan, Andrew
Rosindell, Andrew
Skidmore, Chris
Spencer, Mark
Stevenson, John
Stewart, Bob
Stewart, Iain
Sturdy, Julian
Syms, Robert
Truss, Elizabeth
Tyrie, Andrew
Uppal, Paul
Walker, Charles
Wallace, Ben
Watkinson, Angela
Wheeler, Heather
Whittaker, Craig
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill

UPDATE: Simon Clark has listed the “Conservative” MPs who voted in favour of plain packs.. [click here] Come May 7th, you know what to do…

Shameful: Cameron gags MPs

By Editor
March 10th, 2015 at 3:05 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

So, the vote on plain packaging of tobacco is going to happen tomorrow – Wednesday (and by sheer coincidence – or not – “No Smoking Day”).

It is hard to understand how this policy ever got to the voting stage. It did not appear in any major poliresponses to govt consultation 2012tical party’s 2010 manifesto; the Government’s “independent” evidence review, though undertaken by advocates of the policy, admitted that the evidence available couldn’t predict the likely impact of plain packaging; the Government’s 2012 “public” consultation reported that of the  665,989 public responses, 427,888 opposed the policy; the much shorter second consultation in 2014, received 136,404 public responses, of which 99% were STILL opposed to the policy; the real evidence from Australia (the only country to have introduced this policy to date – December 2012) shows that tobacco sales actually increased post the introduction of plain packaging; the UK is obliged by the EU to introduce larger health warnings (amongst other things) in 2016 anyway.

Despite all of that, (and more), for what are clearly and solely political reasons, David Cameron has decided that one of the last acts of this government is to pass this legislation.

Not only that, he has decided to gag parliament:

“Tory whips, in charge of party discipline, have decided that Wednesday’s vote [on plain packaging] will be conducted without debate on slips of paper.”

Conservative MP Nick de Bois is reported to have said that the lack of any chance for a debate on the floor of the Commons was “regrettable”.

“With no credible assessment of the threat from increased counterfeit tobacco, no credible assessment of the cost to the public purse through legal claims and little evidence to show this policy will actually reduce smoking it’s regrettable that the full House can’t debate this proposal”.

“Regrettable” is putting it mildly, but full marks to him for speaking out.

Likewise, Sir Gerald Howarth, former defence minister, who also spoke out against the gagging :

“This is extremely damaging – we cannot push this controversial measure through the Commons when so many Conservatives are opposed.”

The excuse given for no debate is that the legislation is not primary legislation, so the Government can have them scrutinised  rubber-stamped by a “legislation” committee [1], rather than fully debate by the whole House.

Sure, you “CAN” have the legislation looked over by a committee filled to the rafters with those advocating the policy, rather than offer a full debate in parliament, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.last chance saloon

All in all it’s been pretty shameful. David Cameron should hang his head in shame. Not just for the gagging of elected members of parliament from debating this policy, but for the whole damn process from beginning to end.

Democracy, what Democracy? No wonder people are disengaged with politics.

The die is cast on plain packaging – but we should still not let this pass without a fight. If you haven’t already done so, please email your MP now via Forest’s Last Chance Saloon microsite.

NOTES

[1] According to the Government, the Legislation Committee, held on 9th March 2015, was attended by the following – the vast majority having pledged their support to plain packaging long before this committee was convened – obviously.   Do go read the minutes taken – quite an eye-opener!

Chair: Roger Gale
Abrahams, Debbie (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
Barron, Kevin (Rother Valley) (Lab)
Berger, Luciana (Liverpool, Wavertree)(Lab/Co-op)
Brown, Mr Russell (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab)
Burstow, Paul(Sutton and Cheam)(LD)
Carmichael, Neil (Stroud)(Con)
Cunningham, Alex (Stockton North)(Lab)
de Bois, Nick(Enfield North) (Con)
Ellison, Jane (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health)
Howell, John (Henley) (Con)
Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
Jowell, Dame Tessa (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
Newton, Sarah (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (DUP)
Penrose, John (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury)
Stunell, Sir Andrew (Hazel Grove) (LD)
Wilson, Phil (Sedgefield) (Lab)
Wollaston, Dr Sarah (Totnes) (Con)
The following were “in attendance”
Burley, Mr Aidan (Cannock Chase) (Con)
Chope, Mr Christopher (Christchurch)(Con)
Cooper, Rosie (West Lancashire) (Lab)
Davies, Philip(Shipley)(Con)
Field, Mr Frank (Birkenhead) (Lab)
Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry (Bradford South)(Lab)
Watkinson, Dame Angela(Hornchurch and Upminster)(Con)
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Fun, facts and fag-packets at Forest event

By Editor
February 27th, 2015 at 11:21 am | No Comments | Posted in Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

The Hands Off Our Packs “Stop the Nonsense: Plain Speaking on Plain Packaging” event was held on Tuesday night. What a joy it was.MArk Littlewood southampton FC

All Forest shindigs are must-go-to events as far as we are concerned. They are lively and fun; the speakers are invariably excellent value; the alcohol flows; and the pavements/terraces/balconies are alive with smokers and non-smokers alike celebrating life, the universe and everything else.

This event was no less fun, informative and innovative than we have come to expect. We had intended to write up the event in  more detail, but Dick Puddlecote has pretty much said it all – so just go read his post.

[PS his added note was an eye-rolling moment..

“*An interesting note on David Cameron and his view of plain packs. He came out with a quip during yesterday’s PMQs which went something like this – “Now we are committed to plain paper packaging of cigarettes, it will give more space for the opposition to write their policies on”. Yep, it looks like David Cameron doesn’t have a first clue about the policy he is legislating on! “

Let us just add our salute to Simon Clark (Forest Director) for coming up with such an innovative format (8 or so quick fire speeches- each lasting no more than 2 or 3 minutes).

Hats off to our very own Angela Harbutt who kicked of the formal speeches delivering the plain facts from Australia and ending up with an ask that MPs “consider the facts – not the wishful fiction of state-funded lobby groups and self-serving Whitehall bureaucrats”.

We should also salute Mark Littlewood, formerly of this Parish, and now Director General of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs. Not only did he deliver a suitably rousing finish to the formal part of the evening, he managed to namecheck (yet again) his much-beloved Southampton Football Club!

Not without merit…(though he rarely needs an excuse in our experience).  He simply pointed out that he had acquired a (very robust and rather snazzy) “SaintsFC cig box” into which he drops his chosen cigarette pack. Given the interest in the room that evening , we suspect many more will be doing likewise (acquiring their own bespoke cig case – not necessarily creating a Saints FC one.)

Forest has promised to put a video of the speeches up on YouTube in the coming days. But here is a close up pic of the much-discussed cig case.

ML cig case

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What if Nick Clegg loses his seat at the election?

By Angela Harbutt
February 26th, 2015 at 1:48 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

I read an interesting article on Nick Barlow’s blog a few days ago, posing the question, “What if Nick Clegg loses his seat at the election”.

In the natural order of things, the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party, the RT Hon Sir Malcolm Bruce MP would become “acting leader” until the party could set up and run a full leadership contest.  But the problem, staring us all in the face is that Malcolm is standing down at this election. Come May 8th, the Lib Dems may well not have a Leader or a Deputy Leader.

In light of the Deputy Leader’s decision not to stand for re-election, it is a question I too have been considering in recent weeks. After all, Nick’s Sheffield Hallam seat is by no means “safe” and the distinct possibility of yet another coalition of some sort looms large, given the current polling figures. Like Nick Barlow, I have no idea if the Leader will lose his seat, nor indeed do I have perfect insight into how the political landscape will look come May 8th. It is entirely possible, given the lamentable state of the Labour Party and the utterly appalling personal ratings of its hapless leader, that the Conservative Party will, in the weeks to come, surge ahead and end up with a clear (if small) majority.

Nick Barlow and I are not alone. Earlier this month, Matthew Norman wrote in the Independent that (a) “it is likelier than ever that the Liberal Democrats will retain the balance of power, even with a massively shrunken parliamentary presence” and (b) ” there is a serious chance that the Lord Haw-Haw of tuition fees will lose his student-laden seat.” He too asked the inevitable question. If Nick does lose his seat

“who will enter coalition talks as Lib Dem interim leader, and how might that person be chosen?”

Just in case people think that the Lib Dems are total idiots, the Lib Dems have an appointed 2015 negotiating team, for better or worse, consisting of Danny Alexander MP, Steve Webb MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, David Laws MP and Baroness Sal Brinton (President of the British Liberal Democrats). Of course, 4 of the 5 negotiators are MPs seeking re-election. Come May 8th it may be that 2 or 3 of these are likewise searching for new lines of work. Can a negotiating team really go into battle with 4 out of 5 of them now outside of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party? Well that kind of depends on the strength of the leader.

So the question we must address is who does this team report to? Who will be the Leader if Nick does lose Sheffield Hallam?

Nick Barlow suggests a kind of Lib Demmy coup d’état – whereby those Lib Dem MPs still standing, meet up pretty pronto (Friday) and quickly elect a leader (or “acting leader”) amongst themselves, with the Federal Executive meeting a day later (Saturday) to “authorise” the Parliamentary Party’s choice. He argues, quite reasonably, that this procedure could be adopted in a case where force majeure applies (misplacing both your Leader and Deputy Leader does surely count as force majeure).

I don’t agree with Nick Barlow’s proposal. Sure, I reckon that all Lib Dem MPs can (and probably will) congregate in one place on Friday 8th – but whether they can agree on a new leader in a matter of minutes or hours is another issue all together. And please NO NO NO to getting the Federal Executive to “authorise” anything!

But at least Nick Barlow has the cojones to put forward an idea.

Think about it. Imagine a scenario where, in the wee small hours of May 8th, it becomes clear that the Conservatives are going to be 20 seats short of the finishing post. David Cameron surely gets onto the phone to Nick and asks if the Lib Dems are willing to open negotiations of some kind. In Nick Barlow’s scenario Nick will have to say “sorry Dave, I lost my seat. I reckon that by teatime the Parliamentary Party should have elected a new interim leader – fingers crossed – but I don’t know who that will be – do you mind hanging on for a while whilst they sort things out. Good luck, someone will get back to you”.

Later that day, and after much wrangling, an Acting Leader is selected by the Parliamentary Party – but wait, the Lib Dems still can’t open negotiations because the Federal Executive haven’t endorsed it yet!

OK, you say, but we have a negotiating team that can get to work on Friday morning. No they can’t. If Nick has lost his seat, he can’t send them in, and without a leader they have no authority. No leader (Labour or Conservative) worth his salt is going to agree that his party sits down with what amounts to a random bunch of “Lib Dem folks”, of which only one or two are actual members of the Parliamentary Party. The Conservatives may as well approach 20 individual Lib Dem MPs one by one and see if they can get to the magic 20 or so required.

In this option, at best the world is put on hold whilst the Lib Dems scramble around “trying to find a leader” and are rightfully ridiculed by the media, rival political parties and the wider public as they do so. At worst the Lib Dems are by-passed as Mr Cameron sees if another solution is available in short order – one that perhaps involves the DUP/UKIP (and maybe a handful of Lib Dem MPs with the courage of their convictions to get on with it).

Taking into account how the real world operates (something I know many Lib Dems are loathed to do), I would like to offer up two further options if Nick loses his seat.

Option 1. Retain the elected Lib Dem leader – Nick Clegg- as acting leader during the course of any coalition negotiations and see the party through until a new leader and deputy leader can be found by due process. After all it will be his negotiating team (or what’s left of them) who may have to go into battle with the Conservatives or Labour, and who knows better the ins and outs of the system than him? Ok, it may break half a dozen Lib Dem constitutional clauses, but if this is a case where force majeure applies, I don’t think keeping Nick in charge has any less validity than a proposing to exclude the entire membership from the process. (See how Ed Miliband likes that one!). By the way, I reckon (though I am not a constitutional expert) that until either David Cameron or Ed Miliband goes to the Queen, Nick Clegg is still the Deputy Prime Minister of this country. But correct me if I am wrong.

Option 2. My preferred option. Technically the full title of the Deputy Leader is the “Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons” and is elected only by the Parliamentary Party (the MPs – no Federal Executive or other committee “authorisation” required). And yes, that person would become the “acting leader” in the event that the current leader was indisposed.

There is nothing to stop the Lib Dem MPs electing a new Deputy Leader at any point. Would it not make sense for the MPs to get together sooner rather than later to elect a new Deputy Leader? Someone who is likely to hold their seat; Norman Lamb, Tim Farron, or Alistair Carmichael, for example. (If these guys don’t get re-elected the “negotiating committee” will be the entirety of the remaining Lib Dem MPs).

OK OK I get that the media would have a field day if this was seen as a panic measure by the Lib Dems to find possible stand-in for Nick in the dying days of the election campaign. But it need not be managed that haphazardly. The lovely Malcolm Bruce can make this happen all by himself.

If Malcolm should independently decide to stand down as Deputy Leader, say as, or just before, Parliament rises (end of March), the Lib Dems would have no choice but to elect a new Deputy Leader. This can be quick and easy and, providing MPs elect someone with a darned good chance of retaining their seat, all would surely be peachy? This person then has a good few weeks – not hours – to prep him or herself on what may be required in the event that Nick does lose his seat and one of the two main parties come calling. I am sure there would still be some cat-calling in the media – but this could be easily answered, and everyone would move on.

Whether you like one of my options or Nick Barlow’s option, at least they are options. The question we should all be asking, I think, is why on earth the Lib Dem hierarchy seems not to have tackled this before now? The Lib Dems have more committees than you can shake a stick at – surely one of them should have come up with a solution?  It is not like we haven’t known for some time that the Deputy Leader is stepping down, or that Nick may lose his seat.

The inevitable response to this question from within the Lib Dems has been to say “Please, please don’t let’s waste time on all this, just get out and deliver some leaflets or do phone canvassing“. Like Nick Barlow I find “the ‘don’t think, just deliver leaflets’ mantra” ridiculous. It is exactly why this party is dying on its feet.

Because this issue DOES matter. The leader, or acting leader, of the Lib Dems may well be in a position to determine who the next Prime Minister of this country will be. If that is not important, what is? A great many voters, me included, want to know which one of two people will be charge of any possible negotiations BEFORE they vote, not after. And we certainly want to be reassured that a vote for the Lib Dems is not a vote for chaos on May 8th as they rush around trying to find someone take charge.

If Liberal Democrat Party can’t tell us what its plans are to solve this relatively simple problem – worse, by its silence, show that it has no plan, why should anyone trust them to be part of any government?

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