One speaker asked for a show of hands to see how many people in the room supported Councillor Bartlett's proposals. There were around 150 people in attendance and only 2 people raised their hands - one of those was Councillor Bartlett himself.
When it became apparent that nobody was prepared to second Councillor Bartlett's proposals, there were calls from some members of the public for him to also withdraw the proposal that had been moved to the 20th September. Other people were calling on Councillor Bartlett to resign from his position on the Town Council.
148 votes to 2. Ouch. The proposal may or may not re-emerge on 20 September. If it does, it looks certain to be rejected.
When Cllr Bartlett stood up to speak on his motions, he was heckled by the crowd on several occasions.
How very unfortunate.
Following this, several members of the public called for Cllr Bartlett's resignation.
Excellent. As I mentioned in a previous post, such was the degree of public interest that the meeting was held in the church, rather than the town hall. Hence this amusing announcement from the vicar:
This prompted Father Ross Northing, who later spoke out against a ban, to remind people where they were, and ask them to refrain from swearing and using the Lord's name in vain.
Sounds like a heated, if one-sided, debate. The majority made themselves heard, Bartlett was put in his place and all is right with the world.
What can we learn from this little episode? Firstly, I think, it tells us that we in Britain have not yet succumbed to the hypochondria and misanthropy of those few parts of California that have banned smoking outdoors. This is no great surprise—California is in a league of its own when it comes to health hysteria. The next phase of the anti-smoking crusade depends heavily on smokers being regarded as second- or third-class citizens and it's pleasing to see that this kind of bigotry is not thriving, at least in Stony Stratford.
Secondly, and more importantly, while Bartlett is a strange and risible fellow, his initiative brought out the true colours of the Department of Health and their astro-turf group ASH, both of whom came out in favour of the idea. Those of us who have been following the tobacco control movement have known where these people are heading for some time, but it is only in the last week that the public has seen beyond doubt that they are—properly defined—anti-smoking fanatics.
Most nonsmokers have not been adversely affected by the 2007 smoking ban and they are entirely indifferent to issues such as the display ban and plain packaging. Why wouldn't they be? Regardless of whether they buy into the passive smoking panic, it is easy for them to believe that the 2007 ban was a legitimate health and safety measure, albeit one that went too far.
But the outdoor ban is an entirely different animal. As brazen as they might be, none of the anti-tobacco extremists have been able to bring themselves to pretend that smoking out of doors poses a health threat to others. Bartlett's talk about germs on cigarette butts and children being burnt in the street has rightly been dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. Instead, the case was made on the openly authoritarian grounds that this is for your own good.
It hasn't worked—on the contrary, it has induced a wave of revulsion—but it is a watershed moment insofar at it marks the point when all pretense of this being about nonsmokers' rights was finally dropped and the paternalism became overt. I would expect ASH et al., to regroup and revert to the Fabian tactics of infringing liberties incrementally, but the cat is out of the bag. We know where they stand.