|A bigot yesterday|
Most readers will by now be familiar with the name of Stony Stratford, the small Buckinghamshire town that has hit the headlines thanks to a loony (pictured left) who wants to use the force of law to ban that which displeases him.
His name is Paul Bartlett and he suffers from some sort of pathological hatred of smokers which appears to stem from issues with his pipe-smoking father whom he describes as "disgusting."
His proposed ban on smoking in the streets of Stony does not seem likely to become law, largely because Bartlett himself is seen as a risible figure even within his own party. He confirmed this impression on TalkSport last night when, having bottled the opportunity to debate the issue with Dick Puddlecote, he turned up—tired and emotional—and fulfilled every stereotype of the foaming-at-the-mouth, anti-smoking fanatic. I am still none-the-wiser as to what his reasoning is for the ban, other than that he doesn't like smoking. That, however, is enough these days.
Dick Puddlecote is leading a delegation to Stony Stratford tomorrow to give Councillor Bartlett a figurative one-figured salute and I will be joining him. I hope you will too, because there are three reasons why a line needs to be drawn in the sand.
Firstly, the fact that the proponent of this piece of draconia is a Napoleonic fantasist with the charisma of a dead haddock does not mean that outdoor smoking bans could not be successfully introduced by individuals who possess a more convincing mask of sanity and better public relation skills. As indeed they have. New York fell to the prohibitionists with barely a squeal after Michael Bloomberg took his obsession to a new level. Several parts of California have done the same thing.
Secondly, the Department of Health's anti-tobacco front group ASH has given its blessing to the ban. This tells us—should we be in any doubt—where they're heading.
Thirdly, Bartlett has opened an Overton Window and made the unthinkable appear merely unlikely. This shifting of the sands is a common tactic for prohibitionists. You may recall the Lancet editorial of 2003 which called for the total prohibition of tobacco sales in the UK. Since the Lancet cannot seriously have believed this to be a practical possibility, it can only be viewed as an attempt to extend the parameters of public discourse. By discussing the impossible, it made the previously unthinkable option of a smoking ban in pubs seem plausible. It made a total smoking ban almost seem like a compromise.
It's an old trick but it works because normal, decent people are naturally inclined towards compromise. On last night's radio show, for example, most callers were appalled by the prospect of an outdoor smoking ban, but some were prepared to consider designated outdoor smoking areas—ie. segregation—as a 'compromise'. I venture to suggest that such a move was not on the cards before Slaphead Bartlett opened his mouth.
The problem with compromising is that it only works when both sides are normal, decent people. It doesn't works with fanatics because the deranged never stop. Not interested in finding a reasonable solution, they seek only to impose their will. It is their nature to eat away at tolerance and decency in society. They cannot be reasoned with. They need to be reminded that they are not normal.
Details of the Stony Standoff are here.