Tuesday 27 June 2017

The desperation of ASH

Action on Smoking and Health's Deborah Arnott has always believed in the power of repetition (see photo), but has become particularly robotic in the last 18 months.

For example, here she is commenting in the ridiculous Guardian article that I discussed at the weekend...

'We need an ambitious new government strategy to be put in place immediately if deaths from smoking are to decline as fast in the next decade as they have in the last.'

And here she is a couple of weeks ago when the new smoking prevalence figures were released:

'A new tobacco control plan was expected to be published last year. It is now well overdue, and must be a priority for the new Government.'

And here she is in December last year when another set of smoking prevalence figures came out...

'We have made great progress in reducing smoking, the leading cause of premature death and disability in this country. But we can’t rest on our laurels if we are to continue to drive down smoking rates.  We need the Government to implement the promised new tobacco control strategy without further delay.'
All we ever here from ASH at the moment is the 'urgent need' for a new tobacco control strategy.

They have been getting increasingly vocal about this since December 2015 when the previous plan expired. In January, they got a bunch of doctors and 'public health professionals' to write a letter to the BMJ pressing for a new plan and Arnott said 'we need the government to implement the promised new tobacco control strategy without further delay'.    

The following month, ASH got their puppet all-party group to ask the government to publish a new tobacco control plan ASAP. I can't remember seeing a quote from ASH in the last 18 months that hasn't included a call for a new strategy to be published 'urgently' or 'without delay'.

The strange thing is that ASH don't have many policies they want the government to introduce. Insofar as they have an agenda, it involves more funding for themselves and their fellow extremists. To that end, they are keen on the unworkable tobacco levy, but that is about the limit of their ambitions.

You'd think they would be lobbying for a raft of measures to be included in the new plan, rather than simply demanding that a new plan - any plan - be published. Why are they so concerned about the delay?

The answer is obvious when you consider what their government grants are supposedly earmarked for. Ever since people started noticing the scam of ASH being given unrestricted grants to lobby the government, the Department of Health has been careful to give them restricted grants for specific purposes.

In recent years, their grants have been for 'supporting the Tobacco Control Plan for England'. This is very vague and, as far as I can see, still amounts to taxpayer-funded campaigning (see this post for details), but it makes it look as if ASH are contractors of some sort.

In their latest set of accounts, ASH make this rather defensive statement about the £150,000 they have taken from unwitting taxpayers:

(The claim that they have never used their Section 64 grant for campaigning is untrue - in the past, they have admitted the money has been used for 'media advocacy and lobbying'.)

They further claim that their role in 'supporting' the plan involves providing 'factual information' (sic!), 'resources' and, er, 'support'.

As fig-leafs go, it's pretty feeble, but it seems to be enough to fool the authorities into thinking that the money is not being spent on advocacy.

But ASH are now in a quandary. There hasn't been a Tobacco Control Plan for England for a year and a half. If there's no plan, how can ASH support it? And if there's nothing to support, why is the government giving them so much of our money? What have they been doing with the £250,000 or so that they have been given by the state in the last year and a half?

It is only a matter of time before someone asks these questions. That, I suspect, is why ASH are getting so hot and bothered at the moment.


ASH's poodle Alex Cunningham of ASH's all party group is at it again today:

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