Posts Tagged ‘smoking ban in cars’

Our politicians are impotent in the face of events they cannot control

12/02/2014, 06:34:14 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It must feel like Groundhog Day in Whitehall. Ministers are now obliged to pay homage to the residents of Somerset on a daily basis. So they come, all wellies and wax jackets, with suitably solemn faces for the now perfunctory photo opportunity.

There they stand, knee deep in stagnant water, to receive their ritual ear-bashing from angry flood victims, unable to offer any reassurances about when normality will resume or even give a guarantee that the same thing will not happen again. As David Cameron put it at his press conference yesterday, these are the worst floods in that part of the country for 250 years. Translation: ‘I’m at the mercy of events, what can I be expected to do?’

But at least David Cameron can venture out to the flooded south-west of England. He dared not visit Scotland to deliver a keynote speech making the case for the Union last Friday, such is the toxicity of the Conservative brand north of the border. Instead, the Prime Minister delivered his call to “save the most extraordinary country in history” from the velodrome of the Olympic Park in London. A place, then, where people whizz round and round but don’t actually get anywhere.

Apt, perhaps, given the impotence of our politicians this week.

Despite their Canute-like assurances, even small changes in our climate pattern quickly overpower both our flood defences – and ministers’ good intentions. Adapting our infrastructure to meet this challenge is horrendously costly, which is why it has never been adequately done.


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Smoking ban brings out Labour’s worst instincts

11/02/2014, 10:19:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

So how will the new ban on smoking in a car while children are passengers actually work? Will traffic cameras scour the motorway lanes for the odd plume of cigarette smoke? Will there be spot checks on ashtray contents? Will under-18s be expected to give evidence against their nicotine-addicted parents? And why, if smoking in front of your children in a car is now deemed so heinous, does the ban not extend to the home?

Last night, MPs from all parties enthusiastically queued up to vote the measure through by 376 to 107, as they once did to push through legislation banning dangerous dogs and creating the Child Support Agency. That’s how received opinion works.

For Labour, support – unquestioning support – for this measure sends out the signal that big government, primary legislation and encroaching personal freedom remain, all too often, the first, second and third instincts of the party. Labour has, quite frankly – and entirely justifiably – a lousy reputation when it comes to defending personal liberty.

Left to its own devices, the last Labour government would have forced each of us to carry identity cards around to prove we are who we say we are at the whim of every enquiring public official, while allowing the authorities to lock-up someone without charge or trial for up to three months.

Worse, it shows yet again that any gesture cause or pressure group can overwhelm the party’s critical faculties (in this case, in the august shape of the Royal College of Physicians). Whatever happened to persuasion, or good old-fashioned Fabian gradualism as a means to bringing about change?


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