Friday, June 29, 2007

New Labour's class warfare

This piece of mine appears in today's The First Post.

The commentator Peter Hitchens once described the abolition of capital punishment as the most snobbish piece of legislation ever passed by parliament.
But it has a new rival: the government's draconian ban on smoking in public places, which comes into force in England this Sunday.
The middle classes, by and large, gave up smoking a long time ago and the restaurants they frequent are already smoke-free. But for the millions of working-class smokers, the ban will have a devastating effect.
Sunday's ban will not only lead to widespread pub closures - it will threaten the existence of two long-standing working-class institutions: the bingo hall and the working men's club.
Mecca, one of the largest operators of bingo halls, estimates half of its patrons are smokers; in Scotland, more than 20 bingo halls have closed as a result of last year’s smoking ban.
Working men's clubs will be similarly affected: Mick McGlasham, an official with the Club and Institute Union (CIU), which runs 228 clubs, predicts the ban will be "the last straw" which forces clubs to close.
Don't expect the government to be overly concerned. Unlike Old Labour, New Labour draws its inspiration not from the sociable atmosphere of working-men's clubs and bingo halls, but from an altogether more sanitised and less congenial environment: the 1990s America of focus groups and smoking bans.
Mick McGlasham says he feels "very bitter" that a Labour government has ended the right of working men to enjoy a smoke with their pint in their own private club. But this is no ordinary Labour government.
The middle-class New Labourites want us to believe that they are acting out of concern for public health. But it's hard to escape the conclusion that the real reason outgoing Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt and co despise smoking is that it is so 'Old' Labour.
The First Post has also got a terrific series of photographs of Britain in the days when smoking was a guilt-free pleasure enjoyed by the vast majority of the public.
Click here to have a look at the free, tolerant country we once were.

UPDATE: If, like me, you feel that the government's smoking ban is wrong, then here's an online petition. As I write, there is a last minute legal challenge to the ban: let's hope it is successful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are rumours that bingo is being banned in the US, is that true?
In the UK, bingo has suffered in recent months due to the ban on smoking in public places, causing smoking customers to either go outside for a cig and face the harsh cold (not a good move for the aged) or stay at home and not play, thus starving people like me wanting to Play Bingo UK Halls constantly. But banning bingo completely is ridiculous! It is a very mild form of gambling at the most! If you’re going to ban bingo then the lottery has to go too surely? Isn’t that gambling?
Bingo is a number game, based on pure luck, so really it’s not even similar to other gambling games such as poker and sports betting. It’s just like buying a lottery ticket just you have to get more numbers! So then why is it such a problem? Its just takes away the older generations entertainment while the younger generations indulge in perfectly “legal” things like DRUGS! Can they not see which the bigger problem is?