It bothers me that I pay £17 road tax for a 125cc scooter that takes up very little road space, weighs 125 kgs and returns about 90 mpg in the real world while emitting about 65 gr of CO2. On the other hand many car drivers pay nothing at all for road tax because their cars produce less than 100 gr of CO2. To me it seems all this talk about environmental responsibility is little more than rhetoric because when looked at for getting to and from work, or short journeys, a small engined scooter - from a pollution standpoint - is easily the better option.
I'm not looking to change the world on this, just even things up. However if I wanted to get political, I'd seek some sort of support - and the first thing I'd look at is getting a survey going. One thing I wouldn't do is place it on a website that opposes, criticizes and rejects the smoking ban (this place). Nor would I pay to put it out as a stand alone poll via YouGov or such. No I'd probably chose a free site like SurveyMonkey, because they let you tailor it to your target audience. Then I'd advertise it via some of the more popular scooter and motorcycle forums. I'd probably let the British Motorcyclists Federation as well as the larger motorcycle dealers know about it because that way I'd be far more likely to get the result I want, which is zero road tax for all small capacity scooters and motorbikes.
If I managed to do that successfully and had big numbers then I'd want to publicize it to the world. I mean the entire survey with all the questions asked and all the filters I put in and all the profiles of all the people who responded. But if I didn't get the figures I wanted, then I'd concoct a survey about something green or ecological - and because I know that many of the people who complete these surveys are two faced gits who drive people carriers, SUV's and such, then I'd insert a question that's just a tad nebulous like, "Do you think all vehicles should pay road tax at a rate of 50 pence per gr of CO2, or retain the present system and exempt all vehicles that emit less than 100 gr of CO2?" and that should result in a vote in favour of my pet beef.
Then I could do a press release or even a presentation where I could say, hand on heart, that x percent of all the people surveyed agree that all motorcycles and scooters that emit less than 100 grammes of CO2 should be exempt from paying any road tax. No need to show the surveys, just sit there with a straight face knowing I'd asked the question and x number of people clicked on the correct answer.
Easy when you know how it's done and Junican has sussed out that's exactly what tobacco control have been doing for many years (1). Quietly, insidiously, they've been compiling surveys that are spurious, then inserting questions that have absolutely no bearing on the subject heading (2).
And they tailor them to the intended audience - and the pretty way of saying that is "weighting". Plain packaging has been a big issue for several years and to support their reasons to introduce them, Cancer Research UK claim to have conducted a survey (3). They say on their site that:
"All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,834 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 14th January 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)."
then go on to give their findings:
Strongly support 46%, Tend to support 26%, TOTAL SUPPORT 72%.
Tend to oppose 8%, Strongly oppose 7%, TOTAL OPPOSE 15%.
Don't know 13%
That's pretty heady stuff and I'd expect to see the entire survey laid out for public scrutiny. Well... no it's not, so I checked YouGov for any poll conducted on behalf of CRUK. Again zip. Or between the dates they mentioned. Nada. So I checked on the two photos they claim to have had on their survey (because they'd still be on the images pages). Again, naff-all.
However they went on to state they had knowledge of the voting intentions of the 1834 people who responded to their survey. That's not on their web site, it's only been quoted by a couple of newspapers and the Guardian does so thus (4):
"Seventy-five per cent of potential Conservative, 75 per cent of Labour, 80 per cent of Liberal Democrat and 64 per cent of UKIP voters all said they backed making tobacco packs plain."
That strikes me as rather insulting, especially as those of us with an interest in UKIP know that on the 28th of January 2015 they posted on their web site 100 reasons to vote for them (5), with numbers 41 and 42 stating unambiguously:
41. Amend the smoking ban to promote choice for ventilated smoking rooms.
42. Opposing plain packs for cigarettes, which has had no impact where trialled.
No one forced them to include either statement, in fact they've altered their original public stance from September 2014, when they stated:
UKIP will amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas (6).
so they've removed the pubs and clubs restriction. I can only assume the reason they've done this is because it works extremely well in the Netherlands and allows leisure facilities like casinos, bingo halls and hookah lounges to do so as well. These sectors know full well there's a colossal pent up demand - and from an economic standpoint anything that results in increased spending, especially where there's a large tax take (like casinos and bingo and bookmakers), is to the benefit of all.
I suspect both measures help differentiate them from the tired, boring, conformist mainstream parties. Furthermore UKIP, having in their midst a far higher proportion of candidates with practical business experience, know full well that they need people to continue to want to vote for them. So if they wish to remain populist and slightly quirky and wish to remain in office, the last thing they'll do, should they have the power to make these changes is let down smokers, small shopkeepers, graphic designers and those involved in the import, distribution and retailing of tobacco. Nor the pubs, country hotels, bingo halls, casinos, hookah places and social clubs that'll open smoking rooms within minutes of any change of legislation.
Nor does it seem to be the case with the rank and file of the Tory Party - as Frank Davis points out (7).
What I see is little more than a risible bare faced sham that's designed to show support where very little exists, as well as a blatant attempt to intimidate some politicians. There is no stand alone poll, there never was. And the only thing that differs between their claims in 2006/7 - that 70% of all smokers want to quit - is they're so confident that no one will question them that they've upped it to 72% to 80%, depending on those they seek to influence.
I found it amusing when I came across another plain pack poll on YouGov; it's one of those irksome things they make you complete when you log on to their site, so completely random. It was conducted on the 23 January 2015 - ten days after the Cancer Research UK survey - and shows a rather different picture, with only 53% showing support for plain packs (8). Yet I must point out that most people genuinely believe what they mean by plain packs are just Plain Jane Vanilla. Show them the photographs they really intend putting on the packets and, as Dick Puddlecote pointed out, they're nowhere near as enthusiastic with support at a miserly 36% (9).
So it will continue. Questions designed to get the correct answer and slotted into polls and surveys that have nothing to do with health or smoking. The trouble is they know perfectly well that any open survey will come to our attention very rapidly, whether it's some silly thing in the Mail or Sun, or any newspaper - and we've got the networks, numbers and incentive to plaster it with the wrong answers. Nope, it's your usual shadowy group trying to look popular and relevant.
However there is another way to present a caring veneer while intending to control: get another outfit to do a survey for you. That was the technique used Alex Cunningham when he put forward his private members bill to ban smoking in cars where children are present. He used a Mumsnet (10) readership survey as justification! Oh the tricks they try!
We're about to hit the 9th anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland (26th March) and later this year the English will log their 8th. By now I'd have thought the overwhelming majority of people would have become so accustomed to having only smoke-free facilities that they'd be only too happy to maintain the status quo and ensure there was no indoor place at all, anywhere, for people who smoke. Err... not so.
The Institute of Economic Affairs commissioned a poll in September 2014 that included more than 4,000 people whom they consider to be a representative sample of the general population in the UK. One question they asked was whether:
"Owners of pubs and private members clubs should be allowed to have a private room for people to smoke in if they want to."
And surprise, surprise the headline figure for the UK as a whole was 51% agreed, 35% didn't and 13% didn't know. Even here in Scotland the figures were 48% said yes, 42% said no and 10% didn't know. Looking at it in greater detail, there's a distinct skew with people aged between 25 and 65 as well as those from the working classes all in favour of allowing smoking rooms. That's understandable because they're the people who frequent pubs and social clubs. That's not to say those in the upper classes are totally against the notion, they too favour the introduction of separate smoking rooms, though by a smaller margin.
There should be something for tobacco control to point to, after all no one aged 24 or less has any adult experience of people smoking in any enclosed public space. However even those aged between 18 and 24, while slightly ambivalent on the matter, still come out in their favour with 40% saying yes, 31% saying no and a very large minority - 29% - saying they're not sure.
What seems to be the mood of the country is they support additional factual information on food and booze packaging, but they're absolutely dead set against taxing them. And we're not at all in favour of top down diktats from pressure groups or politicians, with a whacking 70% of all respondents in agreement with the statement:
"Individuals should be responsible for their own lifestyle choices and the government should not interfere."
And that's very encouraging indeed especially as, with this one, fully 50% of all those 18 to 24 agreed and only 20% disagree.
The entire poll is here (11). And the pages of greatest interest to smokers are 6 and 7.
Now it would be very easy to take a swipe at the leaders and strategists of the 3 established political parties, but that would be a cop-out. Elections are won or lost on a range of issues and no one of consequence would dare risk the inevitable backlash from tobacco control, nor from those within their party hierarchy by suddenly becoming responsive to voter sentiment in the area of smoking rooms. Quite simply they're hamstrung. Miliband, Cameron and Clegg may be the butt of many jokes, but they're quite ruthless with anyone in their party who crosses them.
And many in the English and Scottish parliaments are themselves in the camp of those who don't want smoking rooms anywhere, and do want to interfere in lifestyle choices. Indeed some of them helped create, and are happy to financially nourish, these pressure groups. They may not be a party to all the fraud taking place and it's fair to assume that many of them want to remain one step removed from the lies, duplicity, mis-allocation of funds, abuse of power (12) and waste that's the hallmark of tobacco control.
Previous elections have shown that a large percentage of the voting public prefer to shun the voting booth, whilst others vote with a virtual clothes peg on their nose, choosing the least repugnant option. Politicians are hoping 2015 will be a re-run of past elections. They really have no other choice but depend on habit, nostalgia and apathy.
That's their problem and has been since they ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Increasingly our legislators are forced to follow instructions dictated by outside organizations that, in the case of the World Health Organization, are controlled by rich and powerful individuals who have hijacked it for their own ends; the eradication of tobacco, with all that entails. The fact many of those billionaires are dead and only live through foundations they created is an irony missed by many.
Yet the political process itself isn't very democratic at all. Many constituents are forced to vote for a candidate who's been put forward by the party of their choice simply because he or she helps fill the party quota for females, ethnic minorities and in some cases sexual orientation and religion. All too frequently they're not even local to that area, have little interest in the people who live there and most certainly won't rock the boat by pushing for development, jobs or housing in that constituency. To those politicians it's simply a job and their allegiances are to the party, not the people they're there to represent.
It's even worse for people we vote to the EU. With that election, run under Proportional Representation, we get to vote for a party then if they don't get to the 5% threshold the d'Hondt system kicks in and, like it or not, your vote gets allocated to whichever party the one you voted for has a reciprocal arrangement. Then you get you MEP, who's selected by the party hierarchy!
And because this is the norm in politics, they've been perfectly happy to see these politically correct ratios extended to the Board Room of many publicly listed companies. Even the BBC has been forced to continue the employment of old people primarily because of criticism by pressure groups, the mass media and strident MPs who've taken up the cause. We the shareholders or the viewing public don't get much of a look-in on any of this.
So to a large extent democracy's a sham and meritocracy's been replaced by mediocrity. But it doesn't stop at our shores; the EU's heavily into this with positions allocated by country. There we witnessed the ludicrous situation where the former Prime Minister of Slovenia put herself forward for a position that she knew nothing about and when rejected for being a manipulative incompetent, Slovenia drummed up a replacement within a couple of days. Nothing at all about the best person in Europe for the job, no it had to be the least objectionable from Slovenia to fill the post of Vice President for Energy Matters (13).
Similar situation with these supranational organizations like the UN, WHO, UNICEF, NATO, the World Bank and such. They too have their allocations, this time relative to the money pumped into them by member states. Jim Yong Kim is the President of the World Bank because he was appointed by the USA and is the right ethnicity. His bio states:
"A Korean American physician and anthropologist who has been the 12th President of the World Bank since July 1 2012. He was President of Dartmouth College from 2009 to 2012. He was formerly the Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a co-founder and executive director of Partners In Health."
So if there was any ambiguity about the influence of the Health Lobby, or the drawbacks of these supranational organizations, this appointee should dispel any doubts. What he knows about economics and finance ain't worth spit.
None of this is especially novel to mature adults. We know Ed Miliband was chosen by the trades unions who abused their "block vote". We know Ed Balls was up to his neck with the disastrous deal between the Co-op Bank and Britannia (14) - and that he received £50,000 from the Co-op, which he has no intention of returning. The Co-op connection, through the Co-operative Party isn't perhaps as widely understood, but it does help explain why they continue trading. They've got 31 MPs in the Labour Party, 18 in the House of Lords and a whole bunch of them in the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, yet they only had a grand total of 9000 members in 2011 (15)! Something to remember next time you visit your local Co-op, you're helping to finance this peculiar travesty.
And the Trades Union movement still calls the shots within the Labour Party, with 80% of the shadow cabinet receiving money from them (16). Mr. Miliband certainly knows how to work the system in his favour; £115,000 handed to him personally to 2013 and still counting, all paid for via membership dues irrespective of whether the union member cannot abide the Labour Party. As reported on 30 January 2015, the trades union Unite has donated £1.5 million to Labour's election campaign, with a host of strings attached (17). And to add insult to injury, those MPs sponsored by the trades unions have set up their own separate sub-group with... surprise, surprise, no cry for donations or funding (18)!
But trades unions are not the preserve of the working class. The British Medical Association is a trades union for doctors (19) and they've been getting involved in direct action. They contacted all rail companies and most bus companies to ban e-cigarettes within the vehicle and on platforms with their reasons available here (20). The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is a "British professional body" that's little more than a trades union all prettified because it's restricted to qualified doctors (who have passed their exams). They went way beyond their charter when they set up ASH in 1971 and seem extremely proud of what they've achieved (21). ASH no longer receives funding from the RCP, their main donors are Cancer Research UK and The British Heart Foundation (22) as well as the Lottery (23).
But it's unfair to expect many people aged 18 to 24 to pay much heed to what's going on in politics. Whether they're going the unskilled route, the artisan after apprenticeship route or the university route, they're all aware of the fact they'll be expected to work until they're at least 73 before they can retire - and they'll have to support an increasing number of pensioners during what will be a 55 year career. As of 2012 it took 320 workers to finance 100 pensioners and in only 25 years that burden will fall on 275 people of working age. If this trend continues, by 2062 it'll be down to 250. This is one very serious obligation.
For sure it's not a phenomenon that's unique to Britain; many countries in Europe show similar figures, with Japan forecasting a gradual decline in population for several decades. This is one reason why governments have been so keen to encourage immigration and to throw all sorts of bribes and perks to people to nudge them to breed. So this generation of young people face a tough set of challenges; there's a massive blockage at the top of the age curve, where older people are being encouraged to continue working for as long as they like, while there's huge competition for any half reasonable job, not just from British applicants, but also from extremely well qualified graduates from elsewhere in the EU.
Many of the wishy-washy, not especially well qualified and not especially ambitious are finding they're having to work at jobs they don't really want, or having to do agency or zero hours contract work, so marriage, house, kiddies and such are being delayed. In short they're living off Mum and Dad, or they've become perpetual students until something worthwhile happens to come along.
No they may not be wised-up to the people who influence their lives. They may not know who decided it was a good idea to ban smoking in mental facilities, or hospital grounds, or prisons, or any enclosed indoor area. To some however these "smokers" are Mum, Dad, Uncle, Aunt, Granddad, Granny as well as others from their own support system and extended family. And there is, and will always be, an element of "you hit them, you hit me". Coming between a child and its family, by word or deed, is a something only a fool might do.
Child psychology only works on children... and then they grow up. From what I've seen of those on the front line of the control industry and even their puppet masters in the Department of Health, the trades unions, politics and the establishment, we're not dealing with the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. Second rate dimwits who in real life are thoroughly pernicious individuals with dreadful interpersonal relationship skills. They're in place by stealth and funded by deceit from taxpayers, charity donors as well as lottery customers. They're loathed and they know it. And they lie because their "profession" is built on one.
Looking back at the figures for those aged 18 to 24 (40% yes, 31% no, 29% don't know), I see a remarkable similarity to figures we saw in the lead up to the Scottish referendum. When the chips were down the people of Scotland did the only sensible thing - and saved us from a dire prospect now the price of oil has collapsed. 55.3% said yes to the Union and my gut tells me a similar figure will vote for smoking rooms.
Notable that a very recent study - January 2015 - has revealed what every sensible parent knows; children of highly controlling and intrusive parents become resentful of them and are most likely to reject them in later life (24)! Controllers may like to think they're saving our children, but they're not winning their hearts and minds. And they never will.