Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Be Afraid, Drinks Industry, Very Afraid


When Harriet Harman spoke of contract law judgements spanning centuries being swept away by 'the court of public opinion', she was roundly condemned as being, well, a bit mad. Her uncontrollable anger led to an outburst which was rightly ridiculed as a temper tantrum in contravention of controls nurtured by this country against heavy-handed corporations and state totalitarianism.
Her colleague and hideous health bully, Kevin Barron, has been spouting equally dangerous ideologies - but oddly, this time no-one really turns much of a hair (emphases mine).

The revelation that the campaign [against a government ban on cigarette displays in shops] was funded by BAT is significant. Under international guidelines, the UK government is obliged to ensure the drafting of all legislation is free from tobacco industry influence. Now, the fact some MPs may have been unaware the campaign was backed by tobacco money has angered anti-smoking groups.
BAT's admission has prompted Barron to write to the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, warning the government's commitment to tobacco control "is being undermined by covert lobbying by the tobacco industry".
The 'guidelines' being referenced here are specifically Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which states:
In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.
Just to translate, this means that when governments pass tobacco control laws, any opposition must be ignored or silenced at all costs. It matters not that the company is a legal tax-paying entity, that the product is legal and that its customers are themselves eye-wateringly taxed, and within their rights to consume it. No lobbying or representations of any kind are allowed.
Remember that the WHO is entirely unelected, so what we have here is Barron actively promoting a body no-one voted for, over and above convention - cultivated by the British people, parliament, and judiciary for over a millennium - which naturally entitles a legal industry to lobby and argue in defence of their business, their retailers, and their customers.
He was, however, hypocritically quiet when his government nodded through the regulations concerned thanks to quite shocking misdirection of parliament which, of course, is a punishable crime under real laws, passed by real UK democratically-elected politicians.
Barron doesn't seem to be as energised over that, though.
Because where tobacco is concerned we are living in a post-legal and post-democratic age. Harman's fantasy of acting on whatever whim a self-regarding MP cares to choose is already here. In anti-tobacco circles, even widespread price-fixing cartels - illegal in every jurisdiction throughout the civilised world - are actively, and openly, encouraged by the very bodies which usually abhor them.
Kevin Barron finds nothing wrong with this. After all, he was the MP who in 2009 decided that none of you were worth listening to anyway.
"We are the state's representative in our constituencies and we should not be frightened of taking decisions on behalf of our constituents, because that is to the general good."
The idea that his employers - the public - might have their own ideas about how to live their lives is alien to this guy. What he says goes, and that's that.
The drinks industry should be very afraid of this man. Not only does he believe that the British people have no right in determining their own lives and that it's scandalous for businesses to stand up for themselves (though perfectly acceptable for parliament to be illegally influenced by lies from fake charities), but he also has the same treatment lined up for alcohol.
He was an enthusiastic booster for Sarah Wollaston's plan to prohibit alcohol advertising, for example, and he believes that a bottle of spirits should cost between £38.60 and £62.
Considering the fact that he finds democratic process and the rights of producers to defend themselves so very tiresome, he'll surely not balk at denying the drinks industry's right to lobby just as he hysterically jumps up and down at BAT for having the temerity to disagree with his righteous pronouncements.
He has the same supranational, unelected backing in that as well. You see, the WHO also have a Framework Policy for Alcohol Control, complete with a clause they have effortlessly picked up from the successful campaign against tobacco. You might recognise this bit (page 19).
Public health policies concerning alcohol need to be formulated by public health interests, without interference from commercial interests.
The tobacco control template strikes again.
It's not going to be long before Barron is ignoring the public's free will on alcohol, and condemning Guinness, Diageo, Punch Taverns (if they still exist by then) etc as evil entities who have no right to comment on laws being passed against them.
Because there's nothing a petty, self-important, dictatorial bully despises more than open democratic accountability and transparent debate. Oh no, that way opens the door to far too much common sense and compromise, and that just won't do at all.
Alcohol guys, I'd start making extremely loud noises now if I were you. Backsliding and appeasement are simply not an option anymore.

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