Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Anna Soubry Blamed For 900 Northern Ireland Job Losses

Last night in Westminster, DUP MP Ian Paisley quite rightly ripped into incompetent former health minister Anna Soubry over the loss of 900 jobs in his constituency at an annual cost of £160 million to the UK economy (emphases mine).
The Prime Minister answered a parliamentary question earlier last year on minimum pack size, which is what the tobacco directive is all about. He said: 
“It does not, on the face of it, sound a very sensible approach. I was not aware of the specific issue, so let me have a look at it and get back to my hon. Friend.” - [Hansard, 9 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 160.] 
The Prime Minister was answering a question from a Government Member, and I believe that he has been let down by a failure of his party and colleagues to negotiate the matter appropriately in Europe
While the then public health Minister, Anna Soubry, had control of tobacco products directive negotiations for the UK Government, she was required to keep Parliament informed of developments via the European Scrutiny Committee. When she was brought to that Committee on 17 July 2013, she had to apologise for poor political practice, saying: 
“I do not hesitate to apologise for the fact that this Committee has not been fully informed. I only wish that, as a Minister, I was aware of all the things that happen within my portfolio.” 
That is an appalling indictment of a Minister who took her eye off a brief and allowed the policy to be rammed through with the consequences that we are feeling today. We will reap a terrible harvest in Northern Ireland as a result. 
The provisions under the TPD on the minimum pack sizes that may be manufactured have the direct impact that 82% of the output of my constituency’s factory will be made illegal. The Government have done that with the sweep of a pen - it is little wonder that 900 people are being told that it is over for them. The Government could have said, “Let’s continue to manufacture, but not sell in the United Kingdom,” or looked at other options, but instead they implemented a policy even though their Minister said that she was not fully aware of what was happening. That is a betrayal. It is a scandal that the Government were not paying proper attention.
Indeed, she was not only disastrously negligent in not considering the consequences of the EU TPD for jobs in Northern Ireland, she was also - as reported here last July - completely ignorant of the terms of the TPD itself, wrongly believing e-cigs had been removed from the process entirely.

At the time, Soubry found herself in a unique position where she could have protected those jobs, but - as Paisley referred to in his speech above - she instead effectively threw 900 Ballymena workers on the dole by deliberately hiding EU proceedings from the European Scrutiny Committee and other government departments.
Incredibly, it emerged there had been no correspondence between Soubry and the Scrutiny Committee for six months between January and June 2013. Oddly enough, this is the very period when the Committee would have been expected to scrutinise the draft TPD which was published in December 2012. 
Officials (and Soubry) decided there was no time for proper scrutiny of a Directive that will affect millions of consumers in Britain, not to mention thousands of small businesses. 
So they asked for a waiver from the scrutiny committees in both Houses of Parliament (Lords and Commons). The Lords agreed but the Commons Scrutiny Committee said no. 
Concerned that any delay might delay the revised TPD (which includes plans to ban menthol cigarettes and restrict pack sizes) or tie the UK government's hands on plain packaging, Soubry and Black travelled to Luxembourg determined, it seems, to support the draft TPD regardless of any concerns elected members of parliament may have had. 
If I am reading this correctly, they failed even to seek clearance from other government departments.
It turns out that Soubry held something of a casting vote in proceedings, but rather than defend the UK's interests, she instead chose to cast it in favour of her own prejudices.
Soubry said she took full responsibility for the decision she took, and she was sorry that things were not done in the way that they should have been. 
“If we had not made a decision there was a danger that the moment would be gone for a very long time."
Just as 900 people in Northern Ireland will be ruing Soubry's incompetence for 'a very long time' - she may as well have signed their P45s herself. In case she pops by, here's what the hard-working people she unilaterally betrayed look and sound like.

EU-enthralled Conservative Soubry has since been shifted to organising the UK's defence. I'm sure that will make you feel safer in your bed tonight, eh?

Monday, 27 October 2014

German Tobacco Control Demands Plain Packaging For E-Cigs

It seems that, for the German Cancer Research Centre (motto: "From science, to politics") the EU's TPD has not gone far enough in dealing with e-cigs. Not by a long shot.

In this document, they set out exactly what measures they'd like to see instead ... they being everything which currently applies to tobacco, and then some.

Click to enlarge for full wibbletasticness
To summarise, they are demanding a total ban on advertising; e-cigs to be classed as tobacco products and taxed at the same level; a ban on all flavours except tobacco; use of e-cigs to be banned everywhere that smoking is; and plain packaging. Yes, plain packaging! (How's that "domino theory is patently false" thang working out, Debs?).
Packaging of electronic inhalation products and liquids should be standardised in the following manner:  
- Unicoloured packaging;
- Text only without graphic elements;
- White reverse for the indication of ingredients and warnings in black Helvetica script; minimum font size 9 points
- Same format and opening mechanism as medicine packaging 
In order to avoid confusion with tobacco cigarettes and to prevent that products entice adolescents into tobacco consumption, a standardised form should be introduced for e-inhalation products. This form should clearly differ from cigarettes in shape and colour and should be as unattractive as possible to adolescents. Therefore, only grey or black should be permitted as colours for the products (obviously not familiar with the latest 'science' - DP).
Tobacco control being the one-trick pony that it is, naturally all of this atom-bomb-to-crush-peanut legislation is urgently required because, err, the children. The document takes a mere five minutes to read (and I do recommend you read it to understand how these truth-avoiding lunatics think) but mentions "adolescents" 30 times, "child" 25 times, "young" 13, and "youth" 9. Concepts such as common sense and basic sanity, on the other hand, are sadly conspicuous by their absence, as the section justifying a ban on e-cigs, err, everywhere shows quite clearly.
In order to ensure a preventive health protection, the population  should be protected against any pollution in indoor air. This can be achieved through the application of smoke-free policies to electronic inhalation products. E-inhalation products should not be used in enclosed public places including, but not restricted to public buildings, educational institutions, health care facilities, cultural and leisure facilities, sports clubs, pubs, public transport as well as all other facilities in which children and adolescents are present. Moreover, the inclusion of e-inhalation products in Non-Smoking Acts simplifies  the enforcement of the laws, as it is often not evident at first glance whether someone is smoking a cigarette or vaping an e-cigarette. 
Strict Non-Smoking Acts without exceptions have a greater effect on smoking behaviour – particularly in young people – than policies with exceptions. This is because smokers crave for a cigarette when they see others smoking – they even feel an urge to smoke when they see people using electronic cigarettes. Therefore, the use of e-cigarettes may cause smokers to smoke more and provoke a relapse in ex-smokers. Thus the use of e-inhalation products in non-smoking areas undermines an important side-effect of the Non-Smoking Acts: the motivation to smoke less or to stop completely.
But then, one of the authors is Martina Pötschke-Langer, a vintage tobacco control moon-howler of the first water who "fights for laws" so - it won't surprise you to know - has been working as adviser to the pharma-funded but unelected WHO since 1999, and who I'm pretty damn certain would have been front and centre during the totalitarian farce in Moscow earlier this month. She claims not to need 'science' to ban e-cigs because "we do not need a new nicotine product available on the market", so was an obvious choice as "curator of the knowledge" by Linda McAvan when she was rigging the EU's Tobacco Products Directive to drive through policies to kill off vaping for good.

Every day that the disgraceful assault on e-cigs by the tobacco control industry continues merely proves beyond doubt that it has never been about health. One day, politicians might start to notice instead of being manipulated and played by rancid self-enriching societal hooligans like Pötschke-Langer.

H/T Clive Bates on Twitter

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Jane Ellison And The "Transparent" #COP6

Many of you will have seen the Sunday Express article today (also covered by the Mail) of an incredibly expensive party laid on by the potless WHO in Russia recently.
'Broke’ WHO host £1.6million caviar-fuelled beano
The Sunday Express can reveal the dinner gala, held last Monday, offered delegates Salmon carpaccio with cucumber tartar, Salmon as the main course, Vitello Tonnato beef with tuna fish sauce, Red caviar, Scallop with white wine sauce, a fish late of smoked halibut, smoked sturgeon, eel mix; Smoked eel, and Salmon under white syrup with flying fish caviar.
Very nice.
Of the five hotels assigned to delegates, two boast five-stars including the Government-owned Golden Ring Hotel, self-proclaimed as “one of the most luxurious” in Moscow, and the city’s Crowne Plaza which commands a majestic £1,169-a-day for a suite, though the WHO has secured a small corporate discount. 
Guests were even offered official excursions, including a visit to the Kremlin’s armory chamber. 
The article focusses on the cost of the whole shebang and sets it against the WHO's poverty pleas regarding the Ebola outbreak. All well and good, but much of the cost could have been covered by that nice Mr Putin, I suppose.

Or maybe even those even nicer (to the WHO) people in the pharmaceutical industry.
It’s the traditional ill wind that blows somebody good. The pharmaceutical companies bought a seat at the Moscow conference through its contributions to anti-tobacco nonprofits that have “observer” status, and were enabled to sit with delegates and lobby them where neutral observers were not allowed. The pharmaceuticals make nicotine patches, gums and mints that will become more popular if prohibitive tobacco taxes are imposed.
Considering the above and that the public were banned from the conference, closely followed by the press being physically restrained and excluded after a single negative article by the only US journalist covering the event, I don't think anyone could call COP6 "transparent", do you?

A $40,000 wifi facility was also wasted when tweets dried up on the second day, and Instagram accounts which had been sharing pictures went silent soon after. It seems that the WHO were desperate to ensure nothing escaped to the outside world about what they were discussing.

This was perhaps because of the other astonishing abuses of transparency and democratic procedure getting out of the sealed room - courtesy of the Washington Times's Drew Johnson - some deeply sinister.

With all those dissenters out of the way; with the hall packed with pharma lobbyists and security forcibly silencing any flies in the ointment, I suppose it made it quite easy for the FCA's original recommendation on e-cigs - for caution and a postponement of recommendations pending further study - to be steamrollered out in favour of encouraging wholesale bans. Then, world governments were ordered to implement these proposals - from a meeting which was compromised by pharma lobbying, exclusion of press scrutiny, lack of proper voting, intimidation of delegates and utter disregard for evidence - immediately.

This is the FCA, by the way, represented in Moscow by state-funded {cough} 'vaper's friend' Deborah Arnott of ASH. I kid you not.

Where this puts the Department of Health in the context of its government imposing sanctions on Russia - and the civil service code of conduct demanding impartiality - who knows? They certainly don't seem to be bothered by any accusations of hypocrisy, that's for sure, as our Phil rightly points out.
Last night Philip Davis MP questioned why Britain had sent two top-level dignitaries, including the Department of Health’s head of tobacco policy [Andrew] Black. 
Speaking to the Sunday Express, he said: “It’s quite worrying that, when we have an emerging Ebola crisis in the world, the WHO sees fit to waste money discussing tobacco controls. 
“I am asking why we continued to send British dignitaries to this showcase event when both the US and Canada saw fit to boycott it after it became clear that it would be hosted by Mr Putin.”
The whole thing should be shameful for the WHO and the Department of Health, but Under-Secretary of State for Health Jane Ellison sees absolutely nothing wrong with any of it!
Grahame Morris (Easington, Labour) 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the transparency and accountability of the Moscow Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Ellison replied by stating when it occurred (I think Morris may have known that), listing some of the countries who attended and therefore concluding that it was transparent and accountable.
In addition, the next Conference to be held in 2016 will consider options that would further maximise transparency
"Further maximise" transparency? To describe a conference which minimised transparency on a Soviet scale and plans to do exactly the same again in two years time? Incredible!

Apparently, Jane Ellison is perfectly comfortable with delegate intimidation; denial of a free press; DoH staff enjoying hospitality possibly paid for by bribes from states in conflict with the UK; evidence-free demands from industry-entranced bodies; and global taxation regimes being decided without even so much as a vote from delegates to an unelected clique. In her book, this is termed as "maximising transparency".

The mind boggles as to what she would class as not being transparent.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

ASH Is Not The Vaper's Friend

Sigh. Another day; another vacuous e-cig ban is installed by the lazy and ill-informed.
E-cigarettes have been banned on the entire public transport network in London, the Standard has learnt. 
Passengers face fines for “vaping” on Tube, trains and buses as well as stations, platforms and depots. 
Transport for London implemented the ban in late August without any public announcement to  minimise the response from passengers.
We all know who's responsible for this, of course. ASH and their smokefree coalition, whose scaremongering transformed a country in 2007 from one which was largely unconcerned with ambient smoke to one which now empowers a minority of precious lambs in society who see vapour and either believe that they are about to die horribly, or complain of feeling "uncomfortable".

In other news today, e-cigs are being partly blamed/credited for a drop in tobacco sales.
The global cigarette market is expected to shrink this year as more people quit smoking or switch to e-cigarettes and as a weak global economy curbs their ability to spend.
This should surely be cause for Debs, Hazel or Amanda to pop down the Shoreditch Tesco Express for a bottle of bubbly, especially since they claim to be supportive of e-cigs. Yet I've often wondered why they sit idly by whilst bans on vaping like Transport for London's are spreading like wildfire.

Courtesy of the Sunday Times, we may have a clue.
THE estimated 2m people who use ecigarettes instead of tobacco face widespread bans on their use in coffee chains, shops and attractions. 
Starbucks confirmed this weekend it has banned the use of ecigarettes in its outlets, joining rail firms and airlines that already prohibit vaping. 
The announcement follows the publication of a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in August that recommended that ecigarettes should not be used indoors. Critics said the report was flawed and misleading. 
In addition to Starbucks, All Bar One, Caffe Nero, Pret A Manger, KFC and Nicholson’s pubs confirmed that they have banned ecigarettes. 
The National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Natural History Museum are among main attractions that also prohibit their use. Some hotels, including Claridge’s in London, have also introduced bans.
Yes, and you can add all Premiership football grounds and Aviva Premiership rugby clubs to that as well -indoors and outdoors - as we see from the recent ASA consultation.

All of this activity and yet there is not a peep out of ASH. Neither do they stick their oar in at the Times, but the article does carry a graphic of polling performed by YouGov though.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe those figures on e-cigs, since a similar BBC poll in an article in November last year entitled "Public 'seem to like' e-cigarettes" claimed "most support [e-cig] use in public places and don't want to see a ban".

But then, that was before all the negative publicity created by the World Health Organisation in August, and before this weekend's COP6 declaration that vape bans should be encouraged.

So we firstly have to look at the credibility of the pollsters. YouGov, of course, is ASH's pet as their President is Peter Kellner who also serves on ASH's board; has helped produce reports for them; and regularly displays his conflicts of interest. As far as I know, BBC Breakfast can't be accused of the same.

Unless Kellner has gone rogue, there is no chance whatsoever that ASH were not aware of this poll being sent to the Sunday Times, yet they didn't think it worthwhile to insist inclusion of a quote from them in support of e-cigs. Or perhaps they considered it but thought it more in their interests to support YouGov backing up their "delight" at the proposal for smoking bans in city parks. Priorities, eh?

Add into the mix that Deborah Arnott attended COP6 as a representative of the FCA; enthusiastically wrote some of their most vehement anti-smoking stuff, including threatening democratically-elected governments; but failed to speak out publicly against the FCTC's ludicrous recommendations towards e-cigs. Remember also that her organisation changed its terms of reference from controlling tobacco to controlling nicotine in 2010, and we get a full picture of what seems to be going on here.

ASH don't appear remotely concerned about vaping bans despite their public face of being a friend of the vaper. In fact they appear quite content to not rock the boat until the MHRA/TPD regulations are installed in 2016, and are complacent about COP6 recommendations rapidly resulting in wholesale restrictions on e-cigs for no justifiable reason.

It seems that ASH can issue press releases on a whim about all manner of irrelevant nonsense but remain consistently comfortable with disinformation and mounting e-cig bans which are - as the latest statistics prove - actively deterring people from switching from tobacco.

The silence is starting to become cacophonous.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Mascot Watch #30: Questions A Tory Minister Can't Answer

Our esteemed blog mascot/knight has been ruffling feathers again.
Philip Davies (Shipley) took aim at Public Health Minister Jane Ellison in the Commons as he railed against plans to introduce cigarette plain packaging, stop smoking in cars where children are present and alcohol taxes. 
Tory backbencher Mr Davies told Ms Ellison: "You are pursuing a long list of nanny state proposals which we might have better expected from (Labour), including plain packaging of tobacco, outlawing parents smoking in cars and having higher taxes on alcohol. 
"Could you give us a list of which policies, if any, you're pursuing which have a Conservative flavour to them?"
Predictably, Jane didn't answer the question.
Ms Ellison replied: "Well, following on from (Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's) previous answer, tobacco control is an integral part of tackling cancer in our country and I'm delighted to let the House know that smoking prevalence among adults in England fell to 18.4% in 2013. 
"This is a record low which means that the Government has hit its tobacco control plan target for 2015 two years early. 
"I'm sure even you would welcome that news."
No, Jane, our Phil was asking if you have any policies which could remotely be described as 'Conservative'.

These generally involve respecting freedom of choice, not crushing it; educating personal responsibility, not dismissing it; condemning coercion, not partaking in it; reducing taxation, not increasing it; and lessening bureaucracy, not encouraging it.

I might add that Jane's party also used to not be too happy about handing taxpayer cash to unaccountable groups with which to lobby government; acting on half-baked policies for which there is no evidence whatsoever of efficacy; counting liars amongst their parliamentary party; and the claiming of credit for something which had diddley squat to do with their un-Conservative policies.

OK, forget that last one, every politician likes to pretend they had a hand in events that occurred naturally, it's just how they roll. Silly me.

So, Jane, I have another question. Why do you think it is that voters are abandoning the lying, deceitful, question-avoiding, principle-abandoning, old parties en masse? Take your time, I left you some clues above.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Hope Flickers At The #Battleofideas

There are days when I feel there is still hope of rekindling 21st century Britain's - once fierce but now suffocated and flickering - flame of respect for hard-won freedoms, and yesterday was one of them.

Not the whole day, though, which is both the exhilarating and infuriating appeal of the excellent annual Battle of Ideas festival, now in its tenth incarnation. Each of the sessions - as I and others have found in previous events - carries a capacity to throw up what I would term 'pantomime' baddies if it weren't for their very real existence.

It was at the second of two sessions I attended at the Barbican yesterday where self-described Blairite Dan Hodges became my prime villain for 2014. In answer to the question "Kindergarten culture: why does government treat us like children?" he preached to those of us who are obviously not as wise as him that "government treats people like children, because they act like them". You see, "from eating too much to polluting the planet", Dan is convinced that the public will always choose wrongly so need to be guided by those who know better. It's not that Dan thinks we are incapable of making the right decisions, far from it. He believes we can make the 'correct' decisions, but only if we are told to make them by politicians (no, I'm not making this up, I have witnesses).

His justification for being part of the elite who feel they are able to judge whether our decisions are correct or not - as usual for those who are blasé about freedom of choice - were the precedents of seat belt laws and the smoking ban. Describing himself as a "mild statist" and basing his arguments on our being part of a "collective", his view is that restricting our liberties for our own sake is an empirical good which is beyond debate. The smoking ban, for example, was incontestably good because "my pub is much better now because my clothes don't smell after a night out". He must be a very hard-working man if he owns a pub as well as writing for the Telegraph, I thought, but other publicans - especially ones whose clientèle and staff were perfectly happy without a ban but whose businesses have now closed - might not view the expropriation of their property rights in the same enthusiastic manner.

At least his point was made with honesty; it was solely his personal satisfaction he cited as proof of success, not some fake concocted health scare which bamboozled politicians who rely on state-funded vested interests for their information. You know, those politicians who are then adequately informed to impart their wisdom and make decisions for all of us in the form of one-size-fits-all illiberal laws, with no equivocation or exemptions of any kind. Err, in a nation of 64 million people.

Equally unconcerned by proscription of behaviour by the state was Dan's fellow panellist Martha Gill of the Economist. She saw a threat to freedom with not allowing assisted dying - something on which I can happily agree - but not with the 'research' of 'experts'. It's all good, see, because "people don't have time to read all the nutritional information of the back of a Haribo packet or read thousands of research papers about the hazardous effects of tobacco".

Her view of sin taxes was that they just make our free choices that bit more expensive - not that choice is being gradually extinguished - and she cheerfully dismissed JS Mill's widely-accepted theory on the effect of sin taxes.
“Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price.”
She was understandably not aware of events in Russia during the preceding week, but - such is her unshakeable belief in state interference - I'm not even sure a baldly stated aim of prohibition by way of taxation (while press types like Martha were excluded) would have swayed her if this had turned up during her regular spot as a Sky News newspaper reviewer.
You may ask, then, why I was so encouraged by this year's Battle of Ideas. Well, it's because of the quality of the mostly young audiences (which preliminary rumours from organisers were estimated as being a historic high of close to 5,000, but don't quote me on it).
We should, of course, expect our elected leaders to be able to pick apart flimsy, lazy and irresponsibly credulous views which harm our self-determination, but they don't. Instead, Dan and Martha were both skewered by an audience member - who I later found out was a student doctor - pointing out that a basic tenet of the medical profession is that no procedure can be embarked upon without the patient's consent. How, then, is population health cited as the reason for surgical evisceration of our liberties without our being able to opt out, he asked?

It's a question Dan was unable to answer, but he valiantly tried. He referred to children of parents with strict religious beliefs and said that the state should be required to step in on their behalf. "But we're talking about adults here", retorted the stubborn student. Martha then attempted to counter his principle with an example whereby a patient may be presented with such overwhelming evidence by his GP that refusing treatment would be unconscionable. "But they still have a choice", replied the future medic, to stymied silence.

Unfortunately for Dan (especially) and Martha, unless they had been present during the preceding session in the hothouse basement of the Pit Theatre they wouldn't have been aware that their trust in 'experts' and government expertise had already been rendered superficial and almost puerile.

The Barbican website states that the room holds 200, and I saw precious few empty seats as Timandra Harkness hosted the session entitled "The science of public health: where’s the evidence?" with customary humorous brilliance. It was a 90 minutes which was as entertaining as it was revealing.

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, a real GP with real regular contact with patients, was proper box office. He began by strongly questioning why Lord Darzi - a surgeon - should be proposing parks smoking bans in London at all when evidence for health benefits of parks bans (there is none - DP) is not remotely associated with his area of expertise. He followed with a hilarious anecdote of being present at an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Richard Doll's world famous doctors' study where the distinguished doc was told to shut up for repeatedly telling the audience that the passive smoking health scare is bunkum, before Fitzpatrick moved on to pointing out that the 5 a day advice for fruit and vegetables government tells us is essential is based on zero evidence.

Henry Ashworth observed that those performing 'research' into perceived public health threats are almost always now the same people who advocate for laws to condemn behaviours, and that "when best evidence is merely a computer model, we have to be very careful" (minimum pricing, plain packs anyone?). He also astutely identified the fact that just about every 'public health' lobbying group can be linked with industries who will benefit from their pre-conceived research conclusions (e-cig bans come to mind).

Dr Elizabeth Pisani also had the aisles rocking with an account of an Australian 'public health' seminar where success was measured by highlighting how causes of death in years past were ranked in order and predictions for the future made. Those present trumpeted how cardiovascular disease was being beaten by prohibitionist policies, and that future problems would only be benign stuff like dementia and depression. Pisani noted that this was a great success, "after a lifetime of not drinking, smoking and eating all the correct foods, we can enjoy an old age of being demented and depressed".

Lastly, Michael Blastland - a statistician who is one of the few honest people to identify smoking ban heart attack 'miracles' as pure junk science, and on the BBC no less - queried why there is no big public health attack on "Big Sofa" considering inactivity is as bad as smoking. Perhaps, he suggested, it is because there is "no identifiable enemy". He also described a UCL anti-drinking campaign poster in the university bar - which was brutal in its message but resulted in an increase in drinking - to explain why he doubts that public health cares about the efficacy of their policies. "I find that interesting but I see no interest from 'public health' in it".

The panel may have been united in doubts about the public health industry and its grossly exaggerated expertise, but it was probably for the best because the mostly young audience in the post-panel Q&A were fizzing in condemnation. Sitting near to me was a 30 something who audibly agreed with everything she had heard. She was one of the first up to declare that she works with youths in college and university who present themselves to her insisting that they are unhealthy and require help; are terrified of eating the wrong foods; and worry themselves senseless about how much water they are supposed to be drinking.

An audience member from Brighton vehemently complained that calm enjoyment of life was "covered by the damp clammy hand of public health", while a representative from the Pregnancy Advisory Service declared her conflict of interest as being involved in issuing the press release which condemned anti-alcohol scare stories for causing petrified mums-to-be to demand abortions. She claimed that her team were contacted and put under pressure to retract it; that "you can't say that, it confuses the public health message, it should be simple and say there should be no drinking at all".

None of this would cut any ice with Dan and Martha. For them, 'public health' is an unimpeachable source of sage advice, and politicians the conduit for their expert opinion. I don't think Dan, for example, is even capable of considering questioning the core of the advice being offered. As a mild statist, it would be heresy to him.

For the the thousands who attended the Battle of Ideas, though, these are fundamental issues which need addressing and it's illogical that someone like Dan can assume everyone else is stupid and unable to make what he has decided - without in-depth investigation - are 'correct' decisions.

Yes. Yesterday at the Battle of Ideas proved that the concept of personal freedoms is not yet dead; that the flickering flame has not yet been extinguished in the young; and it was, most definitely, a very good day.