14 July 2013

Smoke gets in your eyes

As a habitual smoker and a shareholder in both British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, I have no particular objection to the Cameron climbdown on tobacco advertising.  But why lead his merry (and healthy) men to the top of the hill, only to cave in miserably at the top?  The backlash was entirely predictable:
David Cameron faces calls from senior Liberal Democrats to sack his controversial election strategist Lynton Crosby over his links with the tobacco industry, as the coalition descended into open warfare over public health policy.
As the latest row over the role of big money in politics hit Downing Street, Paul Burstow, who was a health minister until September last year, said Crosby should either quit or be sacked by Cameron after it emerged that his lobbying firm works for global tobacco giant Philip Morris.
Other Liberal Democrats also made clear they were furious and would fight to ensure Crosby was removed from any role in which he could influence health or any other coalition policy.
Amid the growing furore, the Tory chairman of the all-party select committee on health, former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, announced that his committee would look into why the government had changed its mind on the question of cigarette packaging.
Last Friday, the government revealed that it was shelving plans to introduce plain packaging on cigarettes, prompting a furious reaction from the health lobby and MPs from across the political spectrum. The Observer understands that health ministers were almost uniformly in favour of plain packaging but were overruled by Downing Street.
Were the cigarette companies so persuasive?  And when Labour was being denounced for being in the pockets of the unions, was it a clever move to demonstrate so convincingly that the Tories would always take the side of their chums in big business?  Stupid, stupid politics.


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