There’s an article in the Manchester Evening News that has been on the front page for about a month. It’s about the smoking ban and is so transparently and ridiculously biased that it might as well have been cut and pasted from an ASH press release, and possibly was.
Councillor Pat Karney uses the occasion to display a total lack of perspective and self awareness. Karney tells you that the ban is universally adored and backs this up with percentages from self-selecting surveys commissioned by anti-smoking pressure groups.
In my experience, the ban has been an expensive displacement activity. People smoke in beer gardens instead of inside the pubs, and I have been told by people in the trade that pubs without a smoking area go to the wall. It’s up to you to decide whether this result has been worth the massive amount of public money used to promote and implement the ban.
Cllr Karney has been a political name in Manchester seemingly for the last two thousand solar years, but it’s hard to say what the man actually does except campaign for trivial and prohibitionist legislation. Type his name into the MEN search engine, and the majority of stories that come back are about smoking. Manchester has shocking levels of inequality, areas ravaged by crime, worklessness and anti-social behaviour (particularly in Karney’s own ward of Harpurhey) and a farcical public transport system. Cllr Karney has his priorities though. What matters to this tribune of the people is the possibility of someone lighting up a cigarette in an enclosed public space.
It’s this relentless focus on micromanagement of people’s lives rather than tackling the underlying social problems that is the reason so many people in Manchester have walked away from the Labour Party, and from politics in general.
Karney can’t even realistically claim that the city centre is a more civilised place thanks to the ban. From Piccadilly to the Printworks, entire swathes of it is filled with puking, brawling, Ben Sherman thugs come the weekend. The discerning drinker knows that if you want a good night in Manchester there is no reason to go past the Cornerhouse. This is due to licensing policies that favour pro forma chain pubs, rather than professionally run pubs with a good atmosphere and loyal regulars.
According to the MEN, Karney also has ‘responsibility for safeguarding the vibrancy of the city centre’.
If only the sandals and the pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaller, and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly!
– George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier