Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Smoking Gun?

As I mention in a previous blog, I distrust the type of people who want to ban smoking in any 'public place', but have never really examined the claims about the dangers posed by 'passive smoking'. Luckily, someone has; the musician Joe Jackson spent years looking into the claims made against tobacco - the supposed harm that derives from smoking (active and passive), the role of the pharmaceutical companies and governments, and the zealotry of anti-smoking campaigners - and has published his findings on his website (see the link on the left).

Suffice to say, I can't make the case better than he can. Please read his findings; I find them unarguable, but feel free to start an argument with me about them. But please read them, it's important - socially, politically, economically, and for our own health - that we know the risks (or lack of them) of the drive to ban smoking.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The poor get poorer...

I have to get something for my blood pressure...

The Institute for Fiscal studies has produced a report that shows child poverty and inequality are rising (in spite of the Government's commitment to halving child poverty by 2010). It's also estimated that Gordon Brown's decision last year to abolish the 10p lower rate of income tax will hit 5.3 million low paid families the hardest. Gordon says that 'no one' will be worse off.

The Office of National Statistics has also produced a report demonstrating that, despite all new Labour's intentions, the gap between the top 10 per cent of earners and the bottom 10 per cent has not closed. The same organisation also publishes the yearly national poverty statistics, normally in March; however this year the Department of Work and Pensions is delaying the publication of the statistics until the 2nd May, the day after the local and mayoral elections, citing a need for 'additional validation and quality assurance'.

Now, one would hate to accuse them of wanting to 'bury bad news' - the very phrase conjures up the crudest political machination of our time, Jo Moore's e-mail the day after 9/11 - but it does seem suspicious that they will be released on a Friday, when all of the news coverage will be on the elections. I may be a tad cynical but I cannot believe, were the figures positive, that the Government wouldn't publish them in time for the elections; or that - if there is a genuine delay, and the news was good - they're not holding the publication until the following Monday; surely they'd want all of us to know of their success?. No, they know what's coming all right; Friday 2nd May it is, and another nail in the coffin for those who hope for a semblance of open, honest government.