One of my favourite trashy books is The Runaway Jury by John Grisham, which is about an American tobacco trial, where a lone individual set out on an enormously ambitious quest to prove that cigarettes are harmful to health.
All the drama of that book was replayed in the High Court last week, when some of the world’s largest tobacco companies tried to halt government plans to ban fancy branded packaging (pictured right) and replace it totally different, drab, unappealing packaging (pictured left).
The law requires that all new boxes and labels must be in Pantone 448 C, aka “the world’s ugliest colour”, and that all writing must be in Helvetica (The world’s ugliest font? -Ed.) and manufacturers think it’s like well unfair that they’re not allowed to use their own branding.
Among other arguments, the companies complained that the new legislation – which came into force on Friday – was a violation of their human rights.
The judge was having none of it. In a really quite scathing 1,000-paragraph ruling, Mr Justice Green said:
The tobacco companies [claim] the right to maximise their profits by promoting a product that shortens lives and causes a health epidemic of colossal proportions.
When the companies demanded compensation, he pointed out:
There is no precedent where the law has provided compensation for the suppression of a property right which facilitates and furthers, quite deliberately, a health epidemic.
He also accused British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and others of missing the “significant moral angle” of the new regulations (just imagine a tobacco company failing to appreciate moral subtleties!)
In response to the ruling, Simon Clark, director of the “smokers’ group” Forest (yuk) said:
If you don’t smoke but enjoy alcohol, sugary drinks and convenience food you should be concerned by this judgement because the health police are coming for you too.
By ‘coming for you’ he actually meant ‘potentially changing the branding regulations’, and it’s hard to see that someone who “enjoys sugary drinks” is going to be deterred from pursuing that pleasure purely on the basis of an olive-green label.
But Simon ‘nanny state’ Clark does make a good point:
First they came for the cigarettes –
And I did not speak out, because I was not a smoker.
Then they came for the alcoholic drinks –
And I did not speak out, because I was not an alcoholic.
Then they came for the Starbucks tax-free frothy caramel Frappuccino –
And I did not speak out, because I was not a wanker.
A bit tacky
The Dounreay nuclear plant in Scotland is being decommissioned, at a cost to the public of over £1bn.
But it turns out £1bn isn’t nearly enough for such a big job. According to the BBC, the team supervising the clean-up process have had to resort to some ingenius cost-saving measures, making use of “an ironing board cover”, “a duvet” and “placing a blob of blu-tack on a 10m rod”.
It’s a good job Hitler didn’t think of it.
However, this does provide rather a good opportunity for Gabrielquotes to present its patented guide to decommissioning a nuclear reactor on a tight budget:
Nein nein nein
The fire service needs to become more diverse, according to the Home Secretary, because conflagrations from ethnic minorities will only respect fire crews if they are sufficiently representative. It’s PC gone mad… well, Leading Firefighter gone mad.
In other fiery race relations news, the election by the Fire Brigades Union of controversial new president has seen fire stations seceding from the organisation left, right and centre.
Theresa May’s Tuesday speech on “fire reform” somehow failed to consider that most obvious reform of, erm, abolition. It did note that “the number of fires in England has been reduced by nearly two-thirds”, however that is only because inner-city fires have been redesignated as academies and consolidated into a smaller number of larger, more fiscally independent fires.
We were also promised “a more transparent fire and rescue service”, leading to speculation that solid red fire engines are soon to be phased out.
She particularly praised the “Fire Kills awareness campaign”, which does so much good work informing that great mass of people who didn’t know that fire kills, that fire kills. A notable leap forward for the campaign was the new law requiring fires to use drab colours and display prominent warning notices:
The Home Secretary’s final point addressed the “culture of bullying and harassment” within the service. From now on, anyone found to be a bully will be
fi sacked. She went on to quote sources from within the fire brigade who described harassment as “toxic and corrosive”, suggesting that they need to renew their hazardous materials training.
Viewers of Fireman Sam are already well aware of the toxic environment which accompanies bullying and abuse. The BBC received thousands of complaints earlier this year after airing a particularly distressing episode in which Dilys was forced to stab her abusive husband to death in order to protect her son Naughty Norman.
Society goes off the rails
Yesterday morning I was handed a card by a “Rail Community Officer” of the British Transport Police (what ‘rail community’ do they tend to anyway? The Railway Children?)
It advertised a new service they’re offering, where people can text the police to get a speedy in non-emergency situations. They gave the examples:
So now I’m fighting a desperate urge to send in:
I feel like I’ve been waiting all my life for this:
What came first, the Boris or the egg?
Something rather strange happened this week. Boris Johnson wasn’t attacked by an egg-wielding protester.
That’s odd enough in itself, but it got even odder.
On the face of it, it was just another bumbling Boris episode: he was giving a speech in York, he saw the would-be egg-tosser preparing to toss (Oh, er, crikey… -BJ) and made a silly put-down which took the wind out of the assailant’s sails. (In fact the BBC put it rather better by observing that he “cracked a joke”, har har.)
But the weird bit was the video interview with the egg-wielder posted to the Daily Mail website. It was conducted by a whole scoop of reporters and really repays watching in full because it’s so utterly bizarre. The protester, Sam Grigg (pictured right), seemed extremely camera shy, vague about why they were protesting at all, and generally rather reticent:
Protester: Today was a protest against the Conserv… erm… the Conservative Party. It was nothing to do with Vote Leave. It’s, er, it’s against, erm… [long pause] [sight] [a further long pause]
Interviewer: Why were you wanting to throw an egg?
Protester: [pause] Er, the egg… [shifty look] was, er, to cause a scene. That was the point of the egg.
Interviewer: Were you going to throw the egg?
Protester: No I was not going to throw the egg [cheeky grin] The egg was just to mess with them [pause] That was the point of the egg.
Interviewer: Did you bring the egg?
Protester: Yes, I b… I brought the egg [brightly] I brought three eggs actually, yeah!
Interviewer: But you had no intention…
Protester: [interrupting] No, I had no intention of throwing them.
Interviewer: Why did you bring the eggs if you weren’t going to throw the eggs?
Protester: [pause] [shifty look] Just to… just to make… [long pause]
2nd interviewer: Who bought the eggs if you’re unemployed?
2nd interviewer: Who bought the eggs for you if you’re unemployed?
Protester: [impersonates rabbit caught in headlights] Pl… Please don’t talk to me, y… y… y… you’re jus… just… [panicked grin] What the hell are you talking about? What the hell are you talking about?
2nd interviewer: Who funds your lifestyle?
Protester: W… what do you mean?
Interviewer: [patiently] Who funds your lifestyle?
Protester: [pause] Student loans… I already said student loans. I’m a student.
3rd interviewer: Why did Boris think you were going to throw an egg?
Protester: Because I had… [shifty look] eggs with me. But…
3rd interviewer: And who spotted them? How did he get to know that you had eggs?
Protester: Bec… because I was walking around thr… [sniffs] [pause] I mean, look… [pause] I don’t want to have this interview. I don’t want to have this interview.
Sam Grigg was so gormless, and the entire situation so farfetched (Boris having been tipped off before starting a speech that there was a potential egg-thrower in the crowd, and then recognising them and dissing them halfway through) that a cynical person might be forgiven for suspecting that the whole thing was somewhat staged.
On Boris’ successor
Far-right loonies Britain First have issued a press release to a mailing list of unsuspecting journalists. They promised “a direct action campaign against Muslim elected officials, at all levels of politics” and “intelligence led operations [which] focus on all aspects of their day-to-day lives […] where they live, work, pray”.
The press release added, for those of us who might have had some lingering doubt about the organisation’s ideology:
Britain First has an official policy of banning Islam in the UK.
There are fears that this new development could lead to new London mayor Sadiq Khan being forced to delay his manifesto plan to replace Big Ben with a massive minaret, and to rotate City Hall so it faces east.
Britain First was recently banned from displaying its trademark No More Mosques banners in Luton, on the grounds that they were “likely to stir up religous and/ or racial hatred”. Mr Justice Knowles also observed that the reincarnation of the National Front was “absurd and offensive” as well as “fundamentally and obviously wrong”.
Home away from home
There are lots of homeless people in Canterbury. There’s an empty former military barracks in Canterbury. What could be more obvious than housing said homeless people in said former military barracks?
Oh yes… opening up a bidding war and letting the far-richer Redbridge Council in London house its homeless citizens there instead, 60 miles away from home.
You may have thought that penal transportation was abolished in the 19th century but how wrong you’d be. Just as Britain ships its retired expats elsewhere in the EU to claim other countries’ benefits (a point on which Nigel Farage seems to have been strangely silent), so too does London ship its surplus population to Kent so they don’t clog up our streets and look unsightly during important civic occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament.
The official statement from Redbridge Council says, not unreasonably, that they try to house homeless families within the local area but can only do so if they have sufficient accommodation available.
But what it doesn’t address is the fact that Canterbury Council also tries to house homeless families within its local area, and if it weren’t for Redbridge hogging all the best spots, Canterbury Council might succeed – instead of which it will have to ship its homeless people to somewhere even more far-flung, and just create more problems for someone else.
Thank goodness we have a kind, indulgent government safeguarding the welfare state eh.