Saturday, 7 January 2012

...and who guards the moral vanguard? (Pot, kettle, black)

There’s an interesting example on Taking Liberties (see ) of what happens when an English MP asks for details of how a dubious ‘health charity’ is funded and what influence it might have on the Department of Health and other relevant government bodies.
To be specific, Tory MP Karl McCartney wrote to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health asking for details of how ‘public health charity’ Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is funded. McCartney also wanted details about the number of people associated with ASH who have placements with the Department of Health and other areas of government.
Whatever your views on smoking, this sounds like a reasonable question from an MP wanting to check just how ‘independent’ is the advice used by government to make policies (which could well include the decision to further openly or discreetly underwrite ‘public health charities’). So it seems odd that the Chairman of the APPG’s response was to demand, via a rather one-sided press report of the affair, that government “tighten up the regulation of lobbying" because McCartney once “accepted hospitality totalling more than £1,300 from Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which produces Benson and Hedges and Silk Cut".
All McCartney actually did was to accept some tickets from JTI to the Chelsea Flower Show - and incidentally to scrupulously declare he had in the Register of Members Interests, from which source he appears to have been grassed up to tame hacks by someone we can assume was not quite ‘neutral’ in such matters.
Manx politicians really aren’t bright enough to operate at such a level of duplicity, but this nonsense, when mixed with the prominent reporting of the latest ‘drink driving campaign’ (see for example) did remind me of similar silliness in the Isle of Man.
The obvious question to me is: ‘If a month of dedicated police work, stopping over 800 vehicles, produces just nine prosecutions, while on average at least one motorist a month is found guilty of drink driving anyway without dedicating specific resources, then isn’t this an annual PR stunt, and a waste of time and public money?’
If you ask any police source not threatened by budget cuts that question, or check any regional or national police annual statistics, the answer is ‘Yes’, because the only evidence of more drink driving over Christmas is arrests made only as a result of dedicating all police resources and much police overtime to seeking those arrests.
There is, on the other hand, no evidence that people drink and drive more over the holiday period. It is a folk myth, fed by press too lazy to look for real news, which in turn causes the police to mount campaigns (which they know are pointless) simply to avoid criticism from, say, the kind of tabloid reading politico who is too disconnected from reality to kick off about real world issues rather than fairy stories.
But also touching on that local story – the funniest thing is that the biggest alcohol-related waste of Manx police time and resources that I know of was actually CAUSED by characters who, elsewhere, dominate local (urban myth and junk science led) government consultations over alcohol.
To be specific, a charity and an enterprising retail manager put on a fair trade wine-tasting evening for local bigwigs. No problem with that – it was intended to introduce senior government figures to the idea that ‘fair trade’ was not only a decent (and achievable) moral goal for the island, but that the produce is pretty good too.
Unfortunately, those senior government figures sampled rather too much of the ‘product’, and this was also an era when ministers (of either government or the cloth) were too posh to take a bus home and carry a paper bag in case they got queasy. The upshot was that the entire police night shift for that end of the island had to be deployed ferrying our ‘tired and emotional’ moral leaders and decision makers home.
These folk - let us remember - are the ones who think doctors, teachers and the police should spend their time nagging the public into total abstinence to 'save money', rather than actually ensure such public employees do what we pay them to do.
And even worse - they also subsidise (from our taxes) an entire subculture of lemon-sucking, morally degenerate, flat out bare-faced lying career prohibitionists who could be more usefully employed (if any supermarket would ever take them) stacking shelves and contributing to public funds rather than being a total drain on them.

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