After spending a week watching United Nations diplomats flagrantly ignoring their own "no smoking" rules, it was hardly surprising when Israel and Hamas were similarly unmoved by the organisation's somewhat more serious ceasefire resolution in Gaza.
The UN's protracted and unhappy battle to ban smoking inside its New York headquarters doesn't exactly encourage confidence in its ability to enforce its will anywhere else. The fug of smoke sat heavily in the delegates' lounge of the Security Council (a great name for a bar) but denser still in the basement "Viennese Café" – though not enough to obscure the
no-smoking signs – just yards from where Arab League leaders tried to thrash out an agreement before the mullahs bashed them at Friday prayers.
The Assembly voted in November to outlaw smoking in the building, but it has as much chance of success as Kofi Annan did five years ago. All too aware that New York's leaders have long resented the UN being a law unto itself, the former Secretary-General wanted to match Mayor Michael Bloomberg's outlawing of smoking in public indoor spaces in the rest of the city.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia's then ambassador, summed up the feelings of many as he grumbled that Annan "doesn't own this building" before stomping off for a fag in the delegates' lounge. In true UN style, the smokers demanded a legal ruling against Annan's decision without a vote from member states. The fug stayed.
Hmmm, now, let me think... Did our government give us a say on the smoking ban...? No, no they didn't and there was certainly no arbitrary legal ruling against the ban. Nope, in this country, if you smoke indoors—or let your patrons smoke indoors—then you are going to get fined.
I would like you to bear that in mind and, if you can, leave aside the actual issue of whether or not the ban should exist; simply consider what the politicians tell us, and how they behave when similar bans are applied to them.
For it is not just the UN—oh no! Remember when the EU tried to ban smoking in all of its buildings? Remember the outcry? And do you remember that the ban was lifted after six weeks?
Remember that the Houses of Parliament, being a royal palace, was excempt from the smoking ban? But then those generous MPs said that they would put a voluntary ban in place; not, of course, that the ban is actually enforced.
Politicians protest and smoke anyway: no one is fined and the ban gets lifted.
The politicians tell the people that they cannot smoke inside, and people do anyway: we are fined and protests ignored.
It is one rule for us, the serfs, and quite another for our lords and masters...