The day the coalition finally went mad and drifted into mindless, controlling authoritarianism was, perhaps appropriately enough, Friday 13th April, 2012. And the clearest indicator that the coalition has become drunk on power and the desire to control was the announcement on a period of consultation on the question of cigarette packaging.
Of course, the idea of plain packaging for cigarettes is hardly a new idea. And it is also fair to say that the drift towards the controlling coalition has been going on for a while – as the plans on internet snooping (dealt with by our humble host with considerable aplomb here) so clearly demonstrate. Finally, I will also concede that in terms of the myriad of different ways in which our incumbent government can shit on our civil liberties, this is a relatively minor one in its immediate practical implications. Nonetheless, this was clearly the day that coalition cracked, and revealed its desire to control as much of the life of this country as possible. The clue is in the language used by the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley. The BBC quotes the man who, for reasons that not only defy but actively piss on understanding, is in charge of health in this country:
“We don't want to work in partnership with the tobacco companies because we are trying to arrive at a point where they have no business in this country.”Now, it has to be conceded that part of the problem is that it is Andrew Lansley saying this. To say he has little credibility is like saying that Pol Pot was a bit of a shit – a dramatic, almost farcical, understatement. Frankly, when I see Andrew Lansley, I think to myself “when did scrotums begin to walk and talk?” So not only this but any announcement that dribbles forth from the pompous pie-hole of Lansley has the massive, crippling disadvantage of the fact that it would be marginally more credible if said announcement was coming from the mouth of a shit-flinging monkey in a suit. But does that mean that the announcement would be better if it came from another politician? Well, no, no it really wouldn’t. Partly because there is no-one in our Parliament of Slugs who has much more credibility and gravitas than Lansley. But mainly because the words quoted above should never come from the mouth of any politician in this country.
As I said, it is all about the language. The arrogance is astounding. Lansley is refusing to work with the businesses that will be affected by the latest ripe policy turd that the coalition is handing the country. He won’t work with the tobacco companies; with those companies who provide goods that people actually want in this country (yes, Mr Lansley, some people do want to smoke) and who generate millions in revenue for the Exchequer each and every year. Lansley is perfectly happy to dismiss contributors to the economy. Probably because the economy is doing so well, eh? Oh, wait…
But it isn’t just the arrogance. Lansley wants to stop the tobacco companies having any business here. There are two possible implications of this; either this is a precursor to an outright ban or Lansley believes that he and his chuntering, power-hungry ilk can denormalise a habit that adults can legitimately choose to indulge. Either he’s planning to ban tobacco or make it a taboo. He wants to control what you can buy or what you choose to do (most probably, both). This sort of control of the economy and the personal choices of adults has no place in a nominal liberal democracy; it is the politics of the authoritarian, with more than a pungent whiff of the totalitarian about it. This represents an astonishing power grab and, given the general failure of all projects of prohibition, the sort of thing that only the batshit crazy would ever think could have a hope of working. This sort of thing truly does mark the departure of the coalition from the reality based community.
So we have a Health Secretary, drunk on quaffing liberally from the fountain of undeserved power, looking to change and restrict what you can do as an adult really rather radically. Of course, he is but one man – one gobshite – in the coalition. Just because Lansley seems to have left sanity behind, seemingly for the duration, does not mean that his fellow members of the coalition government feel the same way. Indeed, some really do not. Yet there has been no condemnation of Lansley’s plan from those running this government. No-one important has turned round and said “seriously Lansley, sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up”. Which is a staggering indictment of the coalition, really. It is yet another sign that the new politics is identical to the old politics in all bar name and party affiliation. Because this sort of thing is precisely the sort of shit that Nu Labour used to come up with and the Tories and Lib Dems used to oppose. Now, after just two short years in power, the coalition seems happy to openly endorse the sort of utter shit that they used to rightly decry when it came from the last Labour government. Last Friday was not just the day the coalition went mad; it was also the day they became Nu Labour. The terrifying implication of this is not so much that nothing changes, but rather than nothing can change while the three main parties have a monopoly on power in this country.
So what can we do in the face of this power mad government? Howl in protest seems to be the best option in the near future, and then remember this sort of guff when we next enter the ballot box. Stop returning these controlling arseholes to power seems like a good option. And, regardless of whether you smoke or not, go out and buy a packet of fags – if for no other reason than it will really piss Andrew Lansley off. A small gesture, to be sure, but in the face of Lansley’s hard-on for controlling you, also a noble one.