Saturday, July 16, 2011


Loads of people turned up for the Standoff in Stony Stratford to give SS smokerphobic councillor Paul Bartlett a message that we the people of his town and this country will take no more.

His proposal for an outdoor ban in the historic, picturesque town near Milton Keynes is a step too far and based more on his own prejudicial hatred of smokers and imagined rather than real concerns about health.

Local people turned out to thank those of us from farther afield for turning up on a miserable grey day. It was great to put some names to faces and after some catching up, meeting new people, smoking and drinking out in the rain with our ashtrays in hand, we squeezed inside as the speakers got ready to say their piece.

Bill Etheridge, Midlands representative for The Freedom Association, Patrick Hayes, Journalist at the Institute of Ideas and columnist at Spiked and Roger Helmer, Conservative East Midlands MEP, sat at a table scattered with hand outs submitted by various contributors.

The man we had all come to see didn't show up at the event but there were wanted posters of him stuck on walls.

Bill Etheridge said further restrictions were unreasonable in a free society. He doesn't smoke but said he'd learn how just so he could light up a cigar in the street if Barmy Bartlett's plan gets approved. He pondered on what that great political British hero Winston Churchill would say if he were to suddenly return to this NuBritain for the likes of jobsworth Bartlett to grab his iconic cigar from his mouth.

Roger Helmer said smoking restrictions were the slippery slope that were giving inspiration to bans and controls on other products that contain salt and sugar. He lamented the idea of graphic health warnings on products like tobacco and alcohol that carry risks we are all aware of.

"Can you imagine a future romantic night out where the bottle of wine comes to your fiancee with a diseased liver plastered all over it," he said.

Mr Helmer is a non smoker who hates smoke but he abhors the nanny/bully state more.

Patrick Hayes from the Institute of Ideas was also a non smoker. Like Bill, he said he'd strike up a cigarette on principal outside if smoking gets banned in the open air. All of the speakers agree that the current restrictions are unfair and go too far and smokers are being treated like children when they should be treated with respect because of the huge amount of tax they have paid on their product in their lifetime.

Busy businessman and head of Stony Stratford Chamber of Commerce, David Odell, also a non smoker, popped in to give the campaign support. He said his family business had been in the town for 140 years. It had survived recessions and two world wars in which many men and women died fighting for freedom.

He said Stony Stratford had a history of welcoming people - it was not in the business of saying "You're not wanted." An outdoor ban would be against British culture of tolerance and bad for business, he said.

Many people waited eagerly to hear Nigel Farage speak on a subject that he feels passionately about. His car got stuck on the M1 in traffic after an accident and so he arrived late. He called for the nonsense to end, for "these awful people to get off our backs", wished us luck with our campaign, and said it was time for cafes, pubs and restaurants to be allowed to choose whether to have smoking rooms.

The issue, he said, was not about health but freedom of choice and what sort of country we want to live in.

The event was well organised and has given ordinary grass roots people the idea that they can speak up, protest and make their point when all other avenue of consultation is denied.

The film crew above is based in Stony Stratford and they were on hand to capture the whole event as was the BBC. Simon Clark says Look East used the story as their lead on local news but I didn't see it. If anyone has a link, I'd love to see how it gets reported.

Maybe it's too early but now we have some momentum, we should be thinking where next? I propose Wales

UPDATE : I just read THIS on the BBC site. And there are more photos HERE

UPDATE : I guess most of you have read around the blogosphere about this protest so I see no point in linking to the excellent articles by Frank Davis, more from F2C, About My Area, and The Fuel Injected Moose, to name a few, because it takes me ages.

I will however Post this link to the BBC Look East programme. Enjoy.