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Paul Weller in jam with a fag.

The slightly surreal title is meant to convey that Paul Weller's in trouble for smoking on stage during his act. It's part of his artistic integrity, apparently.

While I have no truck with all this 'artistic integrity' crap - it excuses things like mannequins on toilets and piles of bricks as 'art' - I also have no truck with the council's response to one man smoking one cigarette in a huge hall.

The star was warned not to smoke on stage but "chose to ignore that advice", a spokesman for Crawley Borough Council said.

It wasn't 'advice', it is the law. I don't like it either, but it needs to be overturned by legal means, by first getting rid of the government that did it, then by getting rid of all those overbearing Righteous morons who insist that their way of life is the only valid one, and the rest of us just have to shut up and get into line. Most of the second will be achieved by the first, although the Tories have their share of Righteous so it's best not to get complacent.

"We were left in a very difficult position but our priority was the safety of the crowd.

My first reaction to this line was, as it turned out, the wrong one:

"The smoke posed a relatively minor risk compared to the potential crowd control problems had either show been suspended."

The smoke posed less risk than the ozone created by all that electrical equipment. Far less risk than would have been posed by one person in the crowd with early symptoms of influenza. In fact, the smoke from one cigarette in a room that big posed no risk at all, let's be honest.

And yes, if they had stopped the show because of a cigarette, it is entirely possible that the crowd might have rioted. Why? Because, Crawley Borough Council, the audience did not get up and walk out when Paul Weller lit his cigarette, did they? They did not flee to the open air for fear of imminent emphysema. They didn't care about the cigarette. They weren't at all concerned by it. The only ones bothered would have been those smokers in the audience who weren't allowed to join him and the council snoops out for some easy revenue.

The smoking ban is bizarre. If it was a matter for each individual business to decide whether they wanted to 'risk losing non-smoker's trade' by allowing smoking on the premises, it could be fair. In true public places such as railway waiting rooms, the smoker and the non-smoker alike have no option but to be there, if they're waiting for a train. In cases like that, it's fair that the smoker goes outside to smoke. In a private business, the ban isn't about smoking. It's about control. The owner of that business no longer chooses what he or she allows on their private premises. The council will enforce this lack of choice with Inquisition-like zeal. They don't care about smoking either. What they care about is that if someone touches a flame to a lttle paper tube filled with dry leaves, there's a big fine they can apply to the smoker and to the owner of the premises.

In this case, sense prevailed, at least temporarily. Someone recognised that closing down a popular entertainer's gig because of a cigarette might result in something a lot worse. Something much harder to control than one man with one smoking stick. It won't happen again, of course, and the Righteous won't let it lie.

Crawley Borough Council said it is reviewing the options but if the case is pursued, Weller could be fined up to £200.

I'm sure he's quaking at the thought of his guitar-string budget for the week being slightly reduced. The venue could be fined £2500, which will hurt them a lot more than £200 will hurt someone like Paul Weller. Honestly, is there any point in all the time and expense needed to pursue a fine Weller could find down the back of his sofa?

It's not about punishing Paul Weller though, is it? It's about warning all those evil smokers out there. Stay in line, proles. Look, we'll fine anyone. You won't be allowed to get away with it.

It's not really about the smoking either, is it? I know some have been whipped into a frenzy by having a legal victim to pick on, but it's not about the smoking. For them, it's about a direction for their rage. They don't know why they're angry, most of them. Stealth taxes everywhere, gas and electricity rising, unemployment at its highest for eleven years, no job security, no pay rise, and so on. Individually, each is a worry. Combined, they add up to a directionless fury because no single item in that list will account for all the rage. People are all fired up with no-one to shout at. A helpful Righteous points them at their own favourite target and says 'Him, with the cigarette. He's to blame. He's the one costing the health service. It's his fault there are all these stealth taxes. It's his fault you have to wait so long to see a doctor'.

The same trick works on anyone who might have a bit of a gut. Obesity starts at waist size 37 inches, according to the posters in the bus stops here. Just under the no-smoking sign, which you can see when the wind isn't cutting across your eyes.

No-smoking signs outdoors, in windy locations. It's not about the smoking, is it? It never was. It's about doing what you're told, and about paying fines if you don't. Drop a cigarette end outdoors, which is the only place smoking is allowed, and you'll be fined again. Drop a plastic cup and the same official will ignore you. That one's neither about litter nor smoking.

Control and revenue collections are the only things being imposed by the smoking ban, by the forcing of burger vans to sell salads, by the bins that won't quite close, by the can in the glass bin, by all of it. None of it is for our benefit. Not one thing. The government don't dare raise income tax at the moment, but increasing the number of everyday things you can be fined for is no problem. For the Righteous, this is wonderful news. They can criminalise their pet hates with government support, and legally pursue anyone who does not conform.

Will they fine Paul Weller? Common sense says no. It's not worth it - the fine is no deterrent to someone so successful and the cost of doing it means the £200 collected won't go far. So if they do fine him it can only be seen as 'making an example'. Will they fine the venue? £2500 is a better return and the venue can hardly decide to simply go elsewhere. The soft target gets the bigger fine, even though they didn't light that cigarette and had asked the performer not to. Is it really about smoking and health?

I've rambled a little here, but then it's a complex subject with far too many aspects to cover in one post. I'll leave it with one last thing.

He could land a venue a £2500 fine for lighting up during his set as smoking in public buildings is banned.

The public buildings part is nonsense. Pubs are not public buildings. Neither are clubs. They are private businesses. Companies that own office blocks are not permitted to allow anyone to smoke in them, anywhere. Van drivers cannot smoke in their own vans, salesmen in their cars - even if they are self-employed. If you set up a smokers' club, employed only smokers and only allowed smokers to join it, you'd all be standing out in the rain to smoke while the club lies empty. That's how stupid it is to say 'it's to protect non-smokers'. Even if there isn't a non-smoker within fifty miles, a smoker cannot light up indoors, even if he owns the establishment.

And nobody, not even the most dismal and limited of amateur architects, could possibly consider a bus shelter consisting of one upright panel and a flat roof as a 'building'. If the wind's in the wrong direction it doesn't even work as a shelter. If you're alone there, nobody in sight, and you feel like a smoke, you have to move just outside the shelter to light up. One yard and you're legal. What the hell difference does that make to any non-smoker in the vicinity?

Oh, enough. You can point this out to the Righteous until you're blue in the face. Their smug smiles don't even waver. Smoking is banned indoors, whether you own the business or not, whether everyone in the building is a smoker or not, whether anyone objects or not. They must not be allowed to choose because they might not choose the Righteous way. If they step out of line, hit them with a bit of revenue collection. The government gets a bit more cash and the prole is slapped back into line. Result.

These bans have to be overturned but they have to change by legal means. In order to do that, we'd have to take the reins of the easily-led out of the hands of the Righteous. It would be best if all those people would think for themselves, but they won't. Some will always prefer to be told how to think.

Well, if that's how it has to be played, then so be it.
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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
12th Nov, 2008 22:25 (UTC)
Paul Weller etc
Yes, isn't it funny, in a sick perverted kind of way how they like to make these Mickey Mouse rules 'just because they can' to keep us in order? However, having been brought up not to litter & having brought my kids up not to litter, since the advent of the £75 fixed penalty for littering I take great personal pleasure in dropping a little piece of litter every day 'Some litter each day keeps NuLabour at bay'.
13th Nov, 2008 02:36 (UTC)
Like pebbles on a beach?
Thanks; enjoyable read. I tend to ramble on as well on the subject of freedom. I end up having to tell myself to stop and click 'submit' even though my mind is still going off on all sorts of related tangents.

I do hate litter, but I've never considered cig. ends to be litter unless they look like pebbles on a beach, directly deposited from a full car ashtray.

Yes, the smoking ban is about a) control.

From Stewart Cowan (http://www.thelabourparty.org).
13th Nov, 2008 03:12 (UTC)
Re: Like pebbles on a beach?
Dumping a full car ashtray in the street is lazy and inconsiderate and should, rightly, be considered littering. There's no need. At some point the car will be home and the ashtray can be emptied into a bin. It's as irritating as those who throw apple cores and drinks cans from their windows as they drive around.

One cigarette end used to be no problem. Cigarette filters are cellulose and are biodegradable, but it takes time. The smoking ban led to a rapid accumulation of 'one cigarette end' outside every building. The response? Fine it. Don't give them an indoor room with an ashtray. Fine it.

I know it's not just a Labour issue. Deep down, we all do. Labour happen to be the government in control and will, fairly or not, take the blame.

Some of us realise that under the Tories there will be no difference at all. That the unelected pressure groups will be the same as before and their Righteousness will prevail.

Most, however, don't.

It's no longer about party politics. It's about control vs. liberty. The trouble is, most of the proles have difficulty grasping that.

In my small and probably insignificant way, I try to change that a little every day.

Maybe I can move a mountain, but maybe I can only slightly dislodge a molehill. All I can do is try.
13th Nov, 2008 03:55 (UTC)
Re: Like pebbles on a beach?
You're up late too (or early).

Agree with everything you said. The local council here have been handing out Stubi* pouches to smokers they see in the street - the reason being that cigarette ends take up to two years to decompose, which is a nonsense excuse as the streets are cleaned at least once a week in the town.

They have just employed four smoking enforcement officers (or some such OTT title) in a town of 11,000 to accost people dropping cig. ends in the street and issue a fine.

Imagine if these four people were employed to keep the streets clean instead - but a) there's no revenue to be generated; b) they would be behaving like servants rather than tyrants and c) the 'authorities' get to train us to be good little proles, scared of everything.

"In my small and probably insignificant way, I try to change that a little every day."

So do I. Just maybe the combined efforts of the few can pay off?

13th Nov, 2008 04:18 (UTC)
Re: Like pebbles on a beach?
That comment was from me again, btw: Stewart Cowan (http://www.thelabourparty.org).
13th Nov, 2008 20:44 (UTC)
Re: Like pebbles on a beach?
Always up late, hence never up early. Too many espressos. Good thing I'm not tied to that 9 to 5 nonsense any more.

Cigarette filters are cellulose, tobacco is made of leaves, so they are biodegradable and therefore Green. All that's needed is to sweep them up and compost them - and nicotine is an insecticide so it'll be anti-aphid compost.

Plus, as I delight in telling weirdy beardy complainers, they contain no animal products so they're suitable for vegetarians.

Faced with the slow-witted, it's possible, even easy, to convince them that smoking is good for the environment. I've never tested how long their conversion lasts but it's always fun to do it.

Are they giving out those 'stubbi' things free? Wait till the non-smokers find out about that little use of council tax!
14th Nov, 2008 13:37 (UTC)
Re: Like pebbles on a beach?
Have a cup of camomile infusion and impress those veggie health freaks!

Yes, the Stubbi do-dahs were gratis to try and civilise all the smokers who insist on mingling with normal people.
13th Nov, 2008 07:31 (UTC)
Never been a big fan of Paul Weller - until now perhaps. He was obviously making a statement, a protest. A protest against something that many would consider trivial. But then again, most rock stars don't protest anything these days. Many prefer to join the ranks of the Righteous, like the hypocrite Bono.

Of course, this protest wasn't about a trivial issue. It was about everything that you highlighted, and more. What's worrying is that none of the audience lit up in support. Paul lit the the blue touch paper. Result - a damp squib....
13th Nov, 2008 10:41 (UTC)
What a mess it must have been with the dead bodies in the audience.
Or doesnt passive smoke kill people when its produced during an artistic performance?
13th Nov, 2008 10:47 (UTC)
If my memory is correct, Crawley only has two indoor venues large enough to hold a concert - the new leisure centre and the Hawth Theatre. I believe they are both owned by the local council. Will we see them prosecuting themselves? I wouldn't put it past them.

Incidentally, just outside FatBigot Towers is an island in the road on which stand two public phones. They are open to the elements except for a roof extending out about a foot and little side walls of a similar depth. Each bears a sign saying it is illegal to smoke in it. You couldn't make this stuff up.
13th Nov, 2008 20:33 (UTC)
We have the little stickers everywhere - even on the outside of a bus station where there is no overhead cover at all. Soon it'll be illegal to smoke with a hat on.
13th Nov, 2008 11:33 (UTC)
The Bile Council.
From: http://www.bobsheadrevisited.blogspot.com/

"The ban isn't about smoking. It's about control".

Absolutely. Smoking and public safety has nothing to do with it. It's just be a bit of Town Hall malice.
13th Nov, 2008 12:42 (UTC)
Yes, these draconian measures are stupid.

All that is going to happen is that smokers will be forced into going underground.

(sorry, couldn't resist)
13th Nov, 2008 20:31 (UTC)
I remember that song, from the distant past.

Going underground won't be so bad. All the booze and all the fatty, salty food will be down there too.

Along with any woman deemed distractingly attractive by our new Puritan society.

Yep. Start digging.
14th Nov, 2008 13:43 (UTC)
Puritan society or Sodom and Gomorrah?
They are not puritans because they hate sin, they just pretend to be because they love control.

An article I wrote a few months ago exposes them for what they are: "Labour finally delivers its Vision of Utopia: Sodom and Gomorrah" - http://www.thelabourparty.org/sodomgomorrah.htm
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )