"This idea in my view, as a libertarian conservative, comes down too much on the side of bossiness and nannying.
"One feature of life in London is that we are a city that allows people to get on with their lives within the law provided they are not harming anyone else.
"I think smoking is a scourge and it's right to discourage it (but) I am very sceptical at the moment."
He drew on personal experience as he described his opposition: "I have to think back to my own life two decades ago when my wife and I had a baby.
"It came to that point when everybody was asleep and I was in such a mood of absolute elation I wondered out into a park in Islington and it was in the middle of winter but I laid on the ground and had a cigar.
"I don't want to be in a city where somebody can stand over me and say you've got to pay £115 for doing something that is of no harm to anybody except me."
I would have preferred it if Johnson had openly mocked Lord Darzi's plan (of which an outdoors smoking ban is only one element). Nevertheless, he has made it quite plain that he will not be acting on it.
But, oh!, what a nest of vipers came to life when the idea was unfurled. How quickly the bottom feeding prohibitionist slime rose to the surface at the thought that the Overton window had moved in their direction. Deborah Arnott, Alan Maryon-Davis, John Britton, Alex Cunningham and Sally Davis went into spasms of delight, bewitched as they were by the prospect of smokers being further harassed and humiliated. As Dick Puddlecote notes, proposals like this are a wonderful way to smoke out the lurking sadists in society.
...the period of time between the press release going out in the early hours and Boris's statement at lunchtime was open season for every irrational smoker-hating whacko, psychopath, and berserker to spew their bile on every possible platform. Lord Narzi and Sally Davies effectively signalled to thousands of society's most vile that hyperbolic hatred was officially sanctioned by the authorities.
Seemingly terrified that their crown of health fascism might be slipping from their heads, the Labour party showed its true colours (which they have never really tried to hide, even in opposition) by pledging to turn the idea into law at the first opportunity:
Dame Tessa, the former Olympics minister, seized the initiative to promise action if she makes it to City Hall in 2016.
She told the Standard: “If you are asking somebody of Ara Darzi’s eminence and reputation to conduct an investigation like this, you have got to have a pretty good reason for not accepting it if you want to improve the health of Londoners.
“The recommendations are all grounded in evidence and have public support - 59 per cent are in favour of a ban [as far as I can tell, this is a made-up statistic—CJS].
“Lord Darzi has looked at the very radical proposals that Mayor Bloomberg introduced in New York. These have been tried and tested. Similar protections should be offered to Londoners.
“If I were Mayor of London, promoting the health of Londoners would be one of the key areas I would want to act on.”
To be clear, the proposal is to ban grown adult human beings from smoking in 20,000 acres of outdoor space in London, including the city's large parks (Darzi wants to turn parks into "beacons of health"—a phrase that probably sounds better in the original German). Why? Few had the nerve to evoke the phantom of passive smoking. Instead, they said that people have a duty to be "role models" and that children might see somebody smoking and seek to emulate them.
Words almost fail me. Most of the remaining words are expletives. I was in Brussels when the news was announced and I was in no mood to suffer fools gladly when I did a couple of interviews I did over a mobile phone (Voice of Russia and BBC Suffolk, the latter starts 14 minutes in). Is it necessary to give a reasoned response to arguments that are so obviously made with no sincerity? Are we really supposed to deal with ad hoc bans as if they were stand-alone measures rather than pieces of a mounting prohibition?
It hardly needs to be said that smokers, like nonsmokers, have never volunteered to be role models for other people's children. The claim that adult activity should be criminalised if it can be witnessed by minors does not have to be taken to its logical extreme for it to be exposed as absurd and totalitarian. It is plainly not a serious argument. And yet, if I did feel the need to act as a role model to children, I would, first and foremost, impress upon them the importance of ignoring and despising unjust laws. I would hope to teach them that there is, in any society, a minority of bigots who resent liberal values and who will do whatever they can to impose their own lifestyles upon them. If flouting a draconian law will help a child realise that the state is not its friend, then I will cheerfully light a cigarette in any street or park.
Even if the argument wasn't bogus, it would have no bearing on the law. But it is bogus. The proposal—like most anti-smoking policies—is really about belittling, stigmatising and hassling smokers because a certain class of people despise smokers and are keen to encourage the public to share their contempt. But, as I have discussed at length elsewhere, it is the hateful, authoritarian bigots who should be denormalised.
This issue is beautifully clear-cut. If you have any sympathy at all for the idea that smoking in the open air should be a criminal offence, you are the enemy. To call you a 'nanny' would imply a level of compassion and concern that doesn't exist.You are a cancer in the body of society, spreading fear and hatred. You sow misery and division where none existed before. To quote the Book of Psalms (later appropriated by the prohibitionist Billy Sunday) I hate you with a perfect hatred. You do not deserve to live in a free society and, therefore, I don't think you would miss living in a free society. Perhaps, then, you should leave.
I can't leave this topic without highlighting a shameless and obvious lie that appeared in the Evening Standard yesterday. Don't these people have editors?