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« Why people should smoke and drink more | Main | Jolly evening at the Jolly Brewer »

Peer pressure: what Lord Laird thinks about smokers

This morning I was on BBC Radio Ulster talking about smoking in cars where children are present. My principal opponent was Lord Laird of Artigarvan. I began by taking an emollient approach. "I've met Lord Laird," I schmoozed, "and he's a charming man, but he's completely wrong." And very soon we were at it hammer and tongs.

In truth, and despite stiff competition, I can't think of a single peer who is more anti-smoking than Lord Laird. You could almost describe it as illness. This morning, par for the course, there was talk of smoking around children being "obscene" and a form of "child abuse". (If I hear that once more, and I'm sure I will, I'm going to scream. Or should that be "thcream"?)

I assume that Lord Laird wants smoking near children to be prohibited by law, but he didn't go that far. In fact, he was a model of restraint. He merely wants it to be illegal to smoke in any public place, indoors or outdoors.

Anyway, some years ago (before the introduction of the smoking ban) I chaired a discussion between Lord Laird and the late Lord Harris of High Cross. I edited the transcript and with the permission of both men we released it to the media on No Smoking Day 2003. I published a short extract on this blog a couple of years ago but, following my spat with Lord Laird this morning, I think it's time to post the full transcript.

For the record, Lord Laird is a former Ulster Unionist MP. He ran his own PR company, John Laird Public Relations, in Belfast and is one of Britain's most outspoken anti-smoking campaigners. Lord Harris was founder president of the Institute of Economic Affairs, chairman of Forest from 1987 until his death in 2006, and author of several books and monographs about smoking including Murder A Cigarette and The Truth About Passive Smoking.

Lord Laird: I have never been a smoker. I never liked the smell of it. Now I am 58 years of age [this was seven years ago] I find that people I know who smoke are either seriously ill with cancer or, in some cases, dead. I lost my own father, aged 63, through a smoking-related illness. I also lost an uncle, although he was in his eighties, through a long, slow, cancerous death, and three years ago my wife lost her best friend, a small blonde 51-year-old, to a smoking-related illness.

Lord Harris: I lost an uncle to lung cancer at 55 but I've learned from researching all these bewildering and conflicting statistics that although smoking is a risk factor in various conditions called 'smoking-related diseases', diet, hereditary factors, age, and general lifestyle are also very important. I'm not trying to take liberties with statistics, but the fact is that two-thirds of the entire population will die of 'smoking-related diseases' including the majority of non-smokers. The majority of smokers who die of such diseases are over 75. They may have lived even longer had they not smoked but this constant association with smoking and death is, frankly, an over simplification.

Laird: I am quite prepared to accept that but if there are any deaths at all then that presents a difficulty. I look at this from the angle of someone who would in theory support the concept behind your organisation: free choice. It's important we should all have choices but somebody who has got him or herself hooked on to the tobacco drug no longer has a free choice. I've done a recent poll among all my friends who smoke - mostly female, incidentally - and I know of only one person who says 'I have no intention of giving it up.' Every other person says, 'Yes, I will give it up, but not today.' That to me conjures up a section in society which is underachieving. They're depleting their financial resources, they are giving themselves a problems health wise, and they're not fulfilling their potential as human beings because they're enslaved by tobacco.

Harris: When you say that smoking is an addiction ...

Laird: I didn't use that word but I'm prepared to.

Harris: ... there's a lot of debate about that word. Psychologists and psychiatrists describe addictions as things that change your personality, your whole conduct. That's where drugs come in. People do unnatural things, things they wouldn't normally do, under the influence of drugs. By contrast, a lot of people fulfil themselves through sucking at their pipes or smoking their fags. It's part of their personality. What about that?

Laird: Yes, but it's usually the less well off people in society who smoke and as a result they become socially excluded which I feel very strongly about because I don't believe in social exclusion.

Harris: That didn't happen in the old days.

Laird: Yes, it didn't happen in the old days but we're not as tolerant now. We'll not put up with this stuff. How can people operate to the maximum of their ability when they're continually working out little ploys and plots to get outside for a tobacco break? I've been in organisations where the whole strategy is to get outside to smoke. Outside I see a lot of people smoking and on the ground is a whole series of cigarette butts which is very sad. And speaking as a male, there is nothing more horrible than to see an attractive female smoking a fag. I'll tell you an oxymoron: an attractive female smoker. How can you have a girl go to all the trouble to put on nice perfume and then smell like a stale ashtray? That's social exclusion.

Harris: The smoker is the victim of social exclusion, not the cause of it.

Laird: No, he's the cause of it. If he or she didn't smoke they wouldn't be excluded.

Harris: Well, there are two sides on that. For example, one of the things that Forest has passionately argued for is smoking compartments on trains. It is preposterous that in the whole of the South East and Home Counties, where there are journeys of one or two hours if the trains are on time, three if they're not, there is not a single smoking compartment on any train. Smoking compartments offered plenty of social inclusion because you met other smokers and were quite chummy together, and it didn't cause any inconvenience to other people. Is there not some concession whereby we can shake hands and say, 'OK, live and let live'?

Laird: Yes, to an extent, but I think the concept of not allowing people to smoke on public transport has been rather more fair to the smoker because he is no longer socially excluded. He can sit with normal people and enjoy normal conversation. We've got to the stage where we've got to put the squeeze on smokers. I defend the rights of people who wish to smoke but they must take the consequences. They must pay for their habit. There must be, in buildings like the Palace of Westminster, a designated area where smokers are wired off ...

Harris: Wired off?!

Laird: Yes, you wouldn't want them getting out with their cigarettes! They could be looked after and fed and taken out every now and again [laughs]. Smoking is not something that is nice or pleasant or social. I wish smokers could see themselves as non-smokers, the ordinary person, sees them. They are the nicest people in terms of their personality but their packaging and presentation is all wrong because they smoke.

Harris: But if you look at the evidence on passive smoking as a danger to health - rather than as something that is inconvenient, awkward or tiresome - there is nothing in it. Would you accept that?

Laird: No, although I accept that the dangers of passive smoking might be over hyped. What I think, over and above that, is that I don't want to be in company where, when I go home, my clothes and my hair smell. Put crudely, what's the point of me wearing aftershave and then going into a place where people smoke?

Harris: Aftershave? I hate that! If I get a whiff of strong aftershave I think 'Argghhhh'.

Laird: So what do you want to do about it?

Harris: Nothing. Live and let live.

Laird: My feeling with the tobacco industry is live and let die. We have got to put the squeeze on. I am sorry for smokers. We must set them free. We must cut them way from the shackles of the nicotine weed.

Harris: You're doing well [laughs]! But seriously, have I impeded my career? What about Malcolm Bradbury, a pipesmoker who died two years ago of non-smoking related diseases. Did smoking impede his career?

Laird: You don't know.

Harris: You stigmatise the whole thing, don't you?

Laird: What I say as an employer is that nobody wishes to employ people who smoke because they cause so much trouble. Whenever we had a smoker his or her office had to be redecorated twice as often as any of the other offices. After we changed to a smoke free building they were forever out the back smoking, which upset other members of staff. Did they offer to spend an extra hour at the end of the day making up for lost time? No.

Harris: Forgive me, but my origins are working class and the percentage of us who still smoke are disproportionately working class. We pay tax and until recently we produced £10 billion for the Chancellor which covered a quarter of the cost of the entire health service. Yet, now, even in a decent trade union meeting, they'll have a 'No Smoking' sign up. The world has gone mad!

Laird: There's one Labour peer who I sometimes meet sitting on a seat in the corridor. If smoke has been wafting out of the side rooms he can't go any further until he gets his breath back.

Harris: I know him. He's a fanatic. He leaves the room, even a big party with champagne, if someone is smoking. That's exceptional. He's excluding himself, isn't he? He really should put a gas mask on.

Laird: This is a problem which could be rectified if smokers were allowed to subsidise their habit in a proper way. There needs to be a special area in which they can smoke. Take it away from the rest of us, we don't want it.

Harris: Air conditioning and all that stuff, we believe in that.

Laird: The point is, there should be areas like that but they should be paid for by taxes from tobacco and circulated back to the employers.

Harris: Forgive me, I knew a professor at the London School of Economics, a non-smoker, who always had a box of matches on him. If anyone produced a packet of fags he would lean forward and light one for them saying, 'It's the least I can do since you pay all those high taxes for me.' Smokers are benevolent characters. We're paying £10 billion, over and above income tax and everything else, on smoking. It is preposterous, in my view. It's completely overdone.

Laird: I keep on asking the Government, does the tax on smoking cover the Health Service's ability to look after smokers ...

Harris: It certainly does, many times over ...

Laird: ... and they seem incapable of answering it. But while we're on the risk factor, what about the fire risk? What number of domestic residences are damaged throughout the United Kingdom on an annual basis by smokers? There must be a fair number of people who die and whose houses are damaged through smoking or smoking-related fires.

Harris: I'm not challenging you, but do we know that? By the way, I noticed that when the King's Cross Underground caught fire it was immediately said to have been caused by a cigarette. It was later found that there was all this rubbish under the escalators, sparks were coming off and so on. I mean, it's possible, but no-one to this day can claim that the fire was definitely caused by a cigarette.

Laird: OK, but there's nothing more disgusting than smoking and smoking in a Tube station disgusts me even more. Today I was behind a guy and when he finished his cigarette he flung it to the floor and didn't even stamp it out.

Harris: That's awful, no excuses. But you really are a bad case. I had a chap sitting next to me on the Tube and his little bleeper was going off constantly. People on the other side of the carriage had sandwiches and were eating, which I also hate, and other people were drinking. There are no fag ends in the Underground anymore but there are lots of discarded plastic containers. A lot of things I find quite annoying but you really are very, very focused on smoking. Why?

Laird: I have other obsessions but I believe that we have a duty to smokers. I don't think it will happen in my lifetime but I do think that somewhere down the line smokers will be set free and I would like to have played some part in that. Smokers must be set free. They cannot reach their full potential otherwise. By and large society does not like smokers. That's why you get social exclusion. I'm totally opposed to social exclusion but the people who exclude smokers are smokers. I'm very sad and very sorry about it. I'd go anywhere at any stage to stop someone smoking but we've got to handle these problems very delicately. My grandfather was a tobacconist and there are lots of people employed in the smoking industry but we cannot use that argument. The slave trade created jobs and when they decided to do away with capital punishment there were a few hangmen out of work, so we've got to look at alternative methods of employing and using these people.

Harris: If I read your case correctly, this is a really authoritarian viewpoint. I've no doubt that you are totally sincere and well-intentioned, but I wouldn't dream of invigilating other people's lifestyles. Hitler was the ultimate anti-smoking fanatic but you're equally fierce on all this. I'm amazed.

Laird: Yes, I am fierce. There's no point pussy-footing around this debate. Smokers smell, their houses smell, their cars smell, everything about them smells. It's a fact of life. And if you're female, you're cutting down by a tremendous amount the number of males who are interested in you. Who is going to go out with an ashtray? The point is, what you may think as an extreme argument from me now will, in my opinion, seem perfectly acceptable in 10 or 15 years. In my lifetime I have seen a tremendous move away from smoking. The slide is on and we will win this battle.

Harris: This is an historic discussion we are having. You seem to be a perfectly well-intentioned, amiable chap to have such extreme, dogmatic views. As for exclusion, we've got a Pipe and Cigar Smokers Club in the House of Lords and the chairman is Lord Mason, one of the most jolly and cheerful chaps. I assure you that the comradeship, partly driven by the external hostility you describe, is fantastic. I mean, there are party politicians I wouldn't normally be seen dead talking to and here we are lighting each others' pipes!

Laird: Why can't this comradeship be available to all of us? You're excluding yourselves! We want you!

Harris: But, John, don't you see that we all put up with things that we don't like, we've agreed to that. By the way, do you mix with drinkers, heavy drinkers?

Laird: Not heavy drinkers, but I mix with drinkers.

Harris: And sometimes it gets rather nasty?

Laird: Oh, it does, but that's why I don't mix with heavy drinkers.

Harris: Well, I sometimes feel about heavy drinkers the way you do about smokers. It's not for me. But the idea that I would want to characterise them as outsiders, beyond the pale and so forth, is preposterous. I steer clear if I feel so inclined. I am very alarmed by your certainty of being right.

Laird: It's a wake up call.

Harris: We're wide awake! We've read the health warnings. We know that we're taking a chance. I'm not being frivolous. I've discussed it with my wife, who has a cigarette once in a blue moon, and she sees my pipe as part of me.

Laird: I will defend your right to smoke if you wish to smoke, as long as you defend my right to explain to you what the difficulties are and to explain to you about your social exclusion.

Harris: And to cast me into outer darkness?

Laird: You put yourself into outer darkness!

Harris: That is the distinction between us!

Laird: You have put yourself in outer darkness and I want to bring you back because I think you're a very jolly fellow and you and I could have a very good glass of wine at some stage and put the world to rights, but I don't see why I should be deprived of your company because you are excluding yourself. This is unfair on me now.

Harris: Are you a professional politician?

Laird: No, I'm a humble PR guy.

Harris: You certainly have a winning way of presenting an argument! But you must admit it is trying to laugh the issue out of court. You say I am excluding myself, you long to welcome me back so long as I take my pipes and my tobacco pouch and burn them and promise never to indulge again. I mean, this is a price that some of us would think wasn't worth paying.

Laird: Fine, fine. I think it would be a price worth paying. The whole of life is poorer for your exclusion. That's a great pity because there's an awful lot you could contribute. We would like to have you back.

Reader Comments (25)

This is a perfect example of anti-smoking hysteria. It is now fairly open public policy for social workers to allow habitual drug users to keep their children in the "family unit" - yet to refuse adoption rights to non-users of illegal drugs if they smoke (even though cigtarette smoking is a legal act)

August 31, 2010 at 16:20 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Wow, what a loon! It really sounds like he needs professional help.

August 31, 2010 at 17:07 | Unregistered CommenterChris

“He merely wants it to be illegal to smoke in any public place, indoors or outdoors.”
Laird is very much in the George Godber mould. See the Godber Blueprint (the beginnings of the current anti-smoking crusade)

August 31, 2010 at 17:25 | Unregistered CommenterJohnB

"Laird: Yes, but it's usually the less well off people in society who smoke and as a result they become socially excluded which I feel very strongly about because I don't believe in social exclusion." Oh I think you do Lord Laird.

As a lifelong smoker from the age of 8, a child of a single parent family, and the head of a single parent family for many years, I really do know a lot more than you do Lord Laird about living in abject poverty and what causes it. As as you claim to speak for me and my kind, which I have never asked you to, perhaps you should know that I completely object to having your caring forced upon me because it eases your conscience.

I am fed up of having to suffer your kind of patronising. I have never felt excluded, discriminated against, or humiliated as much as I have since July 2007 when Govt gave legal backing to hatred of my kind and culture. I doubt your sort cares much for "the poor" at all in reality. I'll bet you wouldn't drop a single penny into a beggar's bowl as you drove past in your posh car, foul exhaust poisoning everything and killing children a you go.

No sir. You are a hypocrite and a bigot that uses "the poor" as a means to enforce your own prejudices against people so that you can exclude from life those things that you personally dislike.

I don't swear much in public but I have to conclude that you are a tosser of the highest order.

You do not speak for me or "the poor". NOT IN OUR NAME!

August 31, 2010 at 18:20 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Laird is a poor deluded fool.

He is also a bigot and knows nothing of how "real" people live.

The poor, as he like to refer to them are not the biggest smokers at all. Let's face it, the poor cannot afford to smoke they way they used to any more.

It is the rich who are by far the biggest smokers, firstly they can afford to smoke as much as they want and secondly, they are in general better educated, and know the truth about the so called dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke.

It is such a shame that that a person in his position is obviously not as well educated as his fellow peers, and comes out with such silly statements. He could and should be doing so many better things with his life, instead of which he is wasting it and making himself look an utter fool into the bargain.

August 31, 2010 at 19:49 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

"We would like to have you back."

The trouble is, in that patronising little sentence, he's completely overlooked one of the biggest (these days) advantages of smoking. Irritating though it is not to be able to mix with tolerant non-smokers as much as we might like, it does at least cut out the possibility of having to mix with people like him! He is clearly labouring under the delusion that that fact that "they" would like to have "us" back will cause us to leap up and down with joy and fling our cigarettes to one side, as if the fact that we are now better able to avoid conversing at length with antis has been a terrible hardship for us .........

August 31, 2010 at 19:51 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Oh dear,oh dear,why do so many intelligent devotees of freedom waste so much of their precious time parrotting with such hate junkies. What does it need to spell out to eminent defenders of libetry,you do not gain one millimeter of ground by
chatting with dyed in the wool zealots. They do not understand reason,they are
deaf to any ideals but their own.
They are small time self elevating dictators who thrive on appeasement.
History ,over and over again,has taught us how to deal with such demi-gods
and it certainly is not by being polite.

Boru's Own

August 31, 2010 at 20:40 | Unregistered CommenterBack Streets

Words (almost) fail me - what an arrogant, patronising man who, in the absence of a decent argument to justify his position, resorts to invalid logic.

I don't want to join your gang, thanks.

August 31, 2010 at 20:57 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Perhaps people wouldn't be so 'poor' if the taxes on cigarettes weren't so extreme

August 31, 2010 at 22:58 | Unregistered CommenterSylvester

Misty has nailed just what I was thinking.

Why would he believe that we want to be un-excluded? If I had to be in-cluded with people like him. I'd rather not if he does not mind.

The same applies to having my health inequalities equalised. I's rather be unequal, if that is what it takes to remain a free individual.

But that was in 1998. I think that we have managed to kick all the smells well into touch by now - I don't think that even ASH mention fragrances any more.

August 31, 2010 at 23:07 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Laird is a CRANK - it's that simple.

The problem is that he's also an INTOLERANT crank.

In the 17th Century, he'd have been hounding 'witches' and burning Catholics (
or Protestants).

Organised religion is falling apart in this country, and no longer provides the haven for this sort of lunacy that it once did - nor the splendid opportunities for repression (in God's name, naturally).

But the Health Lobby - and the public's new-found obsession with physical wellbeing, personal beauty, and the quest for eternal youth - have provided the Lairds of this world with both a home AND a platform from which to sermonise.

Truth as Authority ?

Or Authority as Truth ?

THAT is the commanding question of THIS Age - as it has been of every other.

And only the individual can decide for himself.

Sadly, most people are still too lazy even to consider it...................................

September 1, 2010 at 6:38 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I just love this mans description of non-smokers as "normal" people (see answer on smoking carriages in trains). I also liked the comment on seeing attractive women smoking as offputting. Has this man looked in a mirror lately.
If this dirty minded old creep represents "normality" give me abnormality any day of the week.

September 1, 2010 at 7:18 | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

Here is a short list of people Lord Lard of Artivargan thinks must be socially excluded fortunately they were not.

Albert Einstein, probably the world’s greatest ever scientist
Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph etc
Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone
Robert Oppenheimer (1904 – 1967)
Edwin Hubble (1889 – 1953)
Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during WW2
Franklin D Roosevelt, American president during WW2
Queen Margrethe II: queen of Denmark
John F Kennedy, former US president
George Orwell
Oscar Wilde
Jean-Paul Sartre
JR Tolkien (1892 – 1973), writer of “The Lord of the Rings”, one of the top selling novels of all time

I think George Orwell is the one he should take most note of.

September 1, 2010 at 8:16 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

Simply, he's an arrogant, sanctimonious, self centred, nasty, little, tw@t. Aren't they all? None are any different and I give them short shrift at any opportunity.

September 1, 2010 at 8:25 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

The people would applaud him.

Well I think he's an absolute treasure! If you stuck his head on a pike staff...then people would give him a generous round of then.

September 1, 2010 at 9:10 | Unregistered CommenterDavidR

...and, Specky, we mustn't forget the oxymorons such as Joanna Lumley, Catherine Zeta Jones, Brigitte Bardot...

How, on earth, did they manage to find lovers, partners and husbands when, as soon as they light up, their attractiveness vanishes in a puff of smoke, so to speak?

September 1, 2010 at 9:20 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

He dictates exlusion for smokers, well in my book that equates to APARTHIED.
So dumb, he just cannot see that.

September 1, 2010 at 9:32 | Unregistered CommenterSpecky

It is easy to suggest this Lord is a loon and his views are intolerant or criticize his analysis. Unfortunately his view has held sway. This interview was in 2003 well before the ban. At that time Lord Harris used reason and commonsense. It did not prevail.

The self-exclusion argument used by Lord Laird no longer holds as the 2007 ban effectviely put pay to that. Yet at the time the argument was made, it was useful.

What can be done is more to the point? Many claim you can not argue with zealots, bigots etc so argueing with his view is a non-starter. Why did/has his view prevailed and why does it continue to prevail? That is the point. The issue is how do we get back to common sense?

Indeed in terms of exclusion, people who smoke have very little voice. The MSM seem to only print the PR releases of the anti-smoking lobby and there is next to no discussion on TV. Local Radio does offer some limited opportunities, though even here the they seem to be on the anti-smoking message

Since the interview even more exttreme views have taken hold 3HS and now outside bans. In the US some tenants face eviction from council housing if they smoke (Boston MA). Whole towms (e.g Calabasas CA) have become 'smokefree'

Perhaps being a 'loon' is effective?

September 1, 2010 at 10:31 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

'What do you expect from a horse but a kick'.

This man is a lifelong bigot who was instrumental in bringing down the Stormont government in 1974 because he did not want to share power with Catholics. He has abused 'Parlamentary Privilege' by naming people as terrorists without a shred of evidence and no bottle to do it outside parliament where he could be sued.

He may be a loon but he is a dangerous one. Most smokers do not smoke in cars if children are present but even if they do this is much less 'abuse' that the suppression and discrimination perpetrated by he and his ilk on a whole section of society just because of their religion at birth.

The analogy with Hitler is apt on more than one count.

September 1, 2010 at 12:38 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Peoples

Words fail me listening to this wanker Laird, he just typifies all antis mindset about smoking, self rightous and no let up, stamp the bloody smokers out with the jackboot until they're crushed.
As west2 says his diktat still holds sway, which is amazing all these years later to have to admit he was successful in his hatred and intolerance of smokers.
But if he had the anti smoking jargon/formula of words off pat in 2003, that nobody really understood way back then, as we were all innocent about PR crooks like him spouting god fearing weasel words, it just goes to show that the jobsworths anti machine must have been well set up years before all that bullshit hit the air waves.
Just like the Hitler regime or the Lisbon treaty that had our brains well psyched out before the attack, leaving us with 'no case to answer' on the grounds it was for our own good etc etc
We didnt stand a chance and we are still left reeling to this day.

September 1, 2010 at 13:00 | Unregistered Commenterann

I have never been a smoker. I never liked the smell of it [misocapnist]. Now I am 58 years of age [this was seven years ago] I find that people I know who smoke are either seriously ill with cancer or, in some cases, dead. I lost my own father, aged 63, through a smoking-related illness.

In 2008, 5 years after the 2003 interview – making him 63, Laird suffered a near-fatal heart attack. The same age (slightly younger) that his father, a smoker, had a fatal heart attack. Technology (a pacemaker and defribillator) seems to have kept Laird ticking. It would be interesting to ask Laird, a non-smoker, the reason for his early heart attack that would have been fatal had it occurred in 1970? (heredity?)

In the story, he ensures an antismoking shot:
His [Laird’s] dislike of smoking has also been reinforced. One of his fellow patients was a man of 26, a smoker who had had a heart attack and who regularly cursed the day he had taken his first cigarette.
How Laird can attribute a heart attack in a 26 year-old – a rarity – to smoking is best known to antismoking bigots.

The parliamentary [eugenics] group on smoking and health. The “group” (bureaucracy) is riddled with antismokers, i.e., people that hate smoke/smoking/smokers, including Laird. This is the group that informs politicians. This is why the smoking ban (or antismoking propaganda) will not be reviewed while it is this “group” that informs politicians of whatever political party.

September 1, 2010 at 17:23 | Unregistered CommenterJohnB

JohnE - I'm certain that Lord Laird would attribute his heart attack to SHS without even stopping to reflect that other factors were considerably more likely to be the culprits.

September 1, 2010 at 18:32 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

"Lord Laird found himself at the centre of a minor scandal in 2005, when it was revealed that while chairman of the Ulster-Scots agency, Laird had spent in excess of £2500 of public money on taxis between Belfast and Dublin."

Frankly, I'm getting awfully tired of all these synthetically-produced aristos: just bung a 'Lord' in front of their name, and they're translated from pavement-level to Olympus in less time than it takes to say 'forelock'.

And, by some Magic, every commonplace sentiment they utter- patently risible when expressed by some dipstick wannabe in the 'Big Brother' household - is suddenly tinged with the gold of Divine Wisdom.

Give me the Old-Style 'Lord' - and the Old-Style House of Lords any day: for all their faults, there was more worldly-wisdom, more humanity, more style, more wit, and a bloody sight more genuine 'Liberalism' among THEIR ranks than you'll find nowadays among the colourless, odorless, brainless - and utterly shameless Tribunes of the Plebs.

I'm sick of 'em......................................

Yuk !!!

September 1, 2010 at 22:41 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

" I have never been a smoker. I never liked the smell of it."

That first sentence reminds me of when I was an Army musician in 1970. A Corporal in the band had a 'bunk', ie, his own room. Lance Corporals and Corporals were entitled to this, but not many did as they preferred the social company of a barrack room. Corporal Ralph had a 'bunk' because he didn't like the smell of smoke. Fair play. He did however constantly belittle anyone who smoked. Corporal Ralph did well. He left and went on to play in the horn section of the London Symphony Orchestra, eventually being on their management committee. I should imagine that Bob Ralph was one of those many obsessives who loved it on my 55th Birthday, 14th February 2006 when HM Government decided to make smokers second class citizens.

September 2, 2010 at 0:13 | Unregistered Commentertimbone

I am a bit bemused. I wonder what happened in the discussion which took place between Simon and Lord Sutch - sorry, Lord Laird - a couple of days ago (31st Aug?). Is there a recording somewhere? I would have liked to have heard that discussion.

September 2, 2010 at 4:00 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

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