Trump, Brexit and childish politics – The centre cannot hold

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Trump, Brexit and childish politics – The centre cannot hold

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

– WB Yeats, The Second Coming

 

I’m no fan of Donald Trump. He’s not a good businessman, I don’t think he’ll be a good president and all the evidence points to him being a far from satisfactory human being. But is his election the end of the world? I very much doubt it. Once in office he’ll be hemmed in by all the machinery of government, not to mention a Congress dominated by a GOP that, fundamentally, doesn’t really like him very much. None of his wilder proposals are going to happen, and his foreign policy ideas are actually a lot less likely to trigger a major war than Hillary Clinton’s hyper-interventionism would have been. I’d rather see a POTUS who’s too friendly with Putin than one who thinks shooting down Russian warplanes in the airspace of a Russian ally is a sane move.

Oh yes; Hillary. The ultimate Washington insider, who got to be the Democratic candidate for no real reason beyond it being her turn. A woman who, more than anyone else in the USA, is a symbol of the political establishment. An increasingly hereditary establishment, at that; if she’d won then four of the last five US presidents would have been provided by just two families. Perhaps we should wonder why people called Bush or Clinton – and, previously, Kennedy – seem to have access to high-level politics that resembles that granted by North Korea to people called Kim.

Anyway, I don’t support Trump, but Trump won. And in June the UK voted to leave the European Union, largely thanks to years of work by UKIP’s Nigel Farage. I don’t support UKIP either, although I am on the Brexit side of that argument. Next March the Front National’s Marine Le Pen will almost certainly win the first round of the French presidential election, and she has a growing chance of taking the presidency itself. Needless to say, I don’t support the Front National. In Germany, where I actually live, Frauke Petry’s Alternative für Deutschland increased its vote share by 200% in the past year and has displaced the Greens as Germany’s third party. I don’t support AfD (but, if the growing lawlessness on the streets of German towns isn’t cracked down on very hard and very soon, I’m open to reconsidering that). All over the western world, anti-establishment parties are on the rise. Why?

The internet’s infantile meltdown

Twitter today has been, to put it mildly, agitated. There have been blizzards of recriminations, oceans of tears and a sort of background wail of hysterical over-reaction. I mean, really; if someone’s talking about suicide because a deeply flawed, immensely rich career politician didn’t win an election, their survival chances probably weren’t high to start with. If you’re announcing to the world that you don’t feel safe in America since Trump clinched the election, I just can’t take you seriously. Apart from anything else you weren’t safe in America anyway; it has rates of violent crime without equal anywhere else in the developed world.

The other thing I’ve seen on Twitter today is a staggering level of racism unleashed by the Trump victory. Well of course. Trump was the racism candidate, right?

Oh wait.

racism

Reverse racism? No, just racism

There’s tons of this shit. Thousands of tweets. A massive flood of racism directed against white people. And however annoyed you might be about the result, this is not okay. Someone who says “I hate white people” is every bit as much a repulsive piece of shit – and every bit as much a racist – as someone who says “I hate brown people”.

Now, I realise that a lot of keyboard warriors are going to disagree with that. I’ve heard all the arguments about how it’s impossible to be racist against the majority ethnic group – and I don’t buy any of them. Racism is disliking or discriminating against someone because of their race, and if you don’t like white people you’re a racist. It’s that simple, and no amount of linguistic contortions will get you out of it. You may not like that, but it’s a fact.

Here’s another fact you’re not going to like: The prevalence, and acceptance by a significant minority of the population, of absurd bullshit like “You can’t be racist against white people” is why Trump won. If you’ve spent the last six months yelling that anyone who believes there are only two genders is a bigot, or that everything bad in the world is the fault of white people, you were working for the Trump campaign. Congratulations; the candidate you were helping got elected.

I don’t doubt for a moment that every racist in the USA voted for Trump. However that does not mean that everyone who voted for him is a racist. Not even everyone who voted for him because of his views on immigration is a racist. Being concerned about high levels of immigration is not a racist viewpoint; it’s actually the majority view in almost every country. Most people don’t mind sharing their society with incomers of different backgrounds, but they don’t want it to be changed by those incomers. And that’s reasonable. I’ve spent years in the Middle East and Asia, and I know what some of the societies that exist there are like. Making my own society even slightly more like those ones is something I am vehemently opposed to, because I don’t like those other societies or the cultural values that have made them what they are.

Wait, what? I don’t like the cultural values many recent immigrants bring with them? That must make me a racist, right? This is where it gets awkward. Because if the fact I think women, atheists and gays are human beings with the same rights as anyone else makes me some kind of right-wing extremist, I’m not actually going to lose any sleep over that.

Crying Wolf

Hillary Clinton’s supporters, and Bernie Sanders’s as well, used exactly the same tactics as the Remain campaign used in the UK early this summer: They poured out an endless stream of toxic effluent that could have been custom designed to alienate the very people whose votes they needed. Instead of listening to the concerns expressed by many, they simply screeched that those concerns were racist/transphobic/”problematic”/whatever and that anyone who had them was deplorable.

Racists really are deplorable, but the political left has splashed the accusation around so freely and indiscriminately that it doesn’t actually mean anything any more. The same applies to lots of other accusations of prejudice. There was a minor internet kerfuffle recently when some moron accused anyone who wouldn’t have a relationship with a trans person of being transphobic. This is so absurd that it shouldn’t even need a rebuttal. Yes, I’m sure some of those who wouldn’t date a trans person are transphobic, but most are not. Perhaps they just want a partner who’s biologically capable of bearing or fathering their children. It might even be as simple as a preference for a girlfriend who doesn’t have a penis, or a boyfriend who does. That’s purely a matter of personal taste; it certainly isn’t transphobia, and by claiming it is you just devalue the term. Oh, and make yourself look stupid.

For at least a decade and a half the left, at least in the UK and USA, has not engaged in political debate. Instead it’s tried to shut down debate by abusing and intimidating any dissenters into silence. It hasn’t worked, and it was never going to work. When you call the BNP anti-muslim extremists people will look at them, agree and support you – but if you call Maajid Nawaz an anti-muslim extremist people will just think you’re a twat.

Guess what? They’ll be right.

Playtime’s over

Politics is adult business, but for far too long, far too many people have behaved like children – screaming, throwing tantrums, and breaking their toys when they don’t get what they want. It needs to stop. Many on the left – and a few on the right; let’s not get too smug here – need to regain contact with reality. For too long, politics has been dominated by the concept of a centre-left consensus that never actually existed. It just appeared to exist, because anyone who dared to disagree with it was shouted down.

But the once-silent majority of ordinary, small-c conservative and largely decent people are tired of being shouted at, and they’ve started to push back. You can try to re-engage with them, understand their concerns and treat them as fellow humans, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Or you can dial up the shrieks of “Racists! Fascists!! Stupid white people!!!” by another few hundred decibels. What do you think is most likely to win back their votes?

Yes, I said “Win back their votes”. The Brexit referendum was won because an awful lot of working-class, mainly northern Labour voters were fed up being told that everything they value is evil, stupid and wrong. As US election data emerges, it seems that Trump was pushed to victory by white voters who backed Obama in 2008 and 2012. Did they become racist because Obama was so terrible? I doubt it.

Obama hasn’t been an impressive president, but he’s not really been a bad one either. I was glad he beat McCain in 2008, because the alternative would have put Sarah Palin one heart palpitation away from the Oval Office. I was glad he beat Romney in 2012, because something in me screams at the thought of a president who believes in magic underwear. I don’t think the Obama administration will be looked back on with any great enthusiasm. Equally, though, the fact he was elected twice shows that America isn’t exactly the hateful, racist hellhole that the internet has spent all day telling me it is.

Protest works both ways

In the final analysis I don’t think many people voted for Trump. I suspect most of his electors voted against Clinton. High stakes for a protest vote? Perhaps. Personally I’d much rather have seen Gary Johnson win. But the demos is fickle and, when it decided it was time to smash the political establishment’s head in, Trump was the baseball bat it reached for. I doubt the orange one will be elected for a second term, and in fact I hope he isn’t. I hope that by 2020 the Republicans will have found a candidate who’s not either a religious maniac or a blundering idiot, and the Democrats will have turned up one who hasn’t elevated “progressive” dogma to a religion in its own right. Even better, perhaps the American people will be fed up enough of both traditional parties to elect a libertarian and finally make the USA as free as it always proclaims itself to be.

In the meantime we’ll have President Trump, and for better or worse we all need to accept that and get on with life. By all means campaign against his policies; most of them are nonsense anyway, and richly deserve protest. Go right ahead and work to get someone else elected in 2020. It’s even fine and honourable to take to the streets in protest if he tries to violate the rights of people in the USA or abroad.

But don’t indulge yourselves in the sort of endless petulant wailing that the die-hard Remainers have made Britain so thoroughly sick of. Don’t make fools of yourselves with cretinous, virtue-signalling hashtags like #notmypresident (Newsflash: The law says he is). Don’t protest against the fact of his election, because that’s how democracy works – the other side are allowed to win, too. And most of all, don’t spend the next four years shrieking “Racist! Fascist! White people!” at everyone who voted for him. You tried that already, and look what happened.

Yes, Trump’s an obnoxious idiot; but if you say things like “safe space”, “microaggression” and “cisgender” with a straight face, it’s your fault he got elected – because normal people are sick of your bullshit. Take responsibility for that, and learn from it, or your future will contain days a lot worse than today. Because if you keep telling ordinary people that they’re fascists, eventually they’ll believe you. Then, when a real fascist candidate comes along and offers to represent them, they will elect him. And that will be your fault too.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


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Brexit – Why I am voting to leave the EU

Despite the relentless smears and insults hurled at me (and millions of others) over the past few months I am neither a xenophobe nor a Little Englander. I have travelled widely, most of my friends are not British, I choose to live abroad, and (as anyone who has ever spoken to me will testify) I am not even English. I have never voted for UKIP and never will. Nevertheless, my vote in tomorrow’s referendum is for Brexit. I would like you to vote the same way, so here is my final appeal for you to end this misguided and destructive experiment.

This is 2016, not 1945

The EU was founded to put an end to the wars that had wracked Europe since at least the Celtic confederation in the late Bronze Age, and probably earlier. The idea was that if European nations could be bound together into a single organisation they would stop fighting each other. It was a noble idea, born of a sincere wish to end war – but note that, from the very beginning, it was a political project and not an economic one.

When Jean Monnet and others set out to found what became the EU, they were not trying to create a free trade area. They were trying to create a single federal state, with the former nations of Europe as its county councils. We know this, because they admitted it quite openly. Their successors still do. Listen to politicians from anywhere in Europe, and in the EU itself, and they are perfectly clear about the EU’s goal: To turn itself into a state. The only people who deny this are the project’s British supporters – and even there the mask occasionally slips.

Clarke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course preventing war is a good idea; the consequences of armed conflict are horrific, as I have personally seen many times. But we already have a perfectly good way of preventing war among Europe’s nations and it isn’t the EU. It’s NATO. Anyone attacking a NATO member state faces immediate and overwhelming retaliation from the combined power of the alliance. Then there’s the fact that, of the EU member states, only Britain and France have enough military power left to fight a war anyway. War, at least within the EU’s leaky borders, is a 20th century problem. The 21st century poses different problems – and the EU is spectacularly inept at handling them.

The EU is anti-democratic

Not undemocratic; actually anti-democratic. The institutions of the EU were set up to avoid the inconvenient problem of what people want being different to what the EU wants to give them. This is why the power to create new laws is held, unlike in every democratic government in the world, by unelected Commissioners instead of elected MPs. It is why the European Parliament is set up to let small nations outvote larger ones – Luxembourg has an MEP for every 76,000 people, while the UK has one for every 850,000. It is why national vetoes – the ability of a government to protect its own country from harmful EU laws – have been relentlessly whittled away.

Parliamentary democracy is not perfect, but it’s far better than rule by unelected technocrats. Remainers will bleat, “But the EU is elected governments!” No it isn’t. What happened to the elected governments of Greece, Spain and Italy when they dared to challenge the EU? They were swept aside and replaced by Brussels appointees. Our government is no longer sovereign. It can’t even abolish tax on tampons without begging permission from its unelected masters in the EU.

The status quo is not on offer

One of the most common Remain arguments is “Nobody can tell us what a post-Brexit UK would be like”. This is transparent rubbish. Even if we ignore the fact that for all but 43 years of this nation’s long history we were outside the EU, there’s no mystery at all about what a non-EU country is like. The world, after all, is full of them.

Of course you won’t hear that from the Remain crowd, who insist that if we leave we have to be like Norway, Switzerland or – bizarrely – North Korea, but it’s true. A small fraction of the world’s nations are in the EU; joining the majority is nothing to fear.

The same cannot be said for remaining an EU member. The In side talk about the referendum as if it’s a choice between stability and a wild leap into the dark. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we leave we know how that works; we’ll just be another independent country, albeit one with a large economy and a degree of global influence that has few rivals. If we don’t leave, however, what will we be facing?

Remain don’t know. Neither do I. What we do know is that it is not stability. It is not the status quo. And it definitely isn’t a reformed EU. Reform is not an option that anyone in Brussels is considering, and indeed Jean-Claude Juncker has just explicitly ruled it out. There will be no more renegotiations, he told the British people today. Reform is not going to happen.

Instead the EU is determined to carry on down the same path that’s brought us to where we are now – more integration; more centralisation; more power for the EU at the expense of elected governments. It’s no secret that the EU has put a lot of activity on hold until after tomorrow because they’re worried it will affect the outcome of the referendum. Why might it affect the outcome of the referendum? Because we’re going to hate it, they know we’re going to hate it and they don’t care.

Thanks to leaks and whistleblowers we do know some of what’s coming. There will be a new, Europe-wide tax ID number. This has only one possible use: To make it easier to collect a future, EU-wide tax. Don’t we pay enough tax already?

Then there’s the EU army which Remainers are so quick to assure us will never happen. The truth is it’s already happening, as the Dutch military is steadily absorbed into the Bundeswehr  and other countries consider the same option. We might hate the idea of an EU army, because our own military is still (just) capable of fighting independently, but to many EU members it’s a very attractive idea. It means they can slash defence spending even further while still having a vaguely credible force to call on. The EU has been working busily on plans for a joint military for the last 18 months and detailed proposals will be presented this summer. This is not “fantasy”, as Remain campaigners airily dismiss it; it’s what the EU wants to happen, and if they can get 16 supporting votes it’s what’s going to happen.

Not worried about defence but care about the NHS? That’s at risk too. Even if the TTIP doesn’t tear it apart the EU itself wants to take control of healthcare – they believe it’s best organised at a European level.

If you vote for Brexit you know what you’re going to get – the same independence, freedom and opportunity as Australia, Canada, Japan or any other wealthy democratic country has. But if you vote Remain you’re staring into an abyss with an undemocratic federal state at the bottom. Don’t take that risk.

It’s not about trade

Will leaving the EU harm our trade? No. Absolutely not. The EU isn’t going to impose punitive tariffs on us, because that would make no sense. We buy a lot more from them than they do from us, and Brexit would already cost them more money than they can afford to lose. There is no way they would make it worse by harming the economies of the EU’s three remaining big exporters – Germany, France and Italy. Public opinion in those countries is already swinging against Brussels, so why risk angry demonstrations by sacked German car workers? The worst case scenario is a reversion to World Trade Organisation rules. Despite the horror stories spread by Remainers those are actually fine; the WTO’s aim is, after all, to support free trade. Following WTO rules certainly doesn’t seem to harm China, Japan or the USA, who all sell masses of stuff to the EU.

The blunt truth is the EU is rubbish at trade. A condition of membership is that a nation can no longer negotiate its own trade deals with the rest of the world; the EU jealously guards that power. Sadly the EU is very, very bad at negotiating trade deals. That’s inevitable of course, because any EU-level deal has to satisfy too many competing interests. The deal that’s right for a services-based economy like Britain is not right for a high-value goods exporter like Germany. It’s even less right for a relatively poor country like Greece that imports most of its manufactured goods.

Imagine you’re at a party with 28 other people and some of you are feeling hungry. One of the guests, a sullen bore who gets paid lots despite having spectacularly failed in his last real job, announces that the solution to people feeling hungry is a Common Pizza Policy. All the guests are to agree on the ideal pizza and the bore will order 29 of them. Everybody will then eat their pizza whether they like it or not.

Now, how’s that going to go? Not very well, I should imagine. The earnest student Liberal Democrat activist insists the ideal pizza must be vegetarian on ethical grounds, but Hans wants a Salami Special with extra salami. Nathalie wants the main cheese to be Camembert and punches the student for suggesting almond milk cheddar. Luigi says he’s not eating any piece of shit that isn’t made with proper mozzarella. Nicodemos can’t afford a pizza and nobody will lend him money; Stanislaw isn’t hungry, and you want cod and chips. The Common Pizza Policy is, very obviously, a stupid idea.

So why is a common EU trade policy any better? The short answer is that it’s not. It’s because of the EU’s ridiculous one-size-fits-none approach to trade deals that we have so few of them with the rest of the world. And let’s bear in mind that the rest of the world, i.e. those countries that are not in the EU, has 83% of the money. We want to make it easier for them to buy our stuff. Independent countries can do this much more easily:

trade

The EU, with more than 500 million people, has trade deals worth barely a fifth of those negotiated by tiny Switzerland. As an argument for staying in, trade policy is truly pathetic. Collective EU negotiation is a weakness, not a strength. Let’s take Canada as an example. The EU and Canada have written a trade deal. It’s 1,600 pages long. And it cannot be signed. Why not? Because Romania is having a tantrum.

Romania refuses to sign the agreement until Canada gives visa-free access to all Romanian citizens. Canada does not want to do this. So Romania is using an agreement that would benefit over half a billion people as a political weapon. In this situation the sensible thing for David Cameron to do would be to phone Canada and say, “Look, let’s just edit this a bit and sign it as a UK-Canada treaty.” But he can’t do that, because the EU will not let him.

We are a trading nation, and this is a ridiculous situation to be in.

We are in an abusive marriage

Many Remain supporters are bullies. They are openly threatening to hurt the UK if we decide to leave. Much of this has taken the form of overblown, often ludicrous, threats. If we leave the EU the refugee camps in Calais will move to Dover. Except no they won’t, because the Le Touquet Agreement on border control is a bilateral UK-France one and has nothing to do with the EU. The same goes for the border between the UK and Ireland. That’s regulated by the Common Travel Area, which again has nothing to do with the EU – in fact it came into force in 1925. “But after Brexit that will be the EU border!!!” shriek the Remainiacs. Yes. So what? There isn’t a big fence between Sweden and (non-EU) Norway, is there?

Most of the scaremongering has been laughable, but in the past few days it’s taken a darker turn. From silly stories it has drifted into the realm of a protection racketeer saying, “Nice place you have here. It would be a shame if anything was to happen to it.” Here’s an example from yesterday’s Guardian, warning how the Pound could crash after Brexit:

Soros

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Soros knows all about money, right? Yes he does. He also knows all about crashing the Pound. In this menacing piece the fanatically pro-EU speculator says Brexit could lead to a “Black Friday”, calling up memories of 1992’s “Black Wednesday” that smashed the Pound out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. And who caused Black Wednesday? That would be George Soros, who deliberately dumped huge quantities of sterling to force interest rates to economy-wrecking levels.

And then there’s this:

PIRA

 

 

 

Nobody wants to risk losing the Good Friday Agreement (which of course had nothing to do with the EU…) because that might reignite the decades-long PIRA terrorist campaign run by… oh yes, Martin McGuinness.

This is despicable. Pro-Remain thugs like Soros and McGuinness are basically implying that, if we don’t vote the way they want, they will hurt us – as they’ve done before. But let’s not forget how that worked out. Soros’s currency machinations in 1992 actually led to a boom for the UK, as we cut loose from the restrictive and idiotic ERM (an EU system, remember) and regained control over the Pound’s value. McGuinness and his fellow killers signed the Good Friday Agreement because PIRA was militarily defeated – starved of funds, riddled with security forces agents, and with its top assassins locked up or dead in SAS ambushes. We have seen off these people before, and we can do it again.

There’s a big world out there

For centuries the UK has been a global player. It’s not all been the sort of thing you wake up feeling proud of, but in general we have been a force for good in the world. We absolutely do not need to be kept in line by a collection of unelected bureaucrats who are mostly notable for having failed in real governments.

Above, I have outlined some arguments for voting Leave. There are many more. Apart from a dislike of Michael Gove and Nigel Farage it’s hard to think of any for voting Remain, and as odious as you may think they are, I don’t believe that annoying them is worth the price we will pay if we stay in the EU.

The referendum tomorrow is a unique, once in a lifetime chance to put the government of the UK back where it belongs – in the hands of the British people. Take it.


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ASHes to ashes, trust to dust

Well, colour me surprised. Action on Smoking and Health, the “pro-vaping” political lobby group who’ve “been supportive for quite some time”, just decided to publicly throw vapers under the bus. In an atrocious press release earlier today they announced that the EU Tobacco Products Directive, which becomes law on Friday, is “not a problem” for most vapers. It’s now clear that the hard-hitting post Clive Bates made a couple of days ago was in fact a blast at his former organisation, and I have to say it was entirely justified. The same goes for this morning’s responses by the New Nicotine Alliance and Vapers In Power.

ASH supportive

To claim that nobody will be disadvantaged by this demented, arbitrary law is simply bollocks. The TPD’s Article 20, which deals with vaping, is an absolute disaster – and ASH know that. They’ve been talking regularly to vaping advocates for several years. I know for a fact that many people have explained to them, carefully and in great detail, how vape devices work and what makes them effective for smoking cessation. ASH have also been told how people actually use the equipment, and why the TPD rules will have only negative effects on popularity, efficacy and even safety.

Here’s an example. One of the most incomprehensible clauses in Article 20 is a ban on any tank holding more than 2ml of liquid. This is allegedly a safety feature, to prevent us all being killed by accidental leaks of deadly liquid nicotine. Never mind that the actual risk of nicotine poisoning from e-liquid was wildly exaggerated by the EU Commission, in the face of protests from the scientists who did the actual research they claimed to rely on. If we assume that leaks are indeed a hazard that needs to me minimised, wouldn’t it be a good idea to look at how they actually happen?

A simple guide to leaks

Modern tanks – many of which have capacities of up to 9ml, while almost none comply with the 2ml limit – are extremely good at keeping their contents in. There are only really two occasions when they’re likely to leak:

  • While being refilled. This is obvious; while the filling port is open, liquid has the potential to escape.
  • When the liquid level drops too low. This one is a bit more technical. Tanks are full of liquid, but have holes at the bottom to let air in. Basic physics tells us that without something to keep the liquid in the tank it will pour out the air holes. The reason that doesn’t happen is pressure equilibrium. No air can get in the top of the tank, so if liquid starts to escape it creates a partial vacuum. The outside air pressure then simply pushes the liquid back into the tank. Or at least, it does as long as the liquid level is safely above the wick holes in the heating coil. If it isn’t, air can get in through the mouthpiece and through the coil into the tank. That lets the pressure in the tank equalise with the pressure outside, so the liquid will start to drain through the air holes. Tilting a partly full tank can let enough air in to cause a leak.

ASH, in their infinite wisdom, don’t think this is a problem. Their argument is that the average vaper uses 4ml of liquid per day, so they’ll only have to fill their tank twice a day. Never mind that this is obviously more leak-prone than filling it every day and a half; it’s also dead wrong. Most tanks will reliably work without leaking until there’s slightly under 1ml of liquid left. With something like my Subtank Mini (4.5ml) or Uwell Crown (4ml) that’s not a problem; you can vape for most of a day, by which time it’s looking pretty empty and needs a refill – but still has comfortably more than 1ml inside. Now what about a 2ml tank? It’s likely to start leaking when it’s barely under half full, unless you top it up four or five times a day. It’s blindingly obvious that the TPD rules make leaks far more likely.

And ASH should know this. After all they’ve been told often enough, by people who are very familiar with how this equipment works. The problem is that they simply aren’t interested. The arrogant clowns who run ASH are part of the new self-appointed technocratic elite, and it’s not in their nature to listen to ordinary people. It doesn’t matter that the NNA trustees they talk to are vaping experts who use these products every single day; they’re just little people, and what do they know? Instead, ASH have chosen to side with their technocrat friends in the EU – even though they know perfectly well that the TPD’s tank size and liquid strength limits are based on a deliberate misinterpretation of the science.

ASH – Not on our side

ASH don’t support vaping. They’ll make a few token supportive noises now and then, as long as they’re not expected to do anything actually useful like oppose a vaping ban, but this isn’t because they care about our rights or health. It’s simply because they can use vaping as a stick to hit smokers with – and the point about hitting things with a stick is, you don’t really care much about the welfare of the stick. If it breaks you can just toss it aside and find another.

I’ve never trusted ASH, and I’ve never been comfortable with the sight of vaping advocates working with them. At the same time I understand why some of my fellow advocates – dedicated, tireless people I have immense respect for – felt it was worth getting out the long spoons and sitting down with this particular sour-faced Beelzebub. ASH are very influential people (not something our democracy should be proud of, as they are entirely beyond the reach of the electorate’s wrath) and their support – real, as opposed to token and cynical support – would have been immensely valuable. But today’s press release shows that real support is not forthcoming. ASH have listened to the huge concerns vapers have about this lethally stupid law – and they have dismissed us. The experience, knowledge and fears of real people count for nothing, compared with the reflexive urge to support a ban imposed by their fellow unelected parasites.

The support offered by ASH is not a crutch; it’s a gallows. These are some very clever people, with years of experience in manipulating perceptions. They would be delighted to keep stringing vapers along, sending out just enough positive messages to convince us that they really get it. In the meantime they can keep right on working at their goal of bringing the industry under the thumb of the tobacco control lobby. In ASH’s shining vision of the future vapers will be the new smokers – meekly using products approved by the elite, at times and places specified by the elite, while paying a huge tax to the elite as thanks for the crumbs we’re thrown. I hope that, after today, any trust that any vaper retained for Deborah Arnott and her scheming gang has turned to dust. They have their own agenda, and it is fundamentally opposed to ours.

Whatever they claim, ASH know damn well that the TPD will be a huge problem for most vapers. The message they sent this morning is that they just don’t care. They’re far more interested in hanging on to their budgets and their unearned seat at the table of power. Well, that power is slowly slipping away from them, along with their reason for existing. If smokers in the UK want to quit, all they have to do is find a good vape shop. It’s time for vapers to send a message of our own. We don’t need the likes of ASH any more – so to hell with them, and let them fucking burn.

 

 


  • 10

Vendors, explosions and the TPD

In this post I’d like to make two suggestions to all vape vendors. This isn’t something I really want to do, because many of you are doing a great job for the vaping community, but right now I feel I have to raise both these points. What you do with them is up to you, but I hope you’ll at least consider them.

Exploding batteries: It’s not your fault, but it is your problem

The first one is to ask that you please supply all lithium ion batteries in a proper battery box. Most of us know the potential dangers of this sort of technology, if it’s abused or mistreated. Unfortunately some idiots don’t. I know it isn’t your job, as vendors, to educate people about basic safety before selling them things, but images of grilled numpties are not the sort of publicity vaping needs right now. So don’t do what one German vendor did to me recently:

Battery safety

Well okay, if you do this it IS your fault…

When someone orders batteries, send them out in a box. Basic protective cases hold two 18650s or four 18350s, and cost 40p on ebay. You can probably get them wholesale for half that. Anyway, it’s packaging; you can add it to your shipping charge.

Brexit, the TPD, and why it’s time to end ignorance

The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive goes into effect on the 20th of May this year. The British government doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about it, and has watered it down as much as possible, but they have no choice: It’s been voted through by our overlords in Brussels, so it has to become British law. This is awkward for the government because they’ve committed to a referendum on the 23rd of June, and they’d rather like us to vote to stay in the EU. Anyone who’s just been to the local vape shop and found that their favourite liquid has been banned by a Brussels directive is, I’d guess, not too likely to vote that way.

So the government has done something devious, and staged the introduction of the law so its full effects won’t become obvious until May next year. That way they can keep the EU happy by putting it on the statute books, but put off the moment vapers realise what’s been done to them until the referendum is out of the way.

Just in case anyone’s under any illusions about what the TPD does, here’s a quick reminder:

  • Ban on all liquids stronger than 20mg/ml
  • Ban on all liquid bottles larger than 10ml
  • Drip rate regulation for bottles – which effectively bans glass bottles
  • Ban on all atomisers with a tank capacity greater than 2ml
  • Ban on all atomisers that aren’t leak-proof, child-proof and tamper-proof
  • Ban on advertising
  • New products can’t be sold until six months after they’ve been officially registered

There’s also a clause that says if any three EU members ban a type of refillable atomiser the EU Commission can impose a blanket ban in all member states.

There’s even more bad news. Manufacturers and importers will have to register every device they sell, along with every strength and flavour of liquid. The expense of running this system won’t be paid by the EU; it will be paid by vendors. It will cost £220 to submit the paperwork for each product – and the paperwork will just be shoved straight into a cabinet, because it isn’t actually meant to achieve anything. Then there’s a further £60 charge per year (per product, remember) for the dust that collects on it.

Notification fees will grind down your choices

Think about that for a moment. Lots of us enjoy the sheer variety of liquids on the market, but how is that variety going to survive the cost of the TPD notification system? Take my favourite liquid brand, Manabush. Right now Manabush sell sixteen different flavours, and you can get each of them in three nicotine strengths. That’s a total of 48 products, and in May Manabush is going to have to register them all – at a total cost of £10,560. For a small business that is not a trivial expense. Then, every year, there will be another bill for £2,880. Every time they add a new flavour to the range there’s another £220 to pay, and the annual bill goes up by £60.

And remember – Manabush doesn’t get anything for all this money, except the EU’s permission to keep on doing what they were doing perfectly well anyway. It’s just another unnecessary expense imposed by ignorant bureaucrats, who mostly don’t understand business because they’ve never had a real job.

So when the TPD starts to bite, Manabush are going to look at the product range and start checking sales figures. Any liquid that doesn’t make enough profit to cover the TPD fees, plus the time and effort it takes to fill out the paperwork, is going to disappear – and they’ll be more reluctant to introduce any new ones, because who knows if they’ll sell well enough to make the cost and effort worthwhile? This is what’s going to happen at every manufacturer and importer of vape gear from now on.

Choice is going to be even more limited than you expected, because many products not actually banned by the TPD will be killed off by the fees.

Unfortunately there are a handful of vapers, including some of the organisers of UK Vapefest, who have spent the last two years playing down the impact of the TPD for unsavoury reasons of their own. They constantly tell people that it won’t make any difference; that products will get better and safer; that it’s nothing to worry about. And thanks to David Cameron’s frog-boiling strategy of delaying the law’s full impact, some people are going to keep on believing their malicious tripe until the hammer crashes down on 20 May 2017.

Promote the truth

So here’s my second suggestion to vendors. Once you’ve sorted out your battery boxes, knock up a logo for your website and add it to your images of any product that will be banned by the TPD. Every tank that holds over 2ml; every glass bottle; every 30ml bottle; every 24mg liquid. Let your customers know what will be disappearing from the market next May, and make bloody sure they know whose fault it is. If everyone who buys vape gear starts getting that message pounded home from 20 May onwards, hopefully by 23 June they’ll realise exactly how bad it’s going to be. And they’ll also know they can vote to change it.

TPD warning logo

Update: I’ve just been made aware in the comments that there are other significant costs involved – testing and literature searches. I’d assumed that was only for those who braved the road to medical licensing but no, it isn’t – it’s for everyone. How much will this cost? Who knows, but a quick search has turned up estimates from £3,000 to £8,000 per product. For most small companies that’s completely unrealistic. It’s not likely to affect hardware so much, because most of that’s imported and we’ll probably see single large importers emerge for each main brand. For most juice makers, however, it’s the end of the road.