On Brexiters

I spent the last couple of days talking to Brexiters. Now I’m sad.

Recently the Financial Times released a chart showing the demographics of the different sides of the EU debate. The two groups of people that were overwhelmingly for Brexit were C2 and D. That’s skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled manual workers. After some searching, I found some subjects that those people are interested in and created some Facebook ads that targeted those people. The subjects chosen were The Premier Legue, The Sun Newspaper, Britain’s Got Talent, and Nandos.

It didnt take long for comments to start rolling in. Bare in mind that there was nothing on the ad or the article that asked for comments. None of the people knew who I was or had ever encountered me before, yet they felt the need to put a comment on a Facebook ad. That takes a special kind of person.

Right away it was like watching the Facebook version of the Jeremy Kyle show. Not one of them could write a coherent sentence. Your, you’re, their, and there were suddenly interchangeable. But you know what? I can kind of live with that. It was the violence that was sickening.

The fallback position for these people appears to be how easily they can assault you. There were many threats of “You’d be decked without warning if you said that in my local”.

Every bit of data I confronted them with was immediately discredited by somebody telling me that it was total rubbish, and then presenting me with things their gram had told them.

Conspiracy theories run deep. Many of them seemed to think that the EU was part of the New World Order, and that the Illuminati would never let us leave the EU. They didn’t have an answer when I asked them why a secret world government would be slowed down by a little thing like whether or not we’re part of the EU.

Some of them were genuinely afraid that immigrants were going to come and take their job. They have no skills or abilities so it’s a real worry for them. When your job consists of picking something up and putting it down somewhere else, it’s easy for somebody to undercut you.

None of them were even remotely aware of who is the cause of their problems, so they liked to blame immigration. Surprisingly none of them were willing to accept the idea of the government austerity being the cause of their problems.

I’ll be honest, they really tried my patience. Especially with the number of times I was called a “leftie”. The genius of the right is that it is supported by the people it hurts the most. They see left wing politics as somehow weak.

If we were Americans, they would be Trump supporters. They are identical in every way. They believe conspiracy theories, are unaware of the real source of their problems, blame anyone else for their own shortcomings, cannot listen to alternative ideas, every comment comes with words that show how tough they are, many of them were former Army.

No matter what happens in our referendum, something needs to be done for these people. They don’t live in the same world the rest of us do. We can give them all the rights and benefits we like, but we need to bring them in to the real world.

Do Ask Do Tell Episode 55 – Orlando and Jo Cox

We’re finally back with Do Ask Do Tell, and it feels great. In this episode, we talk about the week of tragic events. I understand that doesn’t sound like a great way to get you to listen to a show, but if it’s something you’ve been feeling bad about, we might just manage to make you feel better. I know it helped me to talk about it.

Making Sense with Richard Smith Episode 6 – The EU Referendum

You wouldn’t believe how hard this has been. The referendum is utterly screwed up, and I’ve been trying to make sense of it. After all, that’s what I claim to do around here. It’s been so hard because most of what’s out there are just wrong. It’s just the stuff of fantasy and I’ve been trying to debunk it all. If I carry on like that, I’m not going to be finished in time for the referendum.

Both sides of this debate have made such a mess of things that we have to start from scratch. Forget everything you think you know, and forget everything a politician has said. Here we go.

We’re deciding whether or not to leave the EU. Being that we’re already in the EU, we need to look if there’s an actual reason to leave it. Is there something about the EU that hurts us? Is there something that EU membership is preventing us from having? Let’s look at how the EU works and see if anything stands out.

Take the recent Tobacco Products Directive as our case study. All the elected governments of the countries of Europe got together and decided that there should be some EU-wide laws covering tobacco products. They went to the European Commission and asked it to make up some laws. They did that, and then presented those laws to our elected MEPs. Those MEPs voted on those laws and passed them. The those laws were sent out to all the countries who wrote them into their own laws, along with a few tweaks. In our case study, the UK applied the least number of tweaks, leaving the TPD as it was when it arrived in the mail. However other countries like Finland decided to take it further and do things like banning eliquid flavours.

That’s it. That’s the EU and its laws. Some would tell you that there’s something undemocratic, or anti-democratic, or whatever bollocks they’re peddling. It isn’t any of those things. Everything happens thanks to elected officials.

But what about the European Commission? How did they get their job? Well they were elected too. Not by you and me, but by the MEPs we elected to work on our behalf. The MEPs start by electing a president, who then selects a representative put forward from each country, and then the MEPs vote on the group as a whole. So the Commission that we’re told are unelected, are actually elected twice, by people we elected. And they only do what our elected governments tell them to do. They don’t sit around all day thinking up new laws just for shits and giggles, they do what they’re asked to do. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Commission)

When you think about it, how else could the EU possibly work? Just imagine the logistical nightmare of running an EU-wide election. It’s much easier if each country elects a few people to represent us. I really encourage you to take a look at Wikipedia and learn about the different parts of the EU. Don’t you think that’s something you should know about before you vote in this referendum?

I’ve already mentioned that I have a problem with the TPD. Shouldn’t I be all for Brexit? Wouldn’t it solve my problem with the EU if we were to leave it? In a word, no.

The TPD has already happened. There was a chance to stop it here, but that was scuppered by Labour. Take note of that. The law I don’t like was allowed to happen by the party I support. It wasn’t forced on me by Europe. It is now a British law. If we vote for Brexit, it will still be a British law. It will be a British law in the years it takes us to negotiate leaving Europe. After that happens, our government is going to be overrun with rewriting all the laws we currently get from Europe and actually really need. Like all the ones about working hours, health and safety, paternity leave, and so on. Nobody is going to be worrying about how you can only buy eliquid in 10ml bottles, because at that point, literally every other point of law will be more important and require more attention. Given that the TPD is due to be renewed in 2021, we might actually end up taking longer to change it if we leave the EU than if we don’t. And then when the TPD is reviewed we’d be much better off if we were part of that, rather than stuck on the outside. (http://www.clivebates.com/?p=3748)

I hope you can see the parallels between our case study and whatever issue you might have with Europe. It’s extremely unlikely that your problem will be solved by voting to leave. It’s much better to be part of the EU and have a say in what happens. That way we can take the lead and control things, instead of being locked out, shouting in through the windows like a pack of Crystal Maze contestants.

Don’t think that there’s nothing that can be done about laws from Europe. I can’t stress enough how the EU does what our country’s leaders tell it to do. Look at the TTIP issue.

The Transatlantic, Trade, err something beginning with I, something beginning with P, is a truly horrible piece of trade agreement. Obviously it’s a massive document but all you need to know is that it gives American companies the right to sue the governments of European countries if they do anything that impacts the profits of those American companies trading in the EU. So if there’s an American chemical company operating here, and their workers suffer health problems at work, and we impose a law that protects those workers, the company has the right to sue us for the profits they’ll lose from having to protect their workers. How much does that stink? Why on earth would anybody sign us up for that? Who did sign us up for that? Who is it that keeps banging on about it being a great idea? David Cameron. Not the EU, but David Cameron. (http://tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/event/transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership/eu-us-press-conference-cameron-uk)

That was David Cameron speaking in 2014 at the launch of talks. Does that sound like a man doing something he doesn’t want to be doing? Is that the speech of a man who governs a country that is forced into doing things by the EU?

Nobody but the Tories want this to go ahead because it’s so obviously a shit idea. So protests started. You can be forgiven for not knowing about any protests taking place because they only get BBC news coverage if they turn violent.

The protests have worked and the TTIP is pretty much dead in the water. (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/05/protest-never-changes-anything-derailing-ttip-trade-agreement)

And do you know what the best thing was about all the protesting that happened? Most of it happened in France. Your French brothers and sisters in Europe stood up to you because you were part of their community.

Of course, this isn’t strictly relevant in this particular show but I thought I’d just throw it in there. If you don’t want things like the TTIP to happen, you need to have a government that doesn’t want them to happen. Like this…

What Are Your Problems?

While we’re talking about problems can you actually tell me what your problems are? Can you honestly say they’re real problems that are the fault of the EU?

There’s a lot of talk about money. How much we send to the EU, how much we get back, and so on. The popular idea is that we could take all the money we currently give to the EU and give it to the NHS. There are several problems with that theory. For starters, most of the money we give, we get back. It arrives in the form of grants and subsidies. If we stopped paying into the EU, we’d have to replace all the money that we get as grants and subsidies. Already the money is accounted for. It isn’t going to the NHS. It’s going to replace grants, and employing all the extra civil servants to deal with it. Maybe we’ll save a tiny bit, but it’s a few million, not hundreds of millions.

As David Cameron keeps repeating, we have the fifth largest economy in the world. We can afford everything we need. The reason why our health service doesn’t have enough money is because our government isn’t giving it enough money. After years of austerity and cutbacks on the news, we’ve somehow forgotten where our money has gone. We’ve had tax cuts for the super rich, and benefit cuts for those who need it. That hasn’t happened because of the EU, and it won’t be fixed by leaving the EU.

If anything life will get much much worse for the working class outside of the EU.

The Tories have been banging on about replacing the European Convention on Human Rights with a British Bill of Human Rights. Why do you think they want to do that? Is it because they think the European one isn’t nice enough? No, it’s because it’s far too nice. It gives you all kinds of things that the Tories wouldn’t really like you to have (https://www.conservatives.com/~/media/files/downloadable%20files/human_rights.pdf).

We talk about it but do you actually know what human rights you have? Do you really understand why it would be bad to lose this protection from the EU? Sit back, relax, and let me take you through the important parts and precisely what our current government doesn’t like about it (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Convention_on_Human_Rights)

Article 3 – torture
You have the right to not be tortured. Believe it or not this is actually a controversial one, because it was used to prevent the handing out of life sentences to murderers. When our courts sentence you to life, it actually means a really long time, not your whole life.

Article 4 – servitude
You can’t be a slave anywhere other than your own bedroom. That’s a good thing right? Tories don’t like this one. Expect this protection   to go away if we leave the EU. Why don’t they like it? It means they can’t force you to work for free to keep your unemployment benefits. Government run slavery will come to the UK without the EU.

Article 5 – liberty and security
You have the right to be arrested when you’ve committed a crime. It doesn’t sound like much, but isn’t it good that you can’t be arrested when you haven’t committed a crime? Tories hate this one too because it also gives you the right to be informed of your arrest, why you’ve been arrested, and what charges you face. When I come back to cover our new Investigatory Powers Bill you’ll see how these human rights get in the way of how our government want to treat us.

Article 6 – fair trial
Oh fair trials and how they get in the way when you just want to accuse a person of something then deport them.

Article 8 – privacy
Boom! This is the big one! Oh how the government hate your privacy. We’re back to the Investigatory Powers Bill. Article 8 says that nobody can read your correspondence, and that really bugs a government that has just passed a new law that says they can keep your internet history, read your email, and get Apple to give up your iMessage history, all without telling you. This article is the only thing keeping you safe from laws that our government passed only last week.

Article 9 – conscience and religion
The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. No no no! What about all those people with thoughts that we don’t like? I can almost hear the Tories throwing up at the thought of anybody being able to think what they like.

Article 11 – association
The right to assemble, and to have trade unions. Have you seen how many protests have swamped London over the last few months? The government would like that to come to an end. Oh, and those pesky unions force companies to treat their employees with respect. Tories hate treating employees with respect.

Article 14 – discrimination
We can’t discriminate. Why would anybody want to take this away? Of course, you might be an employer that isn’t keen on having muslims, homosexuals, or people of colour in your office. At the moment, you can’t discriminate based on those things. At the moment.

Article 16 – Aliens
If you aren’t from Britain then you’re foreign, right? Wrong. This right says that nobody from the EU can be considered foreign. That right will go away because of all the lies told to you about immigration. I imagine some morons would be pleased if this right went away.

Of course, the original bill is far wordier than I’ve put it, but you get a general idea. The European Convention on Human Rights is something we would lose immediately and miss the most. You have these rights today and you can’t trust the Tories to give them back to you. Never trust a Tory. Never.

Never Trust A Tory

While we’re on the subject of not trusting Tories, there’s a problem that I’ve noticed with some of you and it really worries me. I can’t help but feel like most of us have been born without the ability to detect possible danger. The gut instinct that tells us when something wishes to do us harm and can’t be trusted. It’s a big problem.

When I look at Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon and others, there is an instinctual warning siren that goes off. I don’t always know why it goes off, but I’m very aware when it does, and it goes off with everybody on the Leave side of the argument.

It doesn’t matter what Farage or BoJo say because they aren’t to be trusted. Never, for any reason. If Farage told me that I shouldn’t set my head on fire, I’d be out looking for petrol and matches immediately. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Everything they say is motivated by a hidden agenda that they don’t want you to know about. BoJo wants to be Prime Minister. He’s working on the assumption that if we leave the EU then Cameron will be forced to resign leaving Boris in Number 10. He doesn’t really want us to leave the EU. That’s why there’s loads of videos of him explaining how amazing and essential the EU is. He’s lying when he talks about it now. He doesn’t care if we leave or stay, he cares if he becomes Prime Minister.

I know you want me to say that I don’t trust the In side either. Mostly I don’t. Certainly not David Cameron and George Osborne. In fact, I think the best thing Cameron can do to help the In side is to shut his mouth as soon as possible.

That said, there are a lot of people on the In side that I do trust. People who have nothing but the greater good in mind. They include people like the NHS, all business leaders, the scientists, The Economist, and many many others. I do understand that there have been lots of lies flying around but not everything is a lie, and most people have the nation’s best interest at heart.

What are those lies?

So these lies. What are they exactly? That’s easy to figure out because the Leave campaign stuck them through my front door. To truly understand them you have to accept one simple fact. Everything wrong with this country is the fault of our government. If you can accept that then you’re on the right path. I know some of you will think that I’ve gone crazy when I make that claim because you’ve seen the news and it tells you that all your problems are caused by other things. Some people are telling you that those things are only happening to you because of the EU. That is wrong or a lie. Problems are caused by our government. Please try to remember this, it has been on the TV for ages now. They keep cutting money given to public services. It’s that simple.

The whole thing was summed up perfectly by one woman during a debate hosted by Buzzfeed.

The leave side are claiming that over a quarter of a million immigrants come to this country every year. Apparently that’s a bad thing. I’m struggling to see how. After all they do the jobs that most of us consider ourselves too good to do. They also do lots of skilled jobs. Having spent a lot of time in various NHS care programs I can tell you that I’ve rarely been treated by an English person. As the saying goes, you’re far more likely to be treated by a european than you are to be in a bed next to one. Immigration is good. We need these people to come over here.

A cleverer man than me recently said

“We celebrate our diversity. We know that it makes us stronger and moves everyone forward.” – Tim Cook

The immigrants that come to this country are awesome and I thank them for their contributions.

Obviously, they aren’t all great. I’m very sure that you can find me an individual immigrant who’s an arsehole. That’s true of any group of people regardless of how you define them. The fact that some immigrants might take advantage of our support systems is a small price to pay for the good that happens over all.

Oh and by the way, the reason why our benefits systems are at breaking point is because of the Tories and austerity. Not because people are using the system. Today David Cameron was told that he can withhold benefits from immigrants. It’s a major concession from the EU and one that should give reassurance to the people on the Leave side.(http://www.thecanary.co/2016/06/14/brexit-looked-like-bag-eu-court-made-shock-decision/)

Continuing with the fear of outsiders we’re being told that Turkey might join the EU and that would be the end of the world. The theory is that because Turkey is next to Syria then terrorists will come. And because Turkey will be in the EU those terrorists will be able to get in a car and drive straight to London without being challenged. WRONG! Which bit? All of it.

First of all Turkey aren’t joining the EU in my lifetime.(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/08/erdogans-draconian-new-law-demolish-turkeys-eu-ambitions). They’ve just come up with a law that basically allows the government to remove any and all opposition. It’s like David Cameron passing a law that lets him arrest any Labour politicians or supporters. This means that Turkey is a long way from meeting the basic requirements for being considered for membership. There are a set of rules that all EU countries must follow regarding a free and open system of government. You don’t have that if the leader of a country can arrest anyone he likes, including his opposition. For that reason alone you should ignore anything you hear related to Turkey. But it doesn’t stop there.

This whole idea that we don’t control our borders is just an out right lie. Have you ever left the country and come back? Then you went through passport control didn’t you. You had to show your passport to a man who’s job it is to decide if you get to come into the country or not. That’s border control. What else do you think it is? On top of that, we aren’t part of the system that allows free movement of travel throughout the EU. You cannot drive to London unchallenged from outside of the UK.

But what about the money?

I know that by now you leavers in the audience are shouting about the money. Don’t worry I was just getting to it. It’s on the Leave leaflet.

£350 million goes to the EU every week! Really are we still on this one?

If you look at the treasury report on our EU budget for 2015, and there’s a link on my website (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/483344/EU_finances_2015_final_web_09122015.pdf) you can see that we spent £9.8 billion on the EU in 2015. Then if you go to the CBI and look at their report into how much money we got from the EU in 2014, you’ll see that we received somewhere between £73 billion and £91 billion. There’s a link on my website, feel free to check this out (http://news.cbi.org.uk/business-issues/uk-and-the-european-union/eu-business-facts/cbi-literature-review-of-the-impact-of-eu-membership-on-the-uk-economy-pdf/) I know that didn’t go into your pocket personally, but it did come back to our farmers, and people in many other industries, as well as benefits, and funding for projects in any area you can think of.

I just want to make it a little clearer so here’s something from infacts.org

All that money coming from the EU. How are we going to replace that? It’s not like we leave the EU and magically get £350 million per week. We need to spend that replacing the money that we get from the EU. If anything we’re going to be far worse off.

Brexit The Movie

The more greasy members of the Leave camp have put together a little film they like to call Brexit: The Movie. It’s a very well put together production, and it sounds ever so serious and professional.

You could go and watch it, but you aren’t to go in unarmed. Much like the German government have only allowed the republishing on Mein Kampf if it comes with notes explaining what’s wrong with it, let’s listen to Dr Mike Galsworthy talk about it. He’s part of the Scientists for EU campaign and the kind of guy who has dictionaries of many different languages on his shelf at home. Unless you have multiple dictionaries at home, you can assume that he’s cleverer than most of us and should be listened to.

To Sum Up

  • All Tories are full of shit and shouldn’t be listened to. Pay more attention to people who either don’t care about you or wish to do you harm.
  • Nigel Farage is full of more shit than your average Tory and every word he says should be ignored.
  • The EU is democratic. The EU Commission makes laws only after being asked to by our government, who we elect. Those laws are then voted on by MEPs who we elect.
  • The UK isn’t very democratic. The House of Lords have power over our laws and they aren’t elected. Ultimately all of our laws are passed by a little old lady in Buckingham Palace and she’s one of the least elected people on the face of the earth.
  • The European Bill of Human Rights protects you from many injustices and will be taken away as soon as possible.
  • Immigration isn’t bad. It’s actually good. It makes us better as a nation.
  • The NHS and education systems are on their arses because of the government, not the EU, and not immigrants. That is a lie you have been told so that you don’t blame the people who are actually responsible.
  • None of us will live long enough to see Turkey join the EU, and we aren’t part of any border agreement that will allow people from Turkey to come here unchallenged r .
  • The £350 million per week to the EU figure is misleading to the point of being a lie. Leaving the EU will not result in the building of an NHS hospital every week. Also, consider who would actually work in those hospitals were we to build them, seeing as Brexiters want to stop immigrants coming here.

I feel like so far all I’ve been able to do is offer your explanations as to why the EU isn’t as bad as you’ve been lead to believe, and pointing out all the lies we’ve been told. Aren’t there some good reasons for staying in the EU? What has it ever done for us?

For starters, I encourage you to take a tour of infacts.org. It’s an independent journalistic group that are putting actual facts together. They’re also doing a very good job of pointing out all the bollocks spouting from the official In campaign.

This entire show serves as my testimony as to why we should stay in the EU.

We are better, stronger, more clever, more protected, safer, friendlier, and part of a huge European family if we stay in the EU. Have you ever been to any other European countries? They’re awesome! Spain is fantastic, you should visit Barcelona. I’m a big fan of Amsterdam too, purely for the museums and art galleries of course. Britain is part of a wider community and it welcomes us with open arms. Europeans are always happy to see Brits, especially when we aren’t completely shit faced drunk. Even when we are shit faced drunks there are the Irish and Germans who are known for liking a beer or two.

This is your choice to make, and I’ve done my best to arm you with actual facts that I’ve backed up with credible sources. The fact that we’re having this referendum at all is a joke. The EU is not and never has been an issue for anyone except the ultra right wing xenophobes, and is now being used as a distraction tactic for a greedy and failing government.

Thank you for listening and paying close attention. I’ll leave you with the words of another man who cares deeply for our united country and its people.

Making Sense with Richard Smith Episode 5 – The TPD

Friday the 20th of May was TPD day in Europe. That’s not a fun celebration, TPD stands for Tobacco Products Directive, and it’s a huge list of laws that apply across Europe covering tobacco products, mostly.

One of the aims of Europe is to create a really big place where all the laws are basically the same, especially when it comes down to the really little stuff like how many cigarettes you can buy in a pack, whether milk and beer should be sold in pints or litres, and ensuring that a Cornish pasty can only come from Cornwall. I’m a big fan of Europe and the EU, that doesn’t mean I like absolutely everything it does. Lots of things it does are just plain dumb or pointless, but hey, that’s government.

The TPD is an attempt to standardise a whole load of smoking related laws. For example, you can now no longer buy a pack of ten cigarettes or less that 30g of loose tobacco. The thinking behind that is if you can only buy 30g of tobacco when you normally only buy 25g of tobacco, you’ll probably just never smoke again. I didn’t say it was coherent thinking that in any way made sense. There are lots of other laws there like forcing the use of plain cigarette packets, and menthol cigarettes being banned.

Nobody is arguing that restricting the sale of tobacco is a bad thing. We’ve known the dangers of it for years and taking steps to getting people away from using it is the right thing to do. However, the TPD also covers the use of vaping products, even though there isn’t a single atom of tobacco anywhere near them, and that has made people who use those vaping products, including myself, very angry. But before we get into that, I need to get you onto the page as me when it comes to vaping.

What Is Vaping?

I’m an ex smoker. I started when I was 18 because I thought it made me dangerous and edgy. It did neither of those things, unless you count the danger I cases others by smoking around them. Unfortunately for me by the time I realised that smoking didn’t really achieve what I was going for, I was addicted.

Over the years I’ve tried every method you can think of to quit. Patches, gum, inhalers, hypnotherapy, and the super fun medication Champix. The only one that came close was the hypnotherapy which lasted around three weeks. I think the problem was that I didn’t really want to quit. Of course I understand the dangers of smoking and of course I don’t want any of them to happen to me, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to quit smoking. If I was going to give it up I needed something that replaced the nicotine and helped me to avoid thinking about smoking. Then I discovered vaping.

From my very first go on an electric cigarette I was done with smoking. There was no withdrawal, no stress, no nothing. It doesn’t even feel like I really achieved anything. I just switched from smoking to vaping and never looked back.

An electronic cigarette is a small battery hooked up to small metal coils which are wrapped in cotton. That cotton is soaked in ejuice, which is a mixture of flavour, nicotine, and a couple of other things. The coils in the e-cigarette heat up and vaporise the ejuice. You breathe that in and you get the flavour and a hit of nicotine. It feels like smoking, but it has none of the negative side effects.

There are two reasons people use a vaporiser. To give up smoking, or because they enjoy using that vaporiser. My girlfriend and I gave up smoking at the same time, using the same equipment. She has stopped vaping, loosing all interest after a couple of months. It stopped her smoking after a habit that ran for more years than she’d like me to admit. On the other hand I still vape. I vape all day long and I do it on all kinds of different equipment. I’ve got a vaporiser stashed in all kinds of places so I’m never far from one. I mix my own ejuice at home, make my own coils, I love it, and I have absolutely no intention of stopping.

Let’s be grown up and stop kidding ourselves over something nobody likes to say. Smoking feels good. There are loads of reasons people smoke and no reason is any more or less valid than any other. Given what we know about the risks of smoking, don’t you think that there must be something pretty special making people smoke regardless? Okay so it’s not exactly as enjoyable as Crack (or so I’m told) but there’s pleasure to be found there. The main trouble with smoking is that it tends to kill you in a very horrible way. Vaping is fun for the same reasons but doesn’t kill you. What’s not to like? If you smoke you should switch to vaping. It might just save your life.

But all of that is just my opinion based on my own experiences. With something like this we need to look at the data and research being done. What exactly are our medical organisations saying about vaping?

How Safe Is Vaping?

It depends on who you ask, and there’s a lot of misleading, and incorrect information out there. To get through all the rubbish out there you need to understand which groups of people hate vaping and what they stand to lose. While we in Europe are worried about the TPD, in America the FDA have just all but destroyed vaping. As a side note, any U.S. based vapers should take the time to join CASAA to see what you can do to help (http://casaa.org)

The biggest and most obvious enemy of vaping is big tobacco. It’s really simple, if people are vaping rather than smoking, then fewer people are buying tobacco. They’re followed closely big big pharma. They really don’t like us using e-cigarettes to quit smoking because we’re not using patches, gum, or anything else you can buy from your local chemist. Finally there’s the anti-smoking groups. I hate the anti-smoking groups. There’s something about groups of people who are so concerned about what other people are doing that really rub me up the wrong way. Anyway they’re of the belief that people shouldn’t be smoking, vaping, or anything else, and they’re going to do whatever they can to stop us. I get the impression that they aren’t really interested in the well being of smokers, they’re just frustrated by people doing something they don’t want them to be doing.

You can see their work in the form of badly written reports and questionable studies. Over the last year there have been a couple of sensationalist news stories following those bad reports.

There was the Diacetyl scare. That’s a food flavouring that gives things a buttery flavour. It was being used in a popcorn factory where a number of workers suffered massive lung trauma, probably as a result of the chemicals they were working with, and their condition ended up being called Popcorn Lung. Because there has been Diacetyl used in some ejuice flavours the media jumped and began publishing articles about how e-cigarettes were going to kill us all. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/14/e-cigarettes-contain-flavouring-chemical-linked-to-deadly-popcor/)

The truth is that Diacetyl has never been linked to Popcorn Lung. It isn’t even really blamed for causing the condition in the popcorn factory workers. The factory workers were exposed to far more of the chemical than any vaper ever would be, and that’s if they’re vaping an eliquid that happens to contain it. And there is something that contains more Diacetyl than any eliquid, and exposes you to more of it than the workers in the popcorn factory were getting, cigarettes.

When that story was shown up for what it is, we were suddenly hit with another study that showed how e-cigarettes were every bit as bad for you as smoking.

Some scientists took some living cells and put them in a petri dish. Then they blew cigarette smoke over some of the cells and eliquid vapour over some other cells. As to be expected the cigarette smoke caused genetic mutations in the cells. What wasn’t expected was that the eliquid also caused genetic mutations in the cells. There’s your headline right there. But if you’re the one writing that article be careful that you don’t dig any deeper than that. You don’t want to mention that the vapour took a number of days to cause the genetic mutation. And you really don’t want to talk about how the cigarette smoke caused the genetic mutations almost immediately, and then went on to totally kill off and destroy all cells after a couple of hours, something that vapour didn’t manage at all.

It’s not that the reporting on these studies is technically wrong, it’s just that they’re misleading. Yes both the vapour and the cigarette smoked caused genetic mutations, but the difference in the way it happened is extremely important information. Misreporting this kind of thing makes people decide not to give up smoking, and it kills them. When you’re looking for information on vaping it makes sense to get it directly from people who know what they’re talking about, rather than from a newspaper. Everyone else has an interest in either printing headlines that sell newspapers, or discouraging people from vaping all together.

Every so often you’ll see worries about children beginning to vape, exploding batteries, or poisonous chemical cloud. If not one of those then you’ll end up hearing about how vaping is making people actually start smoking.

What actual doctors have to say about vaping

The first major group to give their opinion was Public Health England. In August 2015 they released their work on the subject (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review) and declared vaping to be around 95% safer than smoking. That’s quite a significant reduction in harm right there.

More recently the Royal College of Physicians released their own 200 page report. You can read through the whole thing yourself if you like (https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/promote-e-cigarettes-widely-substitute-smoking-says-new-rcp-report) but let me give you a couple of the key points.

They found that e-cigarettes were not a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes, and don’t result in the normalisation of smoking. When they looked at how e-cigarettes help people to quit, they found that people who otherwise were not even considering giving up smoking we’re taking up vaping. The e-cigarettes actually acted as a gateway away from smoking.

The RCP are proper scientists so they have to include this bit at the end that I know is going to make some of you start shouting but please wait until I finish before you interrupt. They did state that there is the possibility of some kind of long term negative effects of vaping. HOWEVER… Those negative effects were due to the flavourings, not vaping in general, and as more testing happens, those bad flavourings go away making vaping even safer. And on top of that, the damage that they think might occur, is no more than 5% of the damage that smoking would have caused and is very likely to be significantly less than that.

So all of the evidence is pointing towards vaping being virtually harmless, and significantly safer than smoking. No wonder the NHS are now handing them out to people trying to give up cigarettes.

The British government’s reaction to vaping is something worthy of note. For the first time I can think of, a government has looked at valid scientific research, and based policy on it with the aim of positively changing the health of the country. I’m quite thrown by that. Usually the valid scientific research is replaced with invalid research that says something more along the lines of what the government want it to say, and policy is then made with total disregard for logic, reason, and public opinion, and that gets us back To The TPD.

Why It Is Bad?

The e-cigarette portion of the TPD (aka article 20) attempts to standardise the laws controlling e-cigarettes throughout Europe. For some countries that has actually meant that e-cigarettes will become legal for the first time. But for nations like Britain, it means we’re going to take a massive step backwards, and to make matters worse, it’s all based on old research, lobbying by big tobacco, and panic about something a lot of people don’t understand.

I don’t want to go into too much technical detail about what’s wrong with how vaping is controlled, suffice it to say that the new laws make pushing e-cigarette use very difficult.

Here’s an example. Section 5 of article 20 refers to the advertising of e-cigarettes. You’d expect that to be there as we’ve had very strict rules on advertising tobacco for years. If they’re going to treat vaping like smoking, then we can expect to get those laws. So it includes the basics like prohibiting advertising on television, radio, and in print.

Not being able to talk about vaping might somewhat impede the spread of vaping as a smoking cessation method. I’m not suggesting that we should have ads for e-cigs all over the place, but we should be able to talk about them in a positive light and encourage smokers to make the switch. Studies show that far too many people still think that vaping is worse for you than smoking. We need to be able to change that.

It doesn’t stop there. Many of the other new regulations aim to fix problems that simply don’t exist. For example it is now illegal to sell eliquid in bottles bigger than 10ml. Until the TPD the most popular quantity to buy was 15ml. That’s a 5ml difference that makes no actual difference in real life, but it does mean that every manufacturer of eliquid has to change their production process, and create more waste by producing more bottles. Why is that in there at all? Well it’s all about stopping us from overdosing on nicotine, and that’s stupid, because overdosing on the nicotine in eliquid is more difficult than you might think. The lethal dose for nicotine is between 50 and 100g depending on your size. Now it’s time for some maths.

As an overweight adult male, we can assume that I’d need to consume the full 100g of nicotine to be in with a chance of hurting myself. Where would I get my hands on 100g of nicotine. Well the previously legal 15ml bottles contain 0.045g of nicotine, and cost around £8.99 per bottle. To be harmed by that nicotine I would need to consume over 33 litres of eliquid at a cost of roughly £20,000. From that you can work on the basis that it’s pretty much impossible to be harmed by eliquid, unless enough of it lands on your head. Sitting down to consume 33 litres of anything is hard. Try it with some milk and let me know how you get on. Not only would you have to consume more liquid that your body can hold, but you need to get litre 33 in there before litre 1 has a chance to leave your system. Thank goodness the TPD limits e-cigarette tank sizes to 2ml. Just think of all the lives saved there.

The TPD reads more like a list of ways to annoy vapers rather than something that’s actually a good idea. It’s all very petty and childish in its approach. Most ex-smokers start with eliquid that contains 2.4% nicotine, as it most closely resembles a 20 a day smoking habit. The TPD limits liquids to 2% nicotine, which doesn’t sound like a lot, so to give you some context, most vapers use liquid with 0.3% nicotine. That .4% makes a serious difference to somebody trying to quit smoking. The vaping rules in the TPD go against everything our scientists and health professionals are telling us.

This limit on nicotine concentration could also kill off the DIY eliquid market. Some vapers, like myself, make their own eliquid at home. It’s much cheaper to do it that way, and you know exactly what’s going into your eliquid. To make our own liquid we buy nicotine in much higher concentrations than you would actually vape it in. It’s diluted down to get to the desired level for each vaper. Thanks to the TPD I can no longer buy the concentration I need, and any liquid nicotine I can buy, I can only get in those little 10ml bottles.

Honestly I could go through the entire document and pull apart every single rule and regulation in there. As much as I’d enjoy that, it doesn’t make for very interesting reading.

How can the TPD be so unfit for purpose and what can we do about it?

It turns out that we can get the answer for both of those questions from one Lord Callanan, a Tory peer in the House of Lords. He’s done great work for vaping in the past and it looks like he’s trying to do it again.

Recently there was a debate on vaping and the TPD in the House of Lords. You can see the whole thing online and it’s worth a watch just to see people in government say things that make sense. It’s not something you normally get to see.

Being that it’s over an hour long, all you really need to know about it is that everyone who speaks is in agreement with everybody else that speaks. Apparently the TPD was drawn up before much research had been done into vaping. The Lords don’t like the vaping restrictions one bit, and it turns out they might still be able to help us.

When European directives like the TPD come into force, it’s down to each individual country to write that directive into their own laws. We haven’t done that yet. For something to become a law it needs to be agreed upon in the House of Commons. Then it goes to the House of Lords for them to give it the once over before it gets sent to the Queen. Usually if the Lords don’t agree with a possible law they send it back to the Commons to be corrected. However it’s possible for a Lord to table a fatal motion. That means that if the Lords vote against something, it does not go back to the Commons. It’s just dead. Lord Callanan has tabled a fatal motion against the TPD. Soon there will be a vote in the House of Lords, and if they vote the right way, we’ll just never write the TPD into British law. Simple as that.

Of course that comes with some possible problems from the EU. We really are meant to write it into law, so there are some consequences if we don’t. But right now things aren’t all that great between the UK and the EU. There’s this little referendum that we’re having and it looks like the EU aren’t going to be doing anything to piss us off anytime soon. Besides, the French do whatever they want anyway.

The chance to change things for the better has mobilised vapers all over the country. You’ll find links to the change.org petition (https://www.change.org/p/david-cameron-mp-support-parliamentary-moves-to-block-crazy-e-cigarette-regulations?recruiter=227535661), and other sites where you can find out about all the activism that’s going on. I encourage you to sign the petition, and if you have managed to give up smoking thanks to e-cigarettes I encourage you to share your story on social media, preferably aimed at your MPs and other relevant people. (http://www.clivebates.com/?p=4105#more-4105). Hopefully with enough public pressure the Lords will vote in the way that makes the most sense.

Preview of Making Sense Episode 5

Friday the 20th of May was TPD day in Europe. That’s not a fun celebration, TPD stands for Tobacco Products Directive, and it’s a huge list of laws that apply across Europe covering tobacco products, mostly.

One of the aims of Europe is to create a really big place where all the laws are basically the same, especially when it comes down to the really little stuff like how many cigarettes you can buy in a pack, whether milk and beer should be sold in pints or litres, and ensuring that a Cornish pasty can only come from Cornwall. I’m a big fan of Europe and the EU, that doesn’t mean I like absolutely everything it does. Lots of things it does are just plain dumb or pointless, but hey, that’s government.

The TPD is an attempt to standardise a whole load of smoking related laws. For example, you can now no longer buy a pack of ten cigarettes or less that 30g of loose tobacco. The thinking behind that is if you can only buy 30g of tobacco when you normally only buy 25g of tobacco, you’ll probably just never smoke again. I didn’t say it was coherent thinking that in any way made sense. There are lots of other laws there like forcing the use of plain cigarette packets, and menthol cigarettes being banned.

Nobody is arguing that restricting the sale of tobacco is a bad thing. We’ve known the dangers of it for years and taking steps to getting people away from using it is the right thing to do. However, the TPD also covers the use of vaping products, even though there isn’t a single atom of tobacco anywhere near them, and that has made people who use those vaping products, including myself, very angry.

Making Sense with Richard Smith Episode 4

During the last budget, George Osbourne announced to the country that all schools were going to be forced to become Academies. That was a decision that was considered to be a bad one by pretty much everybody. Never the less the British government carried on almost as if they just didn’t care about anything.

Although the privatisation of our education system has been put on hold, it is a glowing example of the kind of thing our government is up to on a daily basis. It serves as a case study on how our public services are being sold off in secret, right in front of us.

What Are Academies?

In 2000 the Labour Party sort of came up with the idea of academies. It’s actually a direct copy of the american charter school system. The idea was that failing schools would be given to private business to run. That business or “trust” would offer up money and expertise that would hopefully make the school better. By the time Labour left power in 2010 there were just over 200 academies. Today there are over 4500 academies, clearly they’re something that Tories really like. Things Tories like tend to be bad for anyone that isn’t either a Conservative MP, or the close personal friend of a Conservative MP. Since most of us don’t fit into either of those categories it’s worth looking into this further.

For starters the idea of private business running our education system is terrifying. If you think it’s bad that people like Rupert Murdoch push their own political agenda on the world through their various media outlets, just imagine what they could do if they got their hands on our schools. I’m really struggling to see how anybody can do a better job of turning around a failing school than teachers. Professionals who know how education works. If you think that McDonald’s should be running our primary and secondary schools, please leave now.

Are They Any Good?

So while they look like a really shit idea on the surface, what if we look a little deeper. Surely a change as significant as this to our education system should have some evidence to back it up. Our children should have the best education we can give them, and any steps taken to do anything with our education system should be done with the aim of improving education. Did becoming academies do anything to improve education in failing schools? Well according to the Department for Education, no. In a study in 2011 they saw that 60% of pupils at non-academy schools attained five A* to C grade GCSEs. Surely the pupils at the 249 academy schools did better. Well actually only 47% of their pupils managed to get grades as good as their non-academy friends.

Here’s another example. Trinity Academy in my home town of Doncaster is a sponsored academy and in March 2011 it was judged by Ofsted to be of Outstanding quality. However that was over turned in December 2013 when the school was so bad it was placed in special measures. The teaching quality was inadequate, the curriculum was inadequate, and the leadership was inadequate.

In 2015 a cross-party committee running a Parliamentary enquiry found that there is no proof that academies raise standards, and said that the government should stop exaggerating the success of academies.

Academies aren’t even good value for money. In January, the Financial Times reported that 8 academies in financial difficulty have been handed £11m over the last 18 months. Obviously you don’t even need to run your academy within a budget. If you over spend there’s some more money there for you.

If all that wasn’t enough, we can also look at the exclusion rate for academies. One of the problems with academies is that they want to be seen to be getting good results in testing. One way to do that is to teach children well. Another way to do that is to teach children less well and exclude the ones you don’t think are going to do well. Between 2013 and 2014 academies expelled 2430 pupils. Over the same period state run schools expelled 2520 pupils. Yes the academies expelled 90 fewer pupils, but you should know that there are 3513 academies, and 17,644 government run schools.

How Did This Happen?

Time and time again we see evidence that academies aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be. Teaching standards fall, expulsion rates go up, and the students that aren’t expelled end up with worse exam results than their state school counterparts. No wonder the tories had to try to force every school to become an academy, Why on earth would any school choose to do it?

Right now we’ve only had a year of full fat Tory. For the five years before that we were living through years of semi-skimmed Tory after watering them down with some wet liberal democrats. Back in 2010 it wasn’t possible for Cameron to force schools to do anything, not to the same degree that he can now, so supporting further academisation had to come with a little bit of sweetener for the people who got to decide if a school became an academy. Queue lots of perks for head teachers.

They were offered the opportunity to set their own school curriculum. Do you really need me to explain why it’s a bad idea to have a school set its own curriculum? How can you tell how well they’re doing? How do you know that the curriculum compares to the ones being taught in other schools. How can pupils go onto university if they’ve all been taught to different levels of understanding? It’s just a bad idea. We have a national curriculum set by the government for a reason.

Heads were given the opportunity to buy in services from outside of their local education authority, basically allowing them to give school money to whoever they felt like giving it to.

Some head teachers even believed that becoming an academy would mean they didn’t have to undergo government inspection. Sadly that one wasn’t true and resulted in some head teachers being removed from their jobs as a result of doing bugger all since converting their school to academy status.

Of course removing a school from the control of the local authority and into the hands of private enterprise requires some legal work to be done. The government offered to pay the legal fees of the converting schools, and offered them a nice big chunk of cash on top of that so they could do up the schools a little bit and maybe supply kids with their school uniform.

Those financial incentives that the government were offering also acted as a way of coercing schools that weren’t already thinking about converting. While the government were giving more money to new academies, they weren’t putting more money into the education budget overall. I’ll break it down to really basic maths. Imagine I run three schools each with a budget of £1. Then I tell you that if you turn your school into an academy, I’ll give you £2 the next time I hand out the cash. When that time comes around, I give you your £2, but I give the other two schools 50p to make up for the extra pound I gave you. Suddenly those other two schools have a good reason to start thinking about becoming an academy.

I can’t help but feel that Tories get really excited about academies. Look at all the trouble they cause and we still haven’t uncovered what’s so good about them.

Why Do Tories Like Academies?

Remember how I said that academies are a copy of the American charter school system? Take a look at what education historian Diane Raviitch had to say about them in her book Reign of Error. She points out that the government believes that entrepreneurs should enter the education market. Almost overnight, consultants, vendors and businesses offered their services on such matters as teacher evaluation systems, teacher training systems, how to turn round failing schools, and so on. She also found that many businesses observed a fortune in public money that they could access rather than it going towards pupils. Now this sounds much more Tory! This sounds exactly like something lifted right out of David Cameron’s wet dreams.

Just think of all that money we’re pouring into education when we should be finding way to let private business have it. I must admit that this is one of those times where I just don’t understand the conservatives, and I think it proves them to be as heartless and stupid as I consider them to be. Just think about this for a moment. If you truly believe in all that right wing greed is good crap, then surely it makes sense to take steps to ensure that your businesses can thrive as far into the future as possible If we have class after class of dumb kids, destroyed by a massively underfunded education system, how can things continue? Oh wait, sorry, stilly me. I completely forgot that Tory MPs don’t send their children to state run schools. They can afford private education for their children. That way their kids get the good education as well as all the inheritance and can go on ruling the country for years to come, with nobody to appose them but the uneducated masses who had no choice but to go to a school run by Starbucks. That sounds like a joke, but don’t forget anyone can set up an academy chain, and the whole point is that those businesses that do are expected to inject their expertise into the schools, the only reason why we don’t have a Starbucks Primary School that specialises in Barrister skills, is that Starbucks haven’t decided to do that yet. There’s nothing stopping them now.
After a little digging around online, you start to understand why the Tories love this system so much. Here are a few examples for you:

  • Academy Transformation Trust , which controls 16 academies in the south-east and Midlands, has paid in total £57,282 to a trustee and a company owned by the daughter-in-law of the trust’s chief executive, Ian Cleland.
  • The Active Learning Trust, which oversees five schools, has paid £16,943 to a company owned by trustee, Marilyn Toft.
  • Cabot Learning Federation (CLF) has paid £9,000 for training courses to Transform Training and Consultancy, where a former trustee of the federation is also a director.
  • In July 2014, the country’s largest taxpayer funded chain, the Academy Enterprise Trust, came under fire following revelations of almost £500,000 worth of payments made to private businesses owned by its trustees and executive.
  • Between September 2011 and 2014, The Elliot Foundation (TEF), which runs primary academies in the West Midlands, East Anglia and London, has paid £452,373 to founding directors for their work as consultants and for travel and subsistence expenses.
  • School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA), which has converted more than 30 schools to academies, revealed payments of £424,850 over two years for legal services to Wrigleys Solicitors, where the trust director Christopher Billington is a partner, and for education consultancy to Elmet Education, where another member of School Partnership Trust Academies is a director.
  • Leigh Academies Trust, run by Michael Gove’s newly appointed schools commissioner, Frank Green, has paid £111,469 since 2010 to Shoreline, a private company founded by him, in consultancy fees.
  • Grace Academy, which runs three schools in the Midlands and was set up by the Tory donor Lord Edmiston, has paid more than £1m either directly to or through companies owned or controlled by Edmiston, trustees’ relatives and to members of the board of trustees. Payments include £533,789 to International Motors Limited, a company owned by Edmiston, and £4,253 to Subaru UK Ltd, where he is the ultimate controlling party. More than £173,000 was also paid to the charities Grace Foundation and Christian Vision, both of which were set up by Edmiston. In addition, £108,816 has been paid to a company controlled by the son-in-law of one trustee. Grace Academy also employs Gary Spicer, the brother of Lady Edmiston, as its executive director, on a salary of £30,000 plus pension. Spicer’s own company received more than £367,732 from Grace Academy over the last six years for consultancy work.

The list goes on and on, for example:

  • One of Gove’s favourite academies was found to have serious weaknesses and this caused questions around the freedoms given to these schools.  An investigation found that in the year ending August 2012 £1,047,788 in 2011 and £924,316 had been lost through ‘unautorised transfers.’  The school was part of Haberdashers’ Aske Federation.
  • Three people have been arrested by detectives investigating an alleged fraud at a County Durham academy. (2014)
  • The founder of a flagship free school in Bradford will stand trial in 2016 accused of fraud. (Kings Science Academy)
  • The Perry Beeches academy trust is to have its five academies and free schools in Birmingham handed over to a new academy trust following a critical financial investigation. A report concluded that the academy made payments in contravention of academies’ financial rules and Treasury guidelines. 28 March 2016. In 2012 Gove described the CEO in receipt of some of these payments as, ‘Wonderful!’

And there it is. That’s why the Tories love academies so much. If you want to take some of the education budget, all you have to do is run a school, and then pay all the school’s money to various other companies that you own. That’s the secret, and almost forced, privatisation of the British education system.

To Sum Up

Look. I’m all up for being able to make money. I run a business myself. But there are some things that are sacred. There are plenty of ways to make a load of money without resorting to taking it from our education system. The biggest and most profitable company in the world makes phones. Below them are a whole list of big phama, oil, and other silicon valley companies. If your goal in life is to make as much money as possible then there are much better ways to do it. Surely raping the education of our children should be a way of making money that any decent person would rather avoid. I know I would. The fact that our government doesn’t have the same level of care about our children’s eduction as you would hope, should start alarm bells ringing. If they’re willing to do this to education, then what are they willing to do to other organisations. We’ve seen that they’re trying to do something similar to the NHS. The trouble with making all your money from selling phones is that you’ve got to be clever enough to make and sell a phone. Tories aren’t. If they were, they’d be doing it. All they do is find a way to cheat the system, or change the system to their advantage ideally without anybody finding out. More than anything I just can’t get over thinking about the kind of person who looks at the countries education budget and sees it as a way for them to make money. No! The education budget is for the education of our country’s children. Nothing else. If anyone personally benefits from education, it should be the men and women who operate the schools and teach the children. Without them there are no schools, and our country has no future.

There was a time when I was training to be a primary school teacher. There has not been a single second where I have regretted not becoming one. Those people work their asses off more than I’m ever going to, and they do it knowing that the government doesn’t care, and would sell them to the highest bidder at the drop of a hat.