A lot of nonsense has been written in the blogosphere about the smoking ban being “illiberal”. It isn’t. What it is is a perfect example of how liberalism doesn’t deal in absolutes. I make it a policy of distrusting anyone who suggests otherwise.
For example, the smoking ban most definitely does pass Mill’s famous harm test. Where it fails, in my view, is in the tests of subsidiarity and proportionality. In terms of the former, it is disappointing to see Sarah Teather vote for the ban in a free vote, given her article for Centre For Um… on devolving power.
As it happens, I think that LDYS has got the balance right by calling for a licensing system. Not for the first time, LDYS has proven itself to be ahead of the more reactionary Parliamentary Party.
The real puzzle though is Simon Hughes. A few weeks ago, he lined up behind Mark “liberalising licensing laws will lead to a Christmas Crisis” Oaten on Sky News who said “you can’t pick and choose liberalism” and that he would vote against the ban. Instead he voted for a slight change in the wording, but abstained on the vote on the ban itself. This isn’t the first time that Simon’s public pronouncements haven’t been matched by his actions. On this issue I would have been inclined to support him, but he let me down. Do we really want a leader who is so inconsistent?