The cross-party group of MPs hosting this afternoon's sunny "Save our Pubs & Clubs" reception on the Commons Terrace comprised only non-smokers. Messrs Knight and Hemming, like me, have never smoked but feel strongly about liberty. The Labour co-host Roger Godsiff-is an ex-smoker, by his own free choice; a choice he defends for others. To cries of "don't give them ideas", he suggested it would be more honest and more honourable for antismokers to call openly for prohibition, as they clearly desire. Until they succeed in securing that, it was wrong for them to seek to hedge about a legal activity.
It was nostalgic to hear a Labour man talk in such terms; an echo of the days when the working-class members of that party at least were not looking to replace one boss class with another. The hosts spoke eloquently enough to an impressively substantial crowd, but I was most moved by the plain speaking of Mick McGlasham, General Secretary of the Working Mens Clubs & Institutes Union (CIU). He was genuinely baffled that, when pubs and clubs are ready to make ventilated smoking areas, anti-smoking fanatics are still determined to shatter the institutions at the heart of working-class communities. "Just give us the technical specs", he said, "and we will comply. It's time for some common sense on smoking legislation". He also pointed out that young children are being more exposed to cigarettes because their parents now have nowhere to smoke but at home.
A surprise appearance was made by artist David Hockney, who spoke passionately of the "mean-spiritedness" infecting our modern society. A mean-spiritedness that confronts old people who have smoked for years with the choice of shivering in sheds or staying home.
It was good to see and chat to fellow-blogger Dick Puddlecote there. We exchanged notes on blogging and the relative merits of writing (as I do) in mum-safe language, and (as he does) for a large audience! Forced to think about exactly what it is I have been doing here for the last seven years, I concluded that I am a specialist, small-scale wholesaler of ideas for retail distribution by the likes of Dick.
I also exchanged brief greetings with ũber-blogger Guido Fawkes, whom I have met only once before. Our man is now enough of an insider to go from twenty feet behind me in the House of Commons security queue to a yard ahead of me in the queue for a drink. And enough of an insider to look puzzled when it's mentioned! I look forward to reading their respective takes on the event.