When a bishop has to leave the Church of England to stand up for Christians, what hope is left for Britain?

An interesting exercise in differing perspectives today from Melanie Phillips, which moves from the resignation of the Bishop of Rochester to pursue missionary work overseas, through a number of slights and marginalisations of Christianity in public life through to this:

“With multiculturalism discriminating in favour of all who challenge the established values of this country, it would appear that it is Christians who have become the oppressed minority. “

It is worth remembering at this point that the head of state is also the head of the national branch of the Church, Christian religious leaders sit unelected in the second house of our legislature, the school system is predominantly a collection of Christian faith-based organisations, charity law allows tax breaks for organisations devoted to ‘advancement of religion’, our national broadcaster carries a weekly televised Christian service and Christian (and other religious) organisations have exemptions from various pieces of equality legislation allowing them to discriminate against people while still receiving public funds. For an oppressed minority, Christians do quite well for themselves.

So, how has Melanie got to the point where all the perks of Christianity are overlooked – what has generated this feeling of oppression?

“Yesterday, it was revealed that a Christian council worker was suspended for encouraging a terminally ill woman to turn to God. He says he was also told it was inappropriate to ‘talk about God’ with a client and that he should not even say ‘God bless’.

This follows the case of the nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for an elderly patient’s recovery, the Christian who lost her role on an adoption panel because she disapproved of gay adoption, and Christian adoption agencies which lost their public funding because they had the same approach.”

So, there seem to be a series of well publicised attacks on people merely for being Christian. It’s not quite Rome, but people are losing their livelihoods, merely for stating their faith. They might still have spiritual leaders in the Lords interfering with bills on science and health, but on the ground the secularists are winning.

Except, from another perspective, this isn’t what’s going on at all. The Christian council worker in question is accused by his employers of subjecting a woman who came to him to discuss her housing situation to an extended ‘religious rant’¹. Were this any other religion, or no religion, I’m not sure Melanie would feel as uncomfortable. If we give him the benefit of the doubt, and his comments were neither extended nor ranting, then rather than doing the job he was paid to do, he was proselytising, again something Melanie would probably feel less comfortable with were it on behalf of another god. Alternatively, imagine he weren’t proselytising at all, but suggesting an alternative remedy – would it be appropriate for a homelessness officer to suggest to a supplicant that they go home and eat goji berries because, even though the doctors say there’s no hope, you sometimes hear about people switching to the berries and pulling through? For a newspaper so often concerned by local government spending, the implicit claim that Wandsworth’s rate payers should be funding unqualified health advice with every housing consultation seems odd. The idea that someone should be considered persecuted because their employer expects them to do their job and leave their medical advice for after hours is equally strange.

In the case of the nurse, someone was sufficiently taken aback by her offer of prayer to complain about it – so Malanie is now asking us to accept that nurses should be allowed to make patients feel awkward and uncomfortable. The Christian who lost their job on the adoption panel did so because she wanted to base adoption not on the law or the scientific evidence which informed it, but on her private beliefs – Melanie is asking us to accept personal belief as a legitimate reason to ignore the rules which govern our jobs. The Christian adoption agency were allowed to continue to discriminate against couples on the basis of their private beliefs, but were no longer allowed to ask the taxpayer to fund that discrimination – Melanie is asking certain members of the community to happily stump up for someone else to persecute them.

In all of these cases, we can easily imagine the problems we would have were it not Christianity, but another set of private beliefs which were influencing the public behaviour. Were we to substitute racism in the adoption cases, for example. The issue is not, in this light, the persecution of Christianity, but the exclusion of certain private beliefs from the public sphere. It is not Christianity which is under attack, but the idea that private beliefs should influence your public duties.

In some ways, the confusion between the two is understandable – historically in this country, Christian private beliefs have coincided with public duties. When homosexuality was illegal on grounds of morality, the question of discrimination in adoption never arose. The problem Melanie is having is not that multiculturalism [is] discriminating in favour of all who challenge the established values of this country’, but that not all the established views are universally held and that the acceptance of this necessarily implies a retreat of all private beliefs from the public sphere. The illusion that Christianity is being persecuted arises because Christian beliefs have further to retreat. This in no ways undermines her feeling that:

“Although most people may no longer be churchgoers, Christianity infuses all this country’s institutions, traditions and values.”

Even retreating to the private sphere, Christian values will still influence public life because the worthwhile ones are universal. Christianity does not have the monopoly on tolerance, decency and the Golden Rule². Christians will still be able to agree with laws based on equality and reciprocity of expected behaviour, and with institutions which foster the same. ‘Christianity’ will still be the basis for our public conduct and discourse, we will still indulge in ‘Christian behaviour’ in as far as that basis and that behaviour overlaps with ‘human’ behaviour. That basis and that behaviour will still tolerate the discussion of private beliefs which run against our desire for equality and justice in the appropriate fora, but will still believe that such fora are not the ones funded by the public.

Even when we’ve sorted the monarchy, and the Lords, and the education system, and the national broadcaster, and the charity law, and the opt-outs of equality legislation, Christianity will still have a place in public life. That place still won’t proselytising, or ignoring the law, at the taxpayer’s expense. That’s not oppression, that’s even-handedness, which the Christian god, among others, was all for³.

———————–

¹ I’m basing my comments on this on an article in the Telegraph – oddly, only they and the Mail appear to be carrying this story.

² It’s worth noting here that Melanie is discussing Christianity as if it were a uniform monolith – the brand of the faith that is failing to love homosexuals as they love themselves is arguably missing the point sufficiently to not merit the name and to allow that particular animosity into public life would be the failure to uphold true Christian values, not its exclusion.

³ Deut 10:17-18 – For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 23rd March 2009

If you’d like to know what causes cancer, in real time, try this.

Note, in the causes in brief – if you believe the internet, tea can cure cancer. Too modest, Daily Mail, too modest.

This week, being a guinea pig at Porton Down DOESN’T cause cancer. Interestingly. Preventing cancer this week is letting your tea cool before drinking it (so, by implication, drinking hot tea causes cancer), giving a rare mention to oesophageal cancer, and oily fish is what you want to avoid prostate cancer..

Original research

25th March

Straight from the teapot, a golden anti-cancer brew

A report on: Nune et al. (2009) Green nanotechnology from tea: phytochemicals in tea as building blocks for production of biocompatible gold nanoparticles Journal of Materials Chemistry doi: 10.1039/b822015h

Eating oily fish once a week slashes prostate cancer risk

A report on: Fradet et al. (2009) Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Cyclooxygenase-2 Genetic Variation, and Aggressive Prostate Cancer Risk Clinical Cancer Research doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-08-2503

Ex-servicemen used as human guinea pigs by MoD scientists ARE more likely to die prematurely, study finds

A report on: Venables et al. (2009) Mortality in British military participants in human experimental research into chemical warfare agents at Porton Down: cohort study British Medical Journal doi: 10.1136/bmj.b613

27th March

Letting tea cool for four minutes ‘cuts risk of throat cancer’

A report on: Farhad Islami et al. (2009) Tea drinking habits and oesophageal cancer in a high risk area in northern Iran: population based case-control study British Medical Journal doi: 10.1136/bmj.b929

Causes in brief

23rd March

Floral, malty or chesty? Tea’s once again outselling coffee and there’s far more to it than one lump or two

“It’s not just the odd bit of flab – if you believe everything you read on the internet, tea can do everything from fight cancer to strengthen blood vessels, aid weight loss to sharpen concentration. It’s even said to prevent baldness.”

25th March

BBC facing viewer backlash over coverage of Jade Goody’s death

A BBC spokesman added: ‘Though Jade Goody was not the lead item on either the early evening BBC News bulletin or on the BBC News at Ten on Sunday, we did give the story appropriate prominence in our coverage.

‘Like other news organisations – we felt this was a big story both on the grounds of the level of public interest in the reality star, and the awareness of cervical cancer that her illness raised, and one which would be of interest to our audiences.'”

26th March

Pubs must offer smaller glasses of wine to cut drinking, says Government

“Last month, a report found that one large glass of wine a day can increase the risk of breast cancer by a quarter.”

(see Strange Ontology:Week beginning 16th February)

28th March

Beauty Bible; Beauty Clinic

“Using a sunbed once a month or so can increase your risk of skin cancer by more than half. When the tan fades, the damage remains.”

Noah’s a naughty boy … and we’re so thrilled, say parents whose child escaped deadly cancer

“The non-hereditary childhood cancer affects about 85 children in Britain every year.”

Other

23rd March

‘The Jade effect’: A legacy of other lives saved as hospitals report 20% rise in cervical smears

“Jade’s very public battle against cervical cancer had one unexpected yet positive outcome. Thousands of lives could be saved because of the uptake in cervical smears seen in recent months.”

Health news: Red wine can stop weight gain, anti-smoking drug is calming and band aid for chemo patients

“Acupressure wrist bands – which apply force to a pressure point on the wrist – are used to treat travel sickness.

But doctors at Liverpool University believe they could also help cancer patients.”

25th March

Potential cures for Alzheimer’s and cancer threatened by EU red tape

“New cancer treatments, which, like breast cancer ‘wonder drug’ Herceptin work by homing in on rogue proteins in the body, can also only be tested on monkeys and other highly-developed animals, the scientists said.”

27th March

NHS unveils ‘Robodoc’ the £1.5m mechanical surgeon set to revolutionise cancer treatment

“The groundbreaking ‘Da Vinci Surgical System’ has already been used successfully in 20 operations to remove the prostate glands of cancer victims.”

Twix bars, condoms and the betrayal of our young

Hidden beneath a piece on condom adverts is this from Amanda Platell:

“Lewis Hamilton is set to be our first sporting billionaire. He says of criticism that he is arrogant and superior: ‘I will take it on board and try to understand why it is being said.’ Here’s a hint, kiddo: perhaps people don’t like you because, the moment you hit the big time, you skipped the country to avoid tax. Now we’re in a recession, that bitterness will only grow.”

A couple of things: firstly, objections based on arrogance and superiority would seem to be conceptually distinct from objections based on tax status. While Amanda is right in suggesting that the animosity generated by the latter might give people an additional reason for airing the former, as indeed she is proving, her advice is flawed because removing one of the two objections does not remove them both. People will still think Hamilton arrogant and superior even if he returns to pay tax.

A second point is the injustice of attacking someone who leaves the country to protect their earnings. It is a solid Daily Mail principle that our tax money is routinely misspent (recent examples here, here and here). It is also a solid Daily Mail principle that people should contribute to pay for services that they use (recent examples here, here and here). So how can someone be blamed for wanting to pay their tax elsewhere, to the extent that they’re prepared to leave the country of their birth forsaking its benefits and services? It’s not as if he’s avoiding tax while living in the UK, and so not contributing to the upkeep of services he benefits from. Unlike Lord Rothermere, the Daily Mail and General Trust’s chairman. In fact, describing his activities as ‘avoiding tax’ is misleading – Hamilton is merely avoiding paying it in the UK, it would be more accurate to say that he has chosen the tax regime he wants to live under. Which makes Amanda’s complaint look more like jealousy than principle.

Fred the Shred’s an easy target, but we should all beware of the nihilists of the Left… itching to reduce this country to anarchy

Here’s a cheery column from Stephen Glover:

“There is an emboldened nihilistic movement bubbling below the surface whose beliefs are profoundly anti-progress, as well as being injurious to the poor in the West and the Third World. In a way they are far worse than the old communist Left, which at least aspired to running an efficient state. This new lot abominates cars and aeroplanes and technology – in short, most of the achievements of the modern world.”

The attack on Sir Goodwin’s Edinburgh property was merely the first skirmish of a bigger war, one that threatens the very heart of our civilisation.

“Just remember that their prescription is not to introduce moderate reforms, but to pull the system apart so that, if they have their way, we will end up eating soya beans, riding about on donkeys and growing clumps of maize in our back gardens.”

The anarchists are coming. Be afraid.

There are a couple of things that we might want to consider before we start barricading our properties to protect ourselves against Swampy’s massed hordes. For one, how are we moving from a single attack on a media hate figure¹ to the overthrow of everything we hold dear?

“Listen to the statement made to Edinburgh’s evening newspaper by those who attacked Sir Fred’s house: ‘We are angry that rich people … are paying themselves a huge amount of money, and are living in luxury, while ordinary people are made unemployed, destitute and homeless. This is a crime. Bank bosses should be jailed.’

Simple souls, no doubt. But also revolutionary ones. And they speak for a growing constituency of anti-capitalists whose analysis of the economic recession – if that is not too grand a word – is fatally encouraged by the Government’s and the media’s jihad against Sir Fred Goodwin and his ilk.”

So, Stephen makes two claims: that this view is revolutionary, and that it speaks for a wider constituency. Well, it’s not that revolutionary, it’s actually quite reactionary in as far as it is singling out a small group of people for special treatment as scapegoats, rather than addressing the causes of the imbalances in the system. It doesn’t overturn anything, it merely adjusts unfavourable outcomes after the fact. Revolutionary would be nationalising the whole banking sector and re-organising it as a collection of mutuals run for the benefit of their members and employees, for example. Retaining the same system with the same people at the top creaming off a little less is not a revolution. With that in mind, how broad a constituency do they speak for? Well, quite a large one – the Mail, among others, thinks it is high time we looked at remuneration.

Does this constituency necessarily overlap with those wanting to overthrow the capitalist system? No, not even Stephen can conclude that it does:

“A single attack on Sir Fred Goodwin’s Edinburgh house hardly signifies the beginning of mob rule”

So why the shoehorning? If you want to talk about the anarchist mob, why not just have a run at the Wombles preparing for the forthcoming G20? How can we justify the fear that the media is turning us anarchist?

“Is this really what the Government, even the BBC, wants? No one doubts that many bankers, Sir Fred among them, have made unforgivable errors. The sensible response is to introduce reforms so that the same thing cannot easily happen again. The anti-capitalist brigade wants to tear down the whole edifice. Alone, they were pretty harmless and peripheral. With ministers and the media acting as their helpmates, and declaring that capitalism has disastrously failed, they could become dangerous.”

Stephen is equivocating here on the idea of the failure of capitalism. Capitalism has failed: it has failed to pull the underclass up, it has failed to to prevent the gap between rich and poor from reaching such unpleasant levels, it has failed to provide stability or security to the middle classes. These aren’t things it was ever aiming to provide, or which, conceptually, it was ever likely to, but from a human point of view it is a system which fails to give us important things. This is not the same as the system failing in the sense that it doesn’t work – it still works better than controlled economy and people are still better off, in some senses at least, than they would be under anarchism or similar systems.² I have yet to find a media source or minister who is proposing an alternative to capitalism (I’m happy to be corrected on this, as ever). While they’re happy to talk about systemic failures, such as the inability to solve poverty, they do not talk about the system failing.

The media and government, rather, seem to be calling for exactly what Stephen is calling for – reforms to make the system a little less abhorrent. His conclusion, on this basis, is completely unjustified:

“Lay off the bankers. Stop exciting the mob. Let’s hear some robust arguments in favour of free trade, capitalism and open markets. They have produced enormous wealth before, and will do so again, while the policies (if they can be so dignified) of the protesters who will be on show in London next week would lead only to anarchy, poverty and chaos.”

This begs the question, because it automatically excludes reforms of banking pay as part of the solution. It excludes discussions of whether free trade does provide enormous wealth, or whether they lead for anarchy, poverty and chaos for some. These discussions are not ‘exciting the mob’, they are the necessary activities of democracy.

Stephen has conjured an image of rabid anarchists attacking the institution of private property³ to conclude that all arguments against the status quo are out of bounds and all critics are as bad as each other. The argument is poor even were the threat not so overstated. If Stephen wants to reduce the threat to bankers, there is no better place to start than looking at his own paper’s coverage of them. From there he can start thinking about how he can modify the capitalist system to be less piratical. Using the damaging of property of a media hate figure as a prop for the entire edifice of expropriation because you don’t want to discuss reform or your own approach to social problems is a much worse solution.

——————-

¹ Interestingly, Stephen feels that the BBC is largely to blame for the demonisation of Sir Fred Goodwin (“I freely admit that all newspapers have played their part in turning Fred the Shred into Public Enemy Number One, but the organisation which undoubtedly went further than any other was the publicly funded BBC, which is charged with being neutral and even-handed.”). Now, the Mail provides examples like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; and more throwaway lines as found here: 1, 2, 3, 4; throwing up your hands and saying ‘The big boy hit him harder’ in no way absolves you of the responsibility. This is a common enterprise across the media – the Mail has happily contributed to the construction of Sir Goodwin as a hate figure and the responsibility for people treating him as such lies squarely on their shoulders as much as anyone else.

² For very good libertarian and fraternal reasons, anarcho-syndicalism is still a ‘better’ system if you’re starting from scratch, but given our starting point in a capitalist system, there is no way you could achieve this without mass suffering. ‘Better off’ is relative to where you start, and from where we are, I’ve yet to see a better alternative to some form of capitalism.

³ Using Google Street View – “Incidentally, though there is no evidence that they played a role in this instance, Google’s new on-line street maps will be a marvellous aid for voyeurs, as well as for anyone who might want to burgle or damage your home. They show every house in 20 cities, including Edinburgh, and will be extended to many more. Where on earth is the public benefit?” – which Stephen wants to suppress, in spite, presumably, of robust arguments for free trade and capitalism.

Strange Ontology: Week beginning 16th March 2009

A couple sneak in from last week’s list, owing to some slightly hasty compiling on my part. Cancer is this week caused by poor diet in childhood and night-shifts (possibly), but good news comes in the form of mushrooms (a first for this publication, I would imagine), HRT, weight loss and scanning to look for cancer. Breast cancer gets three studies, prostate and colorectal cancer one each.

While on my travels, came upon this. How exciting is that? That’s genius.

And here’s another interesting thing: spot the difference here, here and here. Tricky.

Andriole et al. (2009) is open access, as is Bere (2007).

Original research

15th March

Breast cancer is linked to bad childhood diet, study reveals

A report on: Jansens and Vanderloo (2009) Nutrition in Children and Breast Cancer, paper presented at ESMO Symposium on Cancer and Nutrition, 20-21 March.

16th March

Denmark compensates women who developed breast cancer after working nights… but Britain denies there’s a risk

A report on: Straif et al. (2007) Carcinogenicity of shift-work, painting and fire-fighting Lancet Oncology 8:1065-1066

Mentioning (I think – I can’t actually find a journal to match the refernce): Dauchy et al. (1997) Light contamination during the dark phase in “photoperiodically controlled” animal rooms: Effect on tumor growth and metabolism in rats. Laboratory Animal Science 47:511-8

Fresh mushrooms ‘slashes breast cancer risk’

A report on: Zhange et al. (2009) Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women International Journal of Cancer, 124 :1404-1408

Mentioning (I think): this.

Health news: New drug to ease agony of shingles, HRT cuts risk of colon cancer and a pillow that can cure acne

A report on: Johnson et al. (2009) Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Risk of Colorectal Cancer Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 18:196

18th March

How four stones of extra weight can take three years off your life

A report on: Prospective Studies Collaboration (2009) Body-mass index and cause-specific mortality in 900 000 adults: collaborative analyses of 57 prospective studies The Lancet doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60318-4

19th March

Screening all older men for prostate cancer ‘could reduce deaths by a fifth’

A report on: Andriole et al. (2009) Mortality Results from a Randomized Prostate-Cancer Screening Trial New England Journal of Medicine doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0810696)

20th March

Billions of pounds spent on fight against cancer have failed to significantly improve survival rates, study shows

A report on: Sikora (2009) Was the NHS cancer plan worth the effort? The Lancet Oncology doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70083-X

Causes in brief

16th March

Ask the doctor: What has caused my painful chilblains

“Helicobacter causes inflammation of the stomach lining, and this inflammation may lead to a stomach ulcer, which can turn into cancer. Therefore, the bacterium is regarded as a major carcinogen, like tobacco in the case of lung cancer.”

I asked my GP for a smear test SIX times – but was told I was ‘too young’ to have cancer. It nearly cost me my life

“Laura saw the first tell-tale signs of her cancer – which is most often caused by the HPV virus, a sexually transmitted disease which infects the cervical tissue”

17th March

Britain has a drink problem, country’s top doctor warns ministers as Brown rules out minimum alcohol price

“He suggested local authorities could refuse to license new bars and clubs in areas with high rates of liver disease and breast cancer, which are linked to heavy drinking.”

22nd March

Heartbreak as Jade Goody loses her cancer battle on Mother’s Day with Jack and her mum by her side

“Women can protect themselves against cervical cancer by always attending routine screening tests when invited by their doctor. These tests detect any changes in the cells lining their cervix early on, so they can easily be treated before cancer develops.'”

Other

15th March

Inbreeding makes pedigree cats diseased and deformed, animal welfare groups warn

“Cats bred with certain physical characteristics, such as flat faces and small legs, are at increased risk of getting cancer, kidney disease or joint problems.”

Reindeer and meatballs for dinner: Researchers promote Nordic diet to curb obesity

Another example of the Mail delving into research which is being started, rather than completed, hence its inclusion here, rather than in ‘Original research’. However, it mentions previous research: Bere (2007) Wild berries: a good source of omega-3 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61:431-433; (I think) Due et al. (2008) The effect of a high monounsaturated fatty acid, low glycemic index diet and a low fat diet on satiety, appetite regulatory hormones and glucose metabolism during a 6 mo weight maintenance period International Journal of Obesity 32:S204

19th March

Drugs to slow Alzheimer’s ‘just five years away’… but if they fail UK faces ‘disaster’ as sufferer numbers will double in 30 years

“Figures from 2006/07 show that £29.2 million was spent by the Department of Health and the government-funded Medical Research Council on Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. This compares with £246.6 million on cancer and £75.6 million on heart disease.”

Lock up your pies – here comes Sir Liam Donaldson

Another genuinely baffling piece, here from Keith Waterhouse:

“The good news is that Gordon has turned his stubbly thumbs down on a proposal by his chief medical adviser, Sir Liam Donaldson, to set a stiff new minimum price on alcohol.

Apparently, the alternative is that we are turning ourselves into a nation of drunks with sots on every street corner reeling about and yelling: ‘Hey, Jimmy, is it me you’re looking at?'”

Now, the Chief Medical Officer’s report is always a good read, as you would expect from the nation’s appointed medical expert. Reports going back to 1996 can be found here, with the current one being here (the bit relevant to Keith Waterhouse’s article starting on page 17 ). The case against ‘passive drinking’ is well put – Dr Donaldson notes the strong negative relationship between the cost of alcohol and its consumption, the differential impact of price increases on the consumption of light and heavy drinkers, the cost to society of drinking and a recent study by Sheffield University researchers into the likely effects of price changes. The conclusion is one that seems obvious – imposing an artificial floor on prices will have a large effect on those drinking cheap alcohol without adversely affecting moderate drinkers of pricey stuff. To take an example from Dr Donaldson’s report, the price of wine would rise to a minimum of around £4.50 a bottle, while a large bottle of cider would rise to £5.50. Readers of Waterhouse’s column, refined souls that they are, are unlikely to lose much on the deal. Meanwhile, ‘Binge Britain’ (eg.) is forced to behave a little more responsibly, not by having their rights or freedom’s in any way eroded, but through the regulation of the market (which we’re generally all for). Indeed, the position is identical in structure to Melanie Phillip’s planned re-regulation of drinking times, in as far as it hopes to give drinker’s less opportunity to indulge without taking their right to drink if they choose away from them, but actually with slightly less inconvenience to your average responsible drinker.

So what’s not to like? Well, this:

“‘Sir Liam Donaldson was self-satisfied to the point of complacency. ‘Tobacco puts nails in the coffins of 120,000 people a year in this country. Acting on second-hand smoke would put a further nail in that coffin.’

I have noticed that the more graphic the statistics, the less reliable they are likely to be. The National Guesswork Authority has no record of 120,000 coffin nails a year. Like all projected figures, they are better at guessing the future than recalling the past.”

Presumably, the point here is that we can’t trust Sir Liam this time when he says that acting on drink would be helpful because he made up his figures on smoking-related deaths. I can put Keith’s mind at rest here, the figure of 120,ooo deaths comes from an independent report from 1998, Sir Kenneth Calman was CMO at the time. Second-hand smoke is happily acknowledged by no less a Mail-friendly source than Cancer Research UK as a bone fide carcinogen. No ‘National Guesswork Authority’ is necessary – we know something causes harm, we know that harm causes deaths, we can reason that removing the something will avoid the harm and save lives.

This radical thinking seems to have passed Waterhouse by – he gives no consideration to the harm alcohol causes, just makes jibes at the Cheif Medical Officer:

“In case you imagine these were simply the ravings of a health fanatic – which, of course, they are – perhaps I should remind you that on such issues Sir Liam has form.”

Of course Sir Liam has form. He’s the guardian of the nation’s health. It’s his job. That’s why he stopped Keith from smoking in enclosed public spaces – it was harming people’s health. It’s why he’s seeking to find a way of stopping Britain from binging, as the Mail so often has it – that is also harming people’s health. You might disagree with his method, but how Keith manages to disagee with the motivation is beyond me.