Before it had even arrived in all readers’ shops, last week’s Retail Newsagent had caused a plain packs war to break out in parliament.
It started on Thursday morning when shadow health secretary Andy Burnham replied to my tweet of last week’s front cover with “time to get organised”. When asked what he meant, he said “to help govt defeat the rebels and win the vote”. RN asked him five times what changed his mind since 2009 when he said he would need to see “strong and convincing evidence”, but still hasn’t heard back.
Shouting support from afar, then running scared when asked for evidence just about sums up the tobacco control lobby’s strategy for pushing through this crazy law.
RN, meanwhile, kept digging to find out where key government ministers stand on the issue. Home secretary Theresa May’s office dodged all of RN’s questions and told us to ask the Department of Health if the cabinet was split. It, of course, replied that it couldn’t speculate on how Mrs May will vote. Hardly a ringing endorsement for government unity.
Shouting support from afar, then running scared when asked for evidence just about sums up the tobacco control lobby’s strategy for pushing through this crazy law
Not one of the 15 rebels identified by RN last week denied they will defy their party and vote against plain packaging. One, Harriet Baldwin, even told RN that it would be a free vote. “I have not yet seen convincing evidence, but I will listen to the debate,” she said.
Our lead story this week shows the debate on plain packaging could be stymied by a legislative sleight of hand. But RN is fighting your corner. On Monday night, I sent Nick de Bois MP copies of the key stories from last week’s issue to share with 160 MPs. A government spokeswoman admitted on Tuesday she hadn’t considered the argument from a retailers’ perspective. We’re making sure your voices are being heard.