It was only a few short weeks ago that Chancellor George Osborne was mocked nationwide for his pasty tax proposal. Oh, how we laughed - the moon-faced Tory gimp gabbling justifications for his attempt to impose a levy on unhealthy prole-fodder like he'd been caught spanking himself in a public toilet; the Prime Minister furiously declaring his love for pastry-based, high-fat snacks.
How we laughed! Imagine, his detractors brayed - these public schoolboys trying to pretend that they shopped at Greggs! How out of touch and elitist could politicians possibly be, to try taxing such an obviously working class snack?
And as I read all this on blogs and in broadsheets, I thought to myself... Well, fair enough, but when was the last time any of these jokers washed down a steak bake and a fudge doughnut with a bottle of Irn-Bru? And who, exactly, do all these critics imagine is buying twenty Regal King Size day in, day out, every day of the year, or guzzling all that lager?
Osborne whacked forty pence a throw on fags, and I can tell you that it isn't the Bullingdon set who are shuffling their budgets to work out how to cut that expense out of their weekly shopping. Where are the cries of class war! when the Chancellor whaps another two quid onto ten Benson and eight cans of Carling, under an obviously fraudulent pretence of public health?
After all, there's a reason why heroin dealers sell junkies-to-be their first few hits at bargain rates, then jack up the price 300%, and it certainly isn't because they want to combat drug addiction. Osborne knows full well that incremental tax rises on cigarettes don't affect smoking rates one bit - they continue to drop at the same rate, regardless.
Out here in reality, whacking great tax rises on fags lead directly to the following results - a big hit on the cash in low-earning smokers' pockets, and a booming black market in counterfeit cigs that are even worse for your health than the ordinarily ultratoxic kind. They mean that the cops have to find extra cash for hit squads to crack down on a fresh class of newly-wealthy criminal.
Well friend, there was no prolier-than-thou outcry. Nobody queued up to boot the Chancellor in the bollocks for exploiting those who are hooked on nicotine, a vast chunk of whom are on low incomes. Nor will any notable public figure give it a concerted try, ever.
Here's the deal. If the government seriously intended to tackle serious public health issues like tobacco, they'd say something like this...
Citizens of Great Britain, we can no longer continue to profit upon the wages of death. The national coffers are stuffed with ill-gotten cash extracted from addicts. It is immoral that our schools and pensions are propped up by exploiting users of a cancer-causing addictive substance. Henceforth, all tobacco products are banned...
We are under no illusions. This measure will not stop people from smoking. It will merely move underground, to the black market. Nonetheless, at least our consciences will be clear and our hands will be clean - no longer will we pay our way with blood money.
Now, each and every one of you motherfuckers owes us three hundred quid extra, annually.
Pay up immediately, or the sheriff officers are coming for your widescreen TVs.
I assure you that giraffes will whistle Rule Britannia in Paris before that day comes.
Don't believe me? Consider today's proposal to sell cigarettes in plain packaging. In theory, those wonderfully designed fag packets are so alluring to kids that only a bland, olive-green packet can protect their fragile minds from their baleful influence. Plain packaging will totally reduce smoking, big time.
We can conduct a thought experiment right now to see how this would work - what if they started selling beer in plain bottles? Would kids swear off the demon drink for life, repulsed by these suddenly unfashionable beverages? Would public drunkeness decline by a fraction? Would it help our nation's alcohol problems?
Like. Hell. It. Would.
So. The government knows damn fine its new policy is bullshit. The journalists explaining their new policy know that it is bullshit. You and I know that it is bullshit. What's going to happen?
It's going to sail through Parliament like a billion-pound yacht with a tail-wind.
You don't have to be Lieutenant Columbo to work out why. Turn on your TV tonight and tune in to the first Poke The Fat Fuckers show you find. You know the ones I mean - Supersize vs Superskinny; Half-Ton Son; Fat fighters and so on. There are entire channels dedicated to this kind of reality telly.
Here's an iron rule of broadcasting - sensitive documentaries about serious public health issues don't feature the subject waddling up some stairs, gasping for breath, while a tuba plays a comedy Oompa-Oompa-Oompa tune in the background. Shows about people born with horrible afflictions, unlike fat-fucker-poking shows, don't strip their subjects to their pants and show you their symptoms in pornographic detail.
These shows exist so that we can all laugh at the porkers and look down on their greed, their disgusting diets and their wobbling rolls of lard. A nation that can support a massive magazine industry that's entirely dedicated to extreme-close-ups on celebrity cellulite is a nation with a multimillion pound market for contempt, snobbery and mockery.
Let's not kid ourselves about that pasty tax that the Chancellor was pushing, folks - if the shoe was on the other foot and a Labour government was pushing it, all that hilarity would be coming from the Tories and all these lefty websites would be furiously hunting down obesity statistics, angrily explaining that the scum classes need incentives to cut down on their junk food intake.
Yes! the Comment is Free bloggers would shout in unison. Stick it right to those booze-sodden, wheezing, lazy twats! Those pie-eating fucks are a huge drain on the NHS!
Well. Is there a point here? I guess there is, and it's this - next time we find ourselves wondering how a nation of nice, congenial citizens such as the United Kingdom can elect a series of vicious, contemptuous, mean-as-fuck governments like the ones we've had this last three decades, maybe we should re-evaluate our assumptions.
If our governments are vicious and contemptuous, delighting in cracking down on and exploiting our weaknesses then just maybe, they're a reflection of ourselves.
Hey, if that's the case, that would mean that we'd deserve to be ruled by mean-as-fuck snobs who hate our guts.
Now, isn't that a thought?