Unless Labour learns the Tory virtue of ruthlessness, it will continue to be led by failures and liabilities

There has always been a reluctance among Labour types to admit that their chief opponents do anything better than them. In our confrontational political system, this is understandable. But as Labour starts the long drawn out process of electing a new leader and picking up the pieces of its last general election defeat, it could do far worse than taking a few tips off the Conservatives.

First of all, it should be pointed out that ever since Alec Douglas-Home bequeathed to his party a new and democratic system for electing the leader (replacing the previous opaque system in which a candidate “emerged” from the private counsels of the establishment, including the Crown), the Tories have always been…

My 60-something husband is an Airfix-obsessed man child, and there is nothing wrong with that

You’d have to have a heart of granite not to feel a swell of tenderness towards David Beckham after he was snapped by wife Victoria making a Land Rover Defender out of Lego. Few things shout “man child” as effectively as the sight of a furrow-browed adult male engaged in scale modelling.

I should know. One of the first things my husband confessed when I met him was that his favourite relaxation activity was making Airfix models – which turned out to be shorthand for a whole range of manfacturers (like Tamiya and Czech Mater Kits) spread over the warmongering globe. It was just as well I was primed when I first saw the giant stack of WWII planes, tanks and battleships in my beloved’s bedroom –…

Letters: Younger voters can now see in the rail strike the shape of things to come

SIR – Why is Labour targeting young voters? Could it be that it knows the young don’t recall the misery and economic weakness of the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties, when our nation was gripped by strikes?

Ask the decent, hardworking passengers of South Western Railway, whose quality of life has been affected by the current strikes – in the coldest and darkest time of the year.

Labour is promoting a return to secondary strike actions, meaning the United Kingdom could again be brought to a standstill.

Are the Labour-backed SWR strikes a precursor of things to come?

Adrian Butcher
Winchester, Hampshire



SIR – With the strike stretching past Christmas, causing thousands misery, is it not…

Our politicians must stop blaming and start protecting 

The Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence was introduced in England and Wales by the Labour government in 2005 and abolished by the Coalition in 2012. It enabled the courts to impose an open-ended jail term on convicted criminals for whom a life sentence was considered inappropriate but who nonetheless posed a continuing risk to the public. The rationale was to stop potentially dangerous prisoners being released automatically half-way through their terms as now happens with most inmates. It meant that in the absence of a determinate sentence the Parole Board had to judge when it was safe for the convict to be freed.

As a result, many prisoners who would normally have been released…

Here’s what the Velvet Revolution tells us about EU corruption

We all think of the fall of the Berlin Wall as the moment that the Iron Curtain, from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, came crashing down 30 years ago. Of course, it was far from straightforward – we all conveniently forget, for instance, the January Events in Lithuania in 1991, when Soviet troops bludgeoned their way through Vilnius – and the roll back of communist power was far from universal. But Germany was not the only major European country for whom November 1989 was a defining month.

Last weekend saw the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the largely peaceful movement to overthrow communist rule in Czechoslovakia. By a curious quirk of history, it was also the…

Giving in to the moral panic on vaping would risk the lives of smokers

When people have severe allergic reactions to peanuts, we have every sympathy with their experience – and rightly so. But if the BBC responded by fabricating a health panic about the general population’s peanut consumption, we’d think Auntie had gone completely bonkers. 

This is exactly what’s happening with vaping. The case of Ewan Fisher – a 16-year-old boy suffering with severe lung inflammation after a presumed allergic reaction from using an e-cigarette – has dominated headlines in recent days.

In a journal article about his case, doctors said, “we consider e-cigarettes as ‘much safer than tobacco’ at our peril.” Recent hospitalisations and deaths linked to black market e-cigarette use in the United States have added fuel to calls for crackdowns. Barely a week goes by without a new study claiming that e-cigarettes are not as safe as previously thought.

If only the same amount of column inches were devoted to putting these events in their proper scientific context.

Professor John Britton, Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, has stressed that cases such as Ewan’s are “very rare… in absolute terms [the risk of vaping] is extremely small – and, crucially, far smaller than that of smoking.” 

In the United States, the Centre for Disease Control seems to have traced the cause of vaping-related lung injuries to vitamin E acetate (an additive to bootleg vaping liquid not found in tightly regulated UK products). Professor Peter Hajek at Queen Mary University has compared the outbreak to “methanol poisonings that kill people every now and then when contaminated alcohol is sold.” I think he’s right. We rightly get concerned when peanuts turn up in food they shouldn’t be in. But we don’t move to ban peanuts altogether.

Vaping may not be as safe as breathing sweet fresh mountain air, but the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it is far less harmful than the traditional alternative – cigarettes. As part of their annual evidence review, Public Health England have stated that e-cigarettes are at least 95 per cent less harmful than their analogue counterparts.

Nearly four million Brits use e-cigarettes and the overwhelming majority of them are ex-smokers who have used the devices to help them kick the habit or current smokers in the process of quitting. While some fear that young people are vaping at an alarming rate, regular use remains extremely low (less than two per cent of secondary school pupils in England and Wales). A recent review of 15 studies concluded that “a true gateway effect in youths has not yet been demonstrated.”

But even in the face of such strong evidence, shouldn’t we apply the precautionary principle until we are absolutely certain that e-cigarettes are as safe as we believe? Sarah Vine argued in today’s Daily Mail that we need to “err on the side of caution” until we know for sure. But there’s nothing cautious about denying people access to a product that we have every reason to believe is a far safer alternative to smoking. We know the enormous health harms of smoking, and cracking down on safer alternatives risks sowing further confusion among smokers who are considering switching.

For now, the United Kingdom remains a world-leader in providing smokers with safer alternatives to cigarettes. Rather than succumb to a hysterical moral panic over vaping, the Government must double down on tobacco harm reduction if it is to have any chance of achieving its ambition of a "smoke-free" society by 2030. 

I set out several measures for harnessing their potential in Up in Smoke: a new report for the Adam Smith Institute. Key among them is making it easier to communicate the latest scientific evidence on vaping to smokers. We should also bolster independent research into other cigarette alternatives like snus and heated tobacco, both of which could cater for the millions of smokers who’ve been unable or unwilling to quit with vaping.

E-cigarettes – a consumer-led, free market innovation – have played a vital role in cutting the UK smoking rate for the best part of a decade. Rather than being imposed from above by public health mandarins, this revolution is taking place in high street vape shops in every corner of Britain. 

E-cigs are a very British triumph; we should be proud of our level-headed approach while other countries have given in to moral panic. If you’re a smoker trying to quit, don’t believe the hype – keep calm and carry on vaping.

Daniel Pryor is Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute

Farage can save Brexit and be this election’s kingmaker – but he needs to rip up his strategy

To rout Labour and hold the Tories’ feet to the fire, Nigel must not repeat the same mistake as UKIP in 2015

Like all bruisers for political parties, when the Conservatives are on the defensive, they go on the attack. In this they are ruthlessly effective. Having not so much clogged as clobbered the airwaves with criticism of the Brexit Party leader in recent days, Nigel Farage has partly backed down, with the promise his candidates will not stand in Tory-held seats. 

Considering that the Conservative party has repeatedly snubbed Mr Farage’s overtures for a Leaver election pact, because they are confident they can win a majority without one, Mr Farage has acted magnanimously and with humility…