The proposed ban of e-cigarettes has been strongly debated over many months. The argument over whether they are a gateway to smoking or an aid to quitting is one where the evidence is far from categorical one way or the other. But given the lack of regulation of the manufacture and content of the devices, the uncertainty of the impact on non-vapers, and the concern that it may be a way of re-normalising smoking, I’ve leaned, on the whole, to support of the Welsh Government’s position on the issue.
It’s puzzled me, though, that it became such a party political issue. In the absence of absolute clear-cut evidence one way or the other, it seemed to me – until yesterday – that Plaid was the one party in the Assembly which called the issue the right way, leaving it to the decision of individual AMs to decide how to vote. There are some issues on which taking a stance as a party doesn’t really seem to me to be essential, and suggests a lack of capacity by AMs to reach an informed judgement.
To say that yesterday was a disappointment would be an understatement. The cheap shot by Leighton Andrews was poor and unnecessary. For a government which was depending on the support of members of Plaid to pass a key piece of legislation shortly afterwards, folly is an inadequate description. And it was indeed, as Plaid have said, an example of the arrogance which Labour can display on a regular basis towards opposition parties.
But Plaid’s reaction was no better. Not only have they thrown out a ban which some of their own AMs supported, they’ve also thrown away a lot of other stuff which was non-controversial and generally welcomed, in a fit of tantrum.
I find it hard to decide which was the most unedifying – the Minister’s cheap shot, or Plaid’s reaction to it. It’s kindergarten politics rather than a grown-up approach to legislation. I know that some AMs think that emulating the style of Westminster is somehow a step towards maturity, but it really isn’t. This is the sort of thing that happens all too easily when people find themselves in a bubble, isolated from the real world outside, where who said what to whom has a level of intense importance to them which is unlikely to be shared by other than the most tribal and partisan of supporters outside the bubble.It’s a very sad note on which to end the fourth Assembly.