Drugs

All the Things MPs Tried to Ban in 2016

NOS, kinky porn, Donald Trump – it's been a bumper year in politics.
December 20, 2016, 1:11pm

Banning things is one of the fun bits of politics. Most of an MP's time is spent among much duller stuff – debating complex checks and balances on the regulation of social workers, for example. It's necessary, but bone dry. A ban is much more satisfying. A thing was there. Now it's not. Whether the thing is good or bad, as a legislator it always feels productive.

So it's no wonder that in this ADD age, banning has become a tool of choice in Westminster. In fact, 2016 proved another bumper year for it: so here are just a few of the things Parliament has tried to erase from society.

KINKY PORN

Four is a magic number, so far as Karen Bradley MP is concerned. If she sees you've inserted more digits than that into a human front, or rear, bottom, your adult movie is in serious trouble. As the minister for culture, media and sport, Bradley is presently trying to get a bill through the Commons that would see a wide range of sex acts banned for online porn viewers in the UK.

It is not presently known whether or not the ban applies to all the digits being on one hand – it might be possible to achieve a workaround by using three on one hand and one on the other – but the basic idea is that internet porn is going to be brought in line with non-internet porn.

These 90s regulations, originally covering DVDs, were already outdated when they were launched, reflecting the completely un-objective attitude to what counts as obscenity once famously defined in the 1960s by a Supreme Court judge as "I know it when I see it". Yet now they are to be brought back as our naughtiness gold standard.

"Britain has had a long and proud tradition of arbitrarily banning people on the basis of unpopularity contests conducted by tabloids."

Spanking, whipping or caning that leaves marks is now deemed too traumatising for the nation's adult kiddies. Acts showing sex in public and menstruation are out, as is female ejaculation (the male kind still goes on unpunished though; typical).

From now on, kids will grow up only being able to read in books that autopederasty once used to be freely available to view online. Or maybe they'll just get on torrents or the dark web like everyone else, as this unworkable, woolly, ultimately reactive bit of lawmaking collapses under the slippery reality of modern tech.

NOS

Funnily enough, it was also Karen Bradley, in her previous role as minister for preventing abuse, exploitation and crime, who found herself in charge of piloting the Psychoactive Substances Act through Parliament.

This is the generational equivalent of 1994's Criminal Justice Act – the one that tried to shut down the rave scene – again aiming to put an end to all your silliness. It banned "any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect". That meant "legal highs" like the hugely-addictive Spice. But it also meant balloons.

Of course, as with the porn ban, workarounds came thick and fast for the simple reason that a substitute gas for effectively fluffing up whipped cream still hasn't been found. Meaning that with a convincing pastry chef manner you can make a few calls to the right catering supplier and get a shipment in.

The debate in Parliament also showed up exactly the kind of generational divide that explains so many legal double-standards. Tory MP, Crispin Blunt, outed himself as a poppers user in the Commons, pleading for a reprieve from the Act for the blood vessel-dilating bottled sex treats – one he duly got.

NEW ONSHORE WIND FARMS

Don't you hate it when you're looking at a Constable painting in the National Gallery and there are all those ghastly windmills cluttering up the scenery? You just want to see a hay wain and a guy promenading with his girl and maybe a few stout English oaks, but there it is – a big white turbine buggering up the landscape. Makes you want to dial up your MP and moan full-force until they relent and bulldoze the bloody eyesores.

The rural objection to wind farms as blights on scenic views is one of the most depressing bits of Nimby-ism in the land. Among other things, it makes the assumption that the British countryside has only ever been "natural". However, from dry stone walls to apple orchards to Jacobean hedgerows to East Anglian canals, it's always been a piece of cunningly managed fiction.

Yet outside of the liberal metropolitan bubble (libmetbub), these are exactly the sorts of issues that win and lose rural constituencies. Hence the Tories' 2015 manifesto pledge to abolish subsidies for onshore wind –  a success story that already contributes to approximately 11 percent of the UK's electricity. As of May, 2016, that ban came into effect, which, tied with the manifesto pledge to "give local people a say" in where new farms are situated, means onshore wind is effectively iced until further notice.

HUMANS

Since Jacqui Smith's turn in the Home Office, Britain has had a long and proud tradition of arbitrarily banning people on the basis of unpopularity contests conducted by tabloids. Previous winners of the persona non grata lottery have included US talk show host Michael Savage, Chris Brown, Roosh V and Tyler the Creator – and in May of this year Azealia Banks was also considered for a ban.

So the stage was set for some real hypocrisy-lols when, back in January, the same test was applied to Donald Trump after an online petition to have him barred reached 570,000 signatures, triggering a debate in Parliament. The blow-off debate, held in less-affronting Westminster Hall rather than the House Of Commons, involved a range of right-on MPs slinging a range of insults at The Donald, including "wazzock", "buffoon" and "crazy".

Some disagreed, with Sir Edward Leigh MP posing the obvious question: "If we only allow free speech for those we already agree with, is that free speech at all?" But given that the eventual vote on the motion was non-binding, the shouts of "aye" or "no" at the end were meaningless. Good thing, too. Eleven months on, it'd be tricky for Theresa May to offer the president-elect a state visit by Skype alone.

THE GOOD NEWS: LETTING AGENT FEES

Estate agents are valued throughout the country – for their honesty, their generosity of spirit and the important work they do in opening front doors and telling you where the boiler is kept. So it was deeply sad when these goodly toilers were told they could no longer charge between £100 and £600 per person to do basic paperwork on a place you were already paying rent on. Citizens Advice put the average fee at £337, estimating they'd risen 60 percent in the last five years. And so chancellor Phillip Hammond quashed the concept with one line in his autumn statement. Already, lobbyists for landlords have warned that this will mean increased rents, despite the fact that there is no evidence of this in Scotland, where a ban has already been in place for years.

@gavhaynes