James Delingpole

Stop "Stoptober"! It's another insidious attack on liberty and free will

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

Say what you like about the French Revolutionaries but at least they had a poetic imagination. When they wanted a new name for October, they anticipated Keats and named the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness ‘Brumaire’, meaning ‘foggy’. Which is a lot more evocative, I think we can agree, than its current incarnation under the new politically correct Terror: Stoptober.

Stoptober. Geddit? That’s ‘-ober’, as in the second half of ‘October’, with the word ‘Stop’ cunningly positioned where the ‘Oct’ would normally be. And what marketing genius was responsible for this rebranding? Why, someone from an Orwellian body which you’d probably much prefer didn’t exist, let alone to have to fund with your taxes. Public Health England.

So far, according to the official Stoptober website, more than a quarter of a million people have signed up to the pledge. Instead of doing what any normal person would — numbing the miseries of the end of summer by upping their consumption of booze, nicotine and suchlike — they have vowed to ruin their entire month with cravings, irritability, mood swings, restless fingers, insomnia and boredom by giving up smoking for 28 days.

Here’s one of the alleged participants, explaining his motivation: ‘I gave up smoking cos it’s really bad for your kids’ health to smoke with them in the back of the car. So when I quit the ciggies it felt great to be able to drive the kids around without ’em on the roof rack.’

His name is ‘Lee Nelson’ which, I learn from the interweb, is the alter ego of a former medical doctor turned stand-up comedian called Simon Brodkin. Is it just me — or is observational stand-up not what it used to be? I mean, comedy, I thought was a) meant to challenge the nanny state’s authority not endorse it b) impart some truth about the world (yeah right, smoking in cars with children in the back is, like, totally one of the great issues of our time, about which we all agonise A LOT) and c) be funny. But maybe that’s why I’m not a successful stand-up myself. I’m just not in tune with the times.

And the times, if Lee Nelson and his abstainer-miserablist pals are right, appear to have grown very depressing indeed. In the bad old days — where reprobates like me still live — there were these things called individuality and personal responsibility. If you drank or smoked, you accepted that there were consequences. In return for the pleasures of the sociable altered state brought on by your mild addiction to booze or nicotine, you understood that you might die horribly of cancer or cirrhosis or in a hideous car crash. Your life, your call.

What you certainly didn’t expect or demand was that Big Hand of government would be there at every turn to wipe your bottom for you with schemes like the one currently being rolled out — at your expense, of course — by the NHS, whereby if you think you drink a bit too much, your nice doctor will prescribe you a magic pill which forces you to consume alcohol within the ‘safe’ limits decided for you by the men from the ministry who know best.

Nor, if you were a smoker, did you have to be protected from your cravings by having all packs of ciggies hidden from public view in a special naughty cabinet. Or by offputting pictures of tumours and tar-encrusted lungs. Such measures, you would not unreasonably have thought, are not just patronising and infantilising but also an insidious assault on liberty and free will: the sort of thing you’d fully expect in a place like Nazi Germany (the first regime to ban smoking on public transport) but most definitely not in the land of John Wilkes, George Orwell and Howard Marks….

I suppose I should have known it was all over when Jeremy Clarkson surrendered at the time of the smoking ban. He didn’t mind the government’s dishonest, undemocratic and illiberal assault on property rights and personal freedom, he cheerfully explained, because as a weak-willed smoker himself he rather liked the decision being taken out of his hands.

Et tu, Jeremy?’ I thought, because even though he’s not necessarily the greatest of public intellectuals, I had imagined that he would instinctively have understood the basic point: government is there to preserve the rule of law, protect property rights, guarantee the defence of the realm. It really isn’t there to prevent, say, the owner of a private club from allowing his membership to enjoy a postprandial puff of a weed which harms no one but themselves.

But we’re all communitarians, now, apparently — even Clarkson, even Boris Johnson, who recently chose to dedicate large chunks of his Tory conference speech not to the bracing pleasures of free markets and free will, but to the virtues of lavish state spending. The time is fast approaching, I fear, when I may be the only classical liberal left on earth. Unless, perhaps, I can persuade a few of you to join me in sticking up for the old values, even at the cost of our lives.

Let’s start by reclaiming October. October, let us remind ourselves, has one purpose and one purpose only: it is nature’s way of telling you that the cubbing season is in full cry. No abstinence is required. Quite the opposite in fact. It can be cold and boring, sitting on a horse by the side of a wood waiting for something to happen. That’s why you need fags, to make the time pass. And booze — plenty of it, in every variety from sloe gin to cherry brandy — to keep you warm, and give you the necessary Dutch courage in the unlikely event of a ‘Tally ho!’

It’s either that or Stoptober and its grisly relative Octsober. Your call, freedom lovers.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • Kitty MLB

    Oh James how I deplore nanny state I wish someone would send
    her to a retirement home or maybe send her to socialist France
    and bring out that crusty old guillotine..
    They’re be placing warnings on food packets next’ eating will make you fat’ heaven forbid we use our own little grey cells

    I still haven’t found sloe gin yet, it sounds awfully bad for you and
    mentioned clandestinely so therefore intriguing.

    • Rik

      Kitty i am delighted to see you with both your keyboard and brain back on form.
      James i am prepared for the ultimate sacrifice,it will be a struggle but i will do my best to double my alcohol and tobacco use during October.After all someone must help generate the tax revenue to pay for the prodnoses of Public Health England and the zealots in the NHS

      • Kitty MLB

        Thankyou darling, if you live in the countryside try and avoid contaminated water it causes nasty diseases, and playes havoc with major organs let
        alone keyboards.
        You mean Socialist zealots in the NHS..which Labour
        thinks belongs to them and that they employ all the
        little comrades to do their bidding..break it up I say.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Nobody went broke under-estinating the intelligence of the great British public.

    • Gergiev

      Funny thing about France though is that when I last visted Paris I was so happy to travel on the socialist Metro without the constant messages and warnings that drive me mad when travelling on our capitalist tube, and there was no yellow line on the edge of the platforms for me to stay behind either.

  • Des Demona

    I will not be taking part in Stoptober, but I am enthusiastically looking forward to getwastedoutofyournutvember.

    • Ed  

      In the spirit of Stoptober, I promise to smoke and drink only on days whose names end in Y.

      • UKSteve

        Hussar! I might join you!

    • post_x_it

      I’m ok with any month as long as it’s got an e in it.

      • Des Demona

        Or Hash Wednesday following Dope Tuesday?

    • mittfh

      The month before December has already been rebranded, courtesy of an organisation raising awareness of prostate cancer and depression, as “Movember.” December itself hasn’t officially been rebranded, but I suppose the first 23 and a bit days could be branded “Christmas” and the remainder as “Sales” since that seems to be the general theme of retailers (who now increasingly start what used to be January sales on Christmas Eve evening).

  • AndrewMelville


    reading the above article might make you think. We strongly advise against it. When passed EU Directive 5994B will make it illegal to read this article, but until that happy day, all citizens should use their own best efforts not to read it.

    If you have read the article inadvertently, please call 1-666-NOTHINK. A counsellor will help you.

    Your friend in Brussels and Westminster

  • Roger James Michael Sutherland

    I’ve taken up snuff for October. Don’t much like smoking, but I have too much spite against these people to do nothing, so nasal ingestion will suffice.

    Also looking forward to getting drunk every night during “Dryvember”.

    • altsegel

      Will you be making movie of this?

  • truthbetoldXIX

    Glad the lower echelons of the human order are out in force to decry something that is nothing but beneficial to people.

  • Roger Hendrix

    Oh what’s that squinnying little arse wingeing about now? He’e the most miserable opinionated dried up old git I’ve ever come across, and he’s not even fifty. Your poor man’s Victor Meldrew. What a twat.

  • Roger Hendrix

    Oh what’s that squinnying little arse wingeing about now? He’e the most miserable opinionated dried up old git I’ve ever come across, and he’s not even fifty. Your poor man’s Victor Meldrew. What a twat.

    • jamesdelingpole

      I’m giving you a recommend.

      • jamesdelingpole

        To go with the one from my old friend Damian Thompson.

        • jamesdelingpole

          And the one you gave yourself.

          • you_kid

            Hahaha, excellent. What happened to MyRightPenguin?
            Was he sacked and no longer has a vote. Please, please let that not be true …

        • Fenton!

          Oh my god! What’s THAT all about??!

          • dalai guevara

            It’s an advert. Damian has a new avatar.

        • Jock McSporran

          So Damian Thompson’s new avatar is pure black. Is he very depressed? Or did he join ISIL recently?

          • dalai guevara

            Look again pal – it’s not, he isn’t and he didn’t.

          • Jock McSporran

            Thanks. On looking at it again, I can (just about) make out that it isn’t pure black – but my eyes aren’t good enough to see what it is.

      • I do not believe it!

    • Fenton!

      You missed out the H.

    • Tom M

      I remember criticising Delingpole for waffling (one of his accomplishments) on QT when he should have been talking.
      He responded by saying “I don’t usually read the comments but………”.
      I think he isn’t telling the truth here. I think he avidly reads the comments and is genuinely perturbed by negative ones.
      Oh and your lucky he didn’t give me a recommend.

      • ScaryBiscuits

        Unlike you, Roger Hendrix was pithy, funny and could write a sentence without a grammatical solecism.

  • James Daltrey

    “Don’t run with scissors” “By Jove these communist nanny state political correct beggars are at it again and won’t stop until they’ve banned pink gin, tweed trousers and skinning live badgers,,,that Faridge fella would see them off…harrumph!”

  • RobWatkin

    Let’s go for a pint.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Bad case of writer’s block.

  • Alistair Kerr

    “Stopober” is not the worst. How about the politically-correct “Winterval” for the Christmas break? “Christmas Holidays” might seem to discriminate against non-Christians, you see. Neither is likely to catch on. But politically-correct bollocks should always be flagged up and held up to public ridicule, which is one thing that the politically-correct cannot handle. They should always be treated with mockery and not taken too seriously.

    • Stephen

      Winterval was a winter long festival in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998. It included events at Christmas like carol singing, Christmas lights and trees and a German Christmas market. There was a big banner at the Town Hall which said ‘Merry Christmas’. The Lord Mayor sent a traditional Christmas card with a traditional christmas scene. In 2011 the Daily Mail issued an apology which said that ‘we are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas’.

      • Alistair Kerr

        Thank you for that helpful clarification. I agree with James that the French Revolutionary month names were much better. There were only ten of them, but one could almost wish that the names had survived, as in Floreal (April-May) Prairial (July-August) Thermidor etc

  • rtj1211

    Perhaps you’d like to ask why Sep- tember is the 9th month, not the seventh; Oct-ober is the 10th month, not the 8th, No(n)-vember the 11th month not the 9th and Dec-ember the 12th months not the 10th??

    Does suggest that the original names were homages to a calendar starting in March not January, doesn’t it??

    • One of the Caesars slipped in a couple of extra months.

      • Chris Morriss

        Augustus was the initial culprit. (Then Julius C, or was it the other way round).

        • Damaris Tighe

          Julius was before Augustus. I think Julius must have changed the calendar as there once was a ‘Julian Calendar’.

          • Chris Morriss

            You’re right. I’ve just checked in an interesting, (though over-long) book, “The Calendar” by David Ewing Duncan. The month to honour Julius C was added to the calendar before the month to honour Augustus.
            The Julian calendar was the first to add a leap year every fourth year.

    • Barton

      Who gives a toss

  • Richy

    So after Dry-cember, we must endure Ban-uary, when nothing is allowed (mainly because we can’t afford it after Christmas), then Fib-uary, when we all lie about how virtuous we have been.

    • Shenandoah

      Lovely. The wordplay I mean, not the concept!

      • Richy

        You’re too kind 🙂
        Sadly I couldn’t help myself.

        • Shenandoah

          Hey I know the feeling: but in your case, no ‘sadly’ about it!

    • SimonToo

      Don’t forget that there is No-vember before Dry-cember. (and P-arch after Fib-uary).

  • Roger Hudson

    What ever happened to ‘moderation’, these days it’s just tea-total or rat-arsed.
    I hate to extend the point from coffee to illegal drugs but some would argue that even in the later moderate consumption is possible, if your mind is fully in control.
    Walk softly.

  • Pufferfish

    Stoptober sounds a bit grim. In Australia they have Dry July, but its a charity thing: give up drinking for the month to help raise bucketloads of cash for adults living with cancer. They hope some of the participants will also enjoy the benefits of a month of abstinence, but many spend the month planning how they will celebrate its end.

    • Fenton!

      I’d just donate the cash and keep on drinking.

      • Peter Stroud


        • Fenton!

          LOL :^0

      • Pufferfish

        That’s the beauty of Dry July – those who don’t want to stop drinking can sponsor those who do.

  • dalai guevara

    Britain’s NHS is at the brink. It is severely underfunded.
    Ever more services are being outsourced, ever more services are being privatised or only covered by private healthcare provision. The system will soon no longer deliver first world heathcare, it can’t because one million (new) jobs which were PAYE and paid regular contributions to the system no longer pay those contributions.

    The self-employed dodge the bill just like the Take That tax dodgers dodge the tax.

    Now, when will anyone dare to say it? When will anyone finally say what needs to be done to preserve the NHS?

    • doctorseraphicus

      When will anyone finally say what needs to be done to preserve the NHS?

      Um, stop treating demented 90-year olds every time they get pneumonia.

      • dalai guevara

        Tee-hee. Yes, Britain is a world leader in dealing with that kind of thing. We spend loads of time, effort and expense on demented 90-year olds with pneumonia. Quite right.

        Do you get reimbursed for posting such nonsense?
        You FAQs disgust me.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Stop treating bloody foreigners. Up front cash please.

      • Barton

        How come demented 90 year olds are suddenly the target, poor old buggers.

  • Just wait until SayNo-vember!

    • Fenton!

      Wouldn’t that be JustSayNo-vember?

      • Guest

        What happened to No means Yes and Yes means … more analytical thinking is now required?

        • Fenton!

          No, I’d say that more analytical thinking is probably not required. When someone hovers with a nice bottle nearby I just say Yes. It’s nice and simple.

  • Fenton!

    ‘Octsober’ — Oh no! No! Noooooooooo…..!

  • Peter Stroud

    Autumn hunting, James: not cubbing. What will the MFHA say?

  • K BB

    Octsober – is that really a thing now?

    Bugger all this for a game of soldiers.

  • WFB56

    As a non-smoker and a light drinker I feel obliged to take up smoking and get pissed for the balance of October.

  • David

    That ‘personal responsbility’ you claim to possess must mean, I imagine, that you pay for all your own medical bills. If your lifestyle choices lead you to get lung cancer, liver problems, or just to get in a bit of a punch up outside the pub – I assume you wouldn’t charge the NHS a penny, and would cover the costs yourselves. Cancer treatment runs to a few thousand quid a month, but fair play if you’ve got that kind of money to burn.

    But if, for some reason, you don’t pay all your medical bills yourself, then please don’t criticise the NHS for undertaking a campaign that is designed to save taxpayer money – something, incidentally, I’d imagine the Spectator is normally quite keen on (or is it only wasteful when government funds are used by ‘benefit scoungers’ to buy fags and booze, rather than on the taxpayer-funded cancer treatment required for middle class folk who have spent their lives drinking and smoking?)

    • Fergus Pickering

      Good God does booze cause cancer?

      • David

        Yep, unfortunately things that are fun also kill us

        • Fergus Pickering

          It’s life that kills us. 100% mortality rate.

          • David

            Life is a sexually transmitted disease, as someone once said.

          • Fergus Pickering

            And help me through this long disease, my life…

          • Norman Brand

            I suspect that the taxes paid more than cover the costs to the NHS allegedly caused by the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Well of course they do. It’s the prissy bastards who live for ever who cost all the money. Smoke, drink, die and save the NHS.

          • Norman Brand

            A stroll to a pub for a pint and a pipe of tobacco, inside a bar, is, I would think, not much to want, at my age (79). It is more than the Puritans are prepared to allow, in the cause of ‘health’. It’s a bleak view of health.

          • Fergus Pickering

            I couldn’t agree more. And now they want to stop us smoking in parks.

            You know te gag? My doctor tell me to stop smoking and drinking. What should I do?

            Change your doctor.

          • Fenton!

            Yes, not that parents care or ever think of it that way. The stupid b-ggers.

        • Barton

          Giving up booze and ciggies may not mean you live longer but it will certainly feel like it.

  • anncalba

    Ah the joys of living in a remote rural area – this article was the first I had heard of “Stopober”. Always fascinating to see what isconcerning the pc elite.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I’d never heard of it either. Is Canterbury remote? We like our liquor down here.

  • red2black

    ‘Another insidious attack on liberty and free will’? It’s not compulsory.
    Back in the 1990s we had a vote in the office block where I worked, for either: no change, smoking unrestricted / smoking refuges / a total ban. Quite reasonably, smoking refuges were ‘elected’, later known as ‘cancer cabins’. Of course, some people chose to ignore the decision and carried on smoking in some of the offices, lifts and toilets, Eventually, a total ban was imposed by management.

  • Colonel Mustard

    What could be the catchy name for a month free from pre-briefed politician’s speeches and assorted nanny finger wagging?

    I’m fed up with hearing “X will say . . . ” on the BBC news.

  • George Smiley

    The Spectator does politics brilliantly. Almost everything else is the type of bollocks you’d expect from the local pub “character”. This article doesn’t fall into the politics category.

  • Wojtek Godzisz

    “That’s ‘-ober’, as in the second half of ‘October’, with the word ‘Stop’ cunningly positioned where the ‘Oct’ would normally be.” No, that would make it ‘Stopober’, not ‘Stoptober.’

  • ohforheavensake

    So Stoptober makes you sick, James?

    Good. Can’t think of a better reason to keep it.

  • Marketthinker

    Perhaps it’s time to revisit our bonfire of the quangos? As I understand it, Public Health England employs around 5000 people who basically sit around and dream up PR campaigns to waste even more money than we already spend on their salaries and associated benefits. These remember were the people that warned you that a 2 day heatwave was potentially fatal, especially during Ramadan, helpful for all those people from the Indian sub continent where an English heatwave would be regarded as ‘winter weather’. Given that David Cameron is basically a PR man and that most of Westminster is obsessed with PR and spin (why does any MP need to be on Twitter?) this is not surprising, but we need to stop our taxpayer funding of this corrupt and insidious PR beast. Don’t we?

  • kandanada

    “That’s ‘-ober’, as in the second half of ‘October’, with the word ‘Stop’ cunningly positioned where the ‘Oct’ would normally be.”

    Not quite, it is “-tober” with the word “stop” cunningly positioned where the “Oc” would normally be.

    Broadly, a fan of JD so feel quite guil “t” about mentioning it but there is a letter missing and this is (nearly) the letters page.