Tony Blair was accused by Labour activists this week of
discrediting the party’s policy on tobacco advertising by trying to
exempt Formula One racing from the ad ban.
The high level of concern among Labour’s grassroots membership about the
Government’s handling of negotiations over the Europe-wide ban was
revealed in a report to the party’s annual conference in Blackpool.
Ministers sought to pacify party members by saying the directive had
been agreed during Britain’s term in the EU’s rotating presidency this
June. But the activists showed they had not forgotten the Bernie
Ecclestone affair and allegations that Blair watered down Government
policy after meeting the Formula One boss. Ecclestone had donated pounds
1 million to Labour, which was returned to him after the controversy
The report, based on discussions of health policy with Labour members
around the country, said tobacco advertising had become an issue of
’particular concern’ because of the row.
One of the many protest motions submitted to the party came from the
Vale of York constituency, which deplored the attempt ’to exclude
tobacco advertising in motor racing from the proposed ban, thus
maintaining the public perception of a link between smoking and sport -
particularly a high-profile sport watched extensively on television by
The Labour leadership defended the Government’s actions saying all
sports would be covered by the directive - even though worldwide events
such as Formula One will have longer to give up tobacco sponsorship.