Some time before the 1992 British Grand Prix, the manager of a local toy/model shop ran a competition: name the first three finishers in the GP, and win a set of electric racing cars. To support this, he made a very attractive window display, with posters, model Formula One cars and a mannequin wearing full race-going clothes, which included a Marlboro T-shirt.
A few days after the manager had set-up his display, he was amazed to receive a letter from Aylesbury Vale Council, stating that a member of the council had seen the window and did not agree with the use of the T-shirt, as this allegedly condoned tobacco smoking in the area.
There is no law about the advertising of tobacco products in this context (the display was only meant to convey race-going), and the person from the council was not even an elected member. As the manager does not own the freehold to the shop, but is merely an employee of a large chain, he was compelled to remove the article of clothing.
This may be a very small problem, but we racing enthusiasts soon saw how the subject can escalate to mammoth proportions.
I heard the news on the radio which stated that Frank Williams had been fined £3,500,000. He had allowed his FW14B cars to race in Australia, in the 1992 Grand Prix. This race had been televised, and the pictures transmitted back, via satellite, to France, where they had been seen by a judge. (How was the programme brought to his attention?) He fined the Williams team owner in his absence. His crime? The fact that his televised cars carried a Camel on their bodywork. God in Heaven – how much more would he have been fined if he had been caught smoking one?
This debate caused the 1993 French Grand Prix to be cancelled, though one wondered how Formula One cars could be transported across France to other meetings?
I could not help thinking that this judge would have had a heart attack if he had ever seen the Ligiers driven by Laffite and Pironi.
To return to the Aylesbury shop manager, a model car company has re-released some historic Formula One cars, from the days of Clark and Graham Hill. So far, only Surtees’ Honda has appeared in this country, so I asked when all other cars would be available. They already are on sale in other countries, but not in England, as they carry tobacco advertising on their bodywork. The manager agreed with me that some of these cars were racing before sponsorship was allowed in motor racing. When the importer asked about Clark’s Lotus 49, finished in green with yellow stripes, the spokesman admitted that he did not know why it was this colour, but just assumed that it was the trade mark for some brand of cigarette. . .
So there you have it, totally unelected officials making up their own law as they go along. This by-passes The House of Commons, The House of Lords and the Monarchy (Royal Assent). So why bother having General Elections in future?
Michael Potter, Aylesbury, Bucks.