Drugs policy: Brown fiddles while…


2:49 pm - May 7th 2008

by DonaldS    


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Not long after I moved to Hackney, I witnessed an armed robbery. From a range of about three feet, the fact that the robber was a crackhead was as obvious as the hammer and kitchen knife he was waving about.

A few years later, my partner and baby daughter were abducted outside my house. The guy, later convicted of kidnap and assault, was no Moriarty: he was in custody by nightfall. He was a known local crackhead.

Last month, a 27-year-old bloke had his phone stolen at knifepoint at 6pm in the next street to mine. A couple of days later Jamie Simpson, 33, was murdered for the day’s takings in my local Matalan. It would hardly be surprising if either or both attacks were drug-related.

Local crack addict Keith Beckles was recently jailed for eight years for attacking a Polish immigrant (not for the first time). Who knows how many people die in the drugs import business. And so on.

Now, one can imagine that if we were to hand the supply-chain for curtains, or orange squash, or embossed stationery, over to criminal gangs, trouble would follow. I’m no fan of state regulation, as a rule, but I’m finding it difficult to think of a market more suited to government oversight than narcotics. So there’s police shortages? How many booze dealers publicans are in prison? How many drug dealers was that again? To support continued prohibition isn’t to take a fine moral stand on the best way for young people to live their lives; it’s washing your hands, cowardice, nothing more. And closed minds solve nothing.

Ignoring a policy review from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that the Home Office themselves requested is just the latest evidence-free missile fired in an unwinnable War on Drugs. Of course, I no longer feel ‘betrayed’ when Brown makes policy based on what will sound best in tomorrow’s Mail. Tory press officer Iain Dale asks why left-wing writers don’t hang on Brown’s every word. It’s simple: the left’s future will be built without him; he’s as irrelevant as this classification ‘debate’. He isn’t on the left; he isn’t even Mr Bean: he’s Nero. And he’ll go the same way.

It’s okay for the suburban seethers to tut and moan; to dismiss legalisation as a (pejoratively) ‘liberal’ concern. New Labour aren’t ever far behind with a new initiative (or deception) to hoover up a few of those votes; and the hypocritical Blue Blair is a match for them in that department. But the fact is: prohibition has failed, local policing can’t cope, and never will. Never mind those appeals to liberty that Tories don’t seem quite so keen on anymore.

And, in case Brown hasn’t noticed, it isn’t marginal Middle England that has to live with the fallout. While the political class collectively fiddle, those of us inhabiting inner city Britain get to swallow the consequences. Every day. Thanks for that.

Also published here.

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About the author
Donald is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a travel journalist, editor, author and copywriter. In the wake of the 2005 General Election, he co-founded and edited The Sharpener for a couple of years. He writes the occasional book or newspaper article for money, as well as sharing his thoughts here for free. Also at: hackneye donaldstrachan.com
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Health ,Labour party ,Lib-left future

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Reader comments


I agree and I am sorry for your terrible experiences. We need an end to the war on drugs.

2. Margin4 Error

The public has won the war on drugs. We want drugs and we damned well get them. The government can’t stop us and trying only leads to pointless suffering.

But that sort of thinking is electoral suicide. So lets not expect any party anywhere near power to take the bold step of even inching towards liberty on drugs that Jack Straw got absolutely no fecking credit for amid the hatred and bile sent his way as Home Secretary.

“The public has won the war on drugs. We want drugs and we damned well get them. The government can’t stop us and trying only leads to pointless suffering. But that sort of thinking is electoral suicide”

Does not compute: if the public has won the war on drugs by liking drugs, then unbanning them can’t be electoral suicide…

@2 M4E

> that sort of thinking is electoral suicide

That is the conventional wisdom, indeed. I’m not so sure, though, that a *comprehensive* set of policies designed to start to curtail inner city violence by gangs and petty crime by addicts wouldn’t be popular, in inner cities at the very least. Small steps, even (e.g. see the link to a Tim Worstall piece at the ASI blog).

What exactly should we give Straw credit for? Downgrading *one* drug from class B to C. That’s precisely the sort of irrelevance I’m dismissing. It matters not a jot whether it’s C or B or A or Z or whatever, not down my street. That sort of shit only matters in Westminster, at the BBC, in what used to be called Fleet Street, perhaps even in the Shires. But not here.

“Does not compute: if the public has won the war on drugs by liking drugs, then unbanning them can’t be electoral suicide…”

The public has an unfortunate “I’m alright, jack” attitude to freedoms. Drugs are so ubiquitous that it isn’t really a problem getting hold of them practically and those that use them do not necessarily believe they should or have to be legal in principle. Of course, the political establishment is also responsible. Because of their overreach, a great many people gave up on being entirely law abiding and may even not be voting because they see much of legislation as an irrelevance to their lives. At the same time, you have an odd interaction between class and drugs with middle class access to drugs being relatively safe, while the working class suffer the crime associated with it whether they are themselves buyers or not.

6. Margin4 Error

John b

Nick responded far better than I can. But basically while the public think it is OK for them to do whatever they like because they are the right sort of people, they don’t want anyone else being allowed to because they might be the less suitable sort of people.

Donald s

by the time results were achieved the party responsible would be long since voted out of power amid horror stories of every violent attack or youngster overdosing being entirely their fault.

Not strong enough, I’m afraid, DonaldS. And as you perceptively point out, not strong enough in this debate is akin to an abrogation of responsibility.

People who support the prohibition of “drugs” are responsible for crime, fatalities and ruined lives within their own societies, as well as a massive growth in the use of recreational drugs. The irony would be comical, were not so many vulnerable people dead or living blighted lives.

I agree with the points you make, but to let the prohibitionistas off with a charge of handwashing would be exactly that: a let-off.

It’s time to hold the ideologues to account for the misery their one-eyed idea has created.

8. Matt Munro

Agree with Donald S. The fact is there never has been a correlation between the legality (or otherwise) of a particular substance and it’s prevalence. Alcohol consumption infamously increased in the US under prohibition, and IIRC cannabis use went down in UK in the perdiod immediately after it was “de-criminalised”, whilst cocaine use continues to rise inexorably.
Drugs are a commodity, their usage is governed by the rules of supply and demand, not legislation.

I think that the problem parties run into over this is that if they advocate legalisation they will lose a large segment of their support without having a comensurate gain from those who support the policy. That said, even though I would be more likely to throw Brown lead weights than a lifebelt if I saw him drowning, this is one of the few things that might convince me to vote for him if he did it.


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  1. DonaldS

    What, another post? 2 in a week, you say? The cowards who make drug policy: http://tinyurl.com/5mtscg

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