Monday, 8 August 2011

Will the real David Cameron please stand up?

Two recent drugs related stories obviously caught my attention.  

Firstly there was the story that Louise Mensch may have taken drugs when she was in here twenties.  Like Mark Thompson I was initially impressed with her 'so what' style response but then disappointed with her defence of prohibition.  In my mind you can't knowingly break the law, get away with it and then subsequently think that others should be punished for doing the same thing.  It can't be foolish if you do it and criminal if someone else does it, as Mark points out it's hard to view this as anything other than hypocrisy.

She had a chance to open up a real debate into an issue that effects a large number of people in this country.  Had she been caught she would have a criminal record, she would therefore not have had the opportunities that she has had.  She may think it would be harsh to penalise her for her 'idiotic' actions when she was younger, however many youngsters every day are having the same opportunities denied by simply being caught doing what she did.  

The Liberal Democrats however are trying to open up the debate by suggesting that an independent enquiry is set up to look at the decriminalisation of all drugs. This decriminalisation indicates that Portugal's model would be a good one to adopt as a half way house, test the water with a view of eventual full legalisation.  I have blogged about Portugal's system in the past (here) and whilst it may not be the system I'd draw up I struggle to see one in operation in a Western country that I prefer.  

The title of the post is: Decriminalising drug possession: an idea whose time has come? Unfortunately, the answer to this (rhetorical?) question is no, the media aren't ready to accept it and there is not quite enough public opinion to support it.  This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be keeping this narrative and persuading people that it is an improvement.  Also public opinion should not be the reason Governments make decisions. You can't expect the circa 30million voters in the UK to all be experts on everything.  Even if they disagree they elected the Government to make decisions, the Government will have more information available to them than anyone else (unless they have a vested interest) and it should be up to them to decide what is right - even when we think they are wrong (as I currently do).  This can only be the case however if they do consult experts and look at it from every angle, not just how it will effect the poles.

The best thing about the Lib Dem voice article (linked above) however, was not that it drew my attention to the Guardian report that I'd already seen, but that it highlighted something a novice back bencher called David Cameron wrote for the Guardian back in 2001.  Now I don't know much about this guy but he describes himself as:

'I am an instinctive libertarian who abhors state prohibitions and tends to be sceptical of most government action, whether targeted against drug use or anything else.'

Apparently he's in the new government, but it sounds to me that if someone like that was in a position of power then it should do the world of good for a decriminalisation campaign.  Anyone know what happened to him?

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