What did Bob Drop?

Oh My God!  Bob Ainsworth, what were you thinking?  You of all people; you who dwelt inside the bunkers that are the Home Office and the MoD; the two places where, if he ever decided to relocate to London, Darth Vader could feel sure of finding kindred spirits.

Bob Ainsworth, ladies and gentlemen, has called for the controlled legalisation of drugs.  According to Bob, yes Ainsworth and not Dylan; “It is time to replace our failed war on drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children.”  I know.  If it had been Dylan it would have scanned better, but all the same…

So what happened?  Did Bob Ainsworth drink of the same cup that David Davies drank of before resigning to fight a by election over detention without trial?  Did he back principal over pragmatism and sacrifice what career he still had before him to argue for something he feels to be right but that he must know is anathema to a politics founded on focus groups and reflecting the voters prejudices back at them rather than trying to lead opinion.

Meanwhile a collective statement by the cabinet that: “We did extensive research into drugs while at university but since we made some money have opted for well stocked cellars instead” was scotched at the last moment by Andy Coulson and substituted with a pro forma condemnation instead.

As for the Labour Party a spokesman said Mr Ainsworth’s were “not the views of Ed Miliband, the Labour Party or the public”.  What are the views of Ed Miliband?  Well we’ll know in two years time after Labour has carried out its wide ranging policy review.  Until then the official line is that he knows nothing and believes less.

Now Bob Ainsworth may be right, he may not but he’s certainly highlighted the fact that a thorough going debate of the evidence and the various possible strategies to mitigate the harm that drugs do to our society is urgently needed.  After all until the 60s this country used to pursue a policy of treating drug abuse as a medical rather than a criminal matter.

The intervening fifty years of butterfly crushing zero tolerance has demonstrably failed to reduce the number of addicts while offering a wealth of business opportunities to international criminals.

But dare we have an open debate?  Not if the Westminster machines, cowed before the editors of the Sun, Mail and Telegraph have anything to do with it.  They’re determined to shut down any debate before it gets going.  No one wins, they believe, by taking difficult positions on difficult issues.

The Green Party however should see a lesson in this.  It’s not a matter of positioning; it’s not about distinctive policies for distinctiveness sake.  What are lacking in contemporary British politics are politicians whose starting point is what is right rather than whether editors and voters will agree with them.

I believe the Greens have a better track record of taking difficult positions because they’re right than the three big parties.  Greens should never be afraid of standing for what they believe in and never try to shut down principled dissent and debate however uncomfortable that may be from time to time.

Talk to people and you’ll soon find that there’s growing frustration with a political class that that appears to treat the whole shebang as some great game.  It’s not and we’d all do well to remember that.

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