Monday, November 2, 2009

Johnson Nutt Sacking

Politics of late really does seem to have taken some bizarre twists as we watch Labour free fall without a safety parachute. I've watched in wide eyes amazement at how badly handled this latest episode is, the sacking of Professor David Nutt. Particularly the over inflated way Alan Johnson has defended the decision, appearing on Sky News in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Alistair Campbell on Channel 4 News over the dodgy dossier.

Putting aside the media circus salivating over this, there are some profound issues to assess. Firstly is the issue that a gradual seething resentment has been building up for the last 7 or 8 years between the drugs advisory panel and government due to difference of opinion on the classification of illegal drugs and the associated harm, the primary reason for this is quite simple, a more relaxed drugs policy is not palatable politically. But then why have official advisory panel of experts if their expertise when given is ignored because it is contradictory to your policies. This is not a one-off in relation to drugs policy, it has a long and heated history. I think it is after countless disagreements that Professor Nutt has spoken out so vehemently on the matter, this is not an uncommon issue with government advisers and is pervasive throughout all departments.

Secondly I get very tired of the rhetoric that surrounds the whole illegality of drugs and the war on drugs, it's all from fairly moralistic viewpoints. The reality is that by and large prohibition does not work and the constant criminalisation of it fuels the problem rather than rectify it.

I'm not an advocate of drugs and am not naive to it's harm, having witnessed a number of fatal overdoses from a variety of substances. However, a vast majority of drug related deaths are down to the underground nature of the distribution. Principally being the measures of drug are hardly being done by pharmacists and secondly they are mixed with all manner of other substances to keep them profitable, it is not unknown for cannabis to have plastic in and ecstasy to have brick dust in. The money currently wasted on fighting this never ending war would be far better spent on education and healthcare to support and prevent addiction, rather than criminalising it.

This is an age-old debate that has been raging between politicians, law enforcement, sociologists and scientists ever since the 1936 Geneva Convention for the Suppression of the Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, and I can't see it ending here.

I am curious as to why Alan Johnson has taken such a stupid political grand stand over this when surely at this time Labour should try to stop rocking it's boat so much, it's like the cabinet all have political suicide tourette's at the moment. Alienated adviser's have a habit of blowing up in your face and therefore a little more diplomacy and a little less arrogance may have gone a long way. Which reminds me of my own run ins with a previous Home Secretary and drugs policy back in 1997, the year Labour took office and I saw the machine for what it was and everything since has not surprised me.