The great drugs debate

Controversial drugs comments from a senior policeman have set the blogosphere chattering, but where'

The new year began with furore splashed over the middle market front pages over reiterated comments made by the chief constable of North Wales Police, Richard Brunstrom, promoting the legalising of class A drugs. The debate spilled over the blogosphere.

Lib Dem AM Peter Black believes it is right to bring the debate to the fore as he also argues drugs are as big a blight as Brunstrom states, but he does not go along with Brunstrom’s methods. He concludes: “My view is that the debate on drugs policy is long overdue but we cannot have it in isolation ... Unless we can argue on the facts and put personalities to one side then we will never make any progress.”

Nick Colbourne, the Labour Wrexham councillor, finds fault with the way Brunstrom calculates ecstasy as less dangerous than aspirin. He argues, if you judge danger based on number of deaths without adding the total usage to the equation, “one could argue that BASE jumping is safer than cycling, given the tragic number of deaths each year. Well of course that’s not true, but then neither is his ridiculous claim.”

Jon Bright at OurKingdom links to a Daily Mail article which attracted a large volume of responses, mainly calling for Brunstrom’s resignation. The more important issue, Bright argues, is not the classification of drugs, but how the public’s perception of democracy is interfering with public debate. He writes: “My point is not necessarily that legalisation would definitely be a positive move - though this is my opinion - but rather that the extension of democracy into the problem of drug use serves to suffocate debate about this issue.”

Meanwhile, the day after David Cameron announced he would make the Conservatives the party of the NHS, he declared Andrew Lansley would be Health Secretary should he win the next general election. As is pointed out at ConservativeHome, Lansley joins George Osborne as the only Tory frontbencher to be publicly offered a job in any future Cabinet. This led to suspicions at UK Daily Pundit that Lansley had threatened to resign were he not offered a top job.

Finally, over at Comment is Free, Rupa Huq chronicles the demise of the word “respect” from the lexicon of razzle-dazzle politics over the past two years. She concludes: “‘Respect’ always sounded like a word more suited to an Ali G monologue than a serious political agenda. Today it is a thoroughly discredited term. Like flared trousers, Take That and the Mini Cooper, it may well experience a revival but for now it looks like a prize turkey."

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.