Liberal hijack

Who's really in charge at the Bali climate conference? It must be those pesky European liberals, mus

It’s the weekend and chaos levels have been adjusted to ‘moderate’; which gives me the chance to have a political rant (of a sort). I was scanning through my e-mail in-box yesterday when I happened across a press release from the Heartland Foundation, a Chicago-based ‘think tank’. This lot claims, in reference to the agenda of European governments, that “European liberal groups have hijacked the [climate] conference and are pushing a pre-determined outcome.”

Now the term ‘liberal’ is a pretty flexible concept (‘free market liberal’? ‘social liberal’?), but they seem to be implying that European politics is dominated by radical lefty-greenies. Has the Heartland Foundation actually looked at European politics recently and seen the steady drift towards deregulation, privatisation and free markets? And the European agenda on climate change is often pretty timid and subject to intense industry lobbying (biofuels anyone?).

Looking at the European Parliament, the largest group of MEPs is the conservative group - not known for being left wing radicals. The second largest group is the Party of European Socialists (which bizarrely includes MEPs from New Labour). Yup, let's face it the ‘socialist group’ is socialist in name only and, again, most could hardly be described as lefties.

And what of the Green Party? Green MEPs make up just 5% of the total in the Parliament. Now I know some highly competent Green MEPs but I think they would agree that 5% hardly constitutes a power base from which European politics can be controlled.

So, if the Heartland Foundation thinks that ‘lefty-greenies hijacking Europe/the UN‘ is a credible theory, then how about the following…

For the past two years it has not, in fact, been Arnold Schwarzenegger calling the shots in California, it has actually been Ralph Nader wearing a cleverly constructed body-suit. In a night time raid on his California mansion in 2005, Arnie was kidnapped and murdered by that slimy greeny and his cabal of crazed environmental zealots. The Governator is no more. It’s really an imposter.

And what about the new Australian government that has just ratified the lefty-inspired Kyoto Protocol? Not actually human beings. Just weeks ago, shape-shifting Martians (the little green bastards!) landed in Wollongong and then spread out, quickly assuming mind control over the Australian elite.

Lizards (far too green to be trustworthy) have taken over the…..oh, David Icke has the got the copyright on that one. And if there’s one thing these guys believe in its strong intellectual property protection. After all, how else are we going to cover the gargantuan research, development and marketing costs to develop all the life saving drugs like, um, Viagra, that poor people in the third world desperately need?

Lefty-greenies running Europe at the moment; I mean, how did these guys come up with this stuff? What complex process of political analysis did they undergo to reach such conclusions? I reckon it can only be the product of the well known policy analysis technique known as ‘5 pints of Stella’. Yep, that’s right, the result of a drunken pub conversation and from my experience (I have tried this technique, but only for scientific reasons you understand) about 4 – 5 pints of Stella (or other beer of equivalent strength) tends to create the right conditions for truly imaginative policy analysis.

“Wurl, issafukinspiracyinnit? Sssgoabeagoddampinkoleftytakeover. Widdereclimchangewossname, annerefunnylilrectanglarnoryoorpeanglasses. Wahappentovidualfreeemhuh? Thassw’Iwannano? AnnaU.N. Theyreinonnitaswell.”

I’m guessing that somehow the Heartland Foundation people must have been just lucid enough to write it all down and stick it in a press release. Hats of to these guys, that’s quite a feat after a night on cocktails.

Trouble is, if they still believed it once they sobered-up then you can only conclude that they are very scary people living in what they see is a very scary world.

My advice to them? Move to Idaho and build a hut in the woods!

And do us all a favour and stay there.

Biteback and James Wharton
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“It was the most traumatic chapter of my life”: ex-soldier James Wharton on his chemsex addiction

One of the British Army’s first openly gay soldiers reveals how he became trapped in a weekend world of drug and sex parties.

“Five days disappeared.” James Wharton, a 30-year-old former soldier, recalls returning to his flat in south London at 11pm on a Sunday night in early March. He hadn’t eaten or slept since Wednesday. In the five intervening days, he had visited numerous different apartments, checked in and out of a hotel room, partied with dozens of people, had sex, and smoked crystal meth “religiously”.

One man he met during this five-day blur had been doing the same for double the time. “He won’t have been exaggerating,” Wharton tells me now. “He looked like he’d been up for ten days.”

On Monday, Wharton went straight to his GP. He had suffered a “massive relapse” while recovering from his addiction to chemsex: group sex parties enhanced by drugs.

“Crystal meth lets you really dig in, to use an Army term”

I meet Wharton on a very different Monday morning six months after that lost long weekend. Sipping a flat white in a sleek café workspace in Holborn, he’s a stroll away from his office in the city, where he works as a PR. He left the Army in 2013 after ten years, having left school and home at 16.


Wharton left school at 16 to join the Army. Photo: Biteback

With his stubble, white t-shirt and tortoise shell glasses, he now looks like any other young media professional. But he’s surfacing from two years in the chemsex world, where he disappeared to every weekend – sometimes for 72 hours straight.

Back then, this time on a Monday would have been “like a double-decker bus smashing through” his life – and that’s if he made it into work at all. Sometimes he’d still be partying into the early hours of a Tuesday morning. The drugs allow your body to go without sleep. “Crystal meth lets you really dig in, to use an Army expression,” Wharton says, wryly.


Wharton now works as a PR in London. Photo: James Wharton

Mainly experienced by gay and bisexual men, chemsex commonly involves snorting the stimulant mephodrone, taking “shots” (the euphoric drug GBL mixed with a soft drink), and smoking the amphetamine crystal meth.

These drugs make you “HnH” (high and horny) – a shorthand on dating apps that facilitate the scene. Ironically, they also inhibit erections, so Viagra is added to the mix. No one, sighs Wharton, orgasms. He describes it as a soulless and mechanical process. “Can you imagine having sex with somebody and then catching them texting at the same time?”

“This is the real consequence of Section 28”

Approximately 3,000 men who go to Soho’s 56 Dean Street sexual health clinic each month are using “chems”, though it’s hard to quantify how many people regularly have chemsex in the UK. Chemsex environments can be fun and controlled; they can also be unsafe and highly addictive.

Participants congregate in each other’s flats, chat, chill out, have sex and top up their drugs. GBL can only be taken in tiny doses without being fatal, so revellers set timers on their phones to space out the shots.

GBL is known as “the date rape drug”; it looks like water, and a small amount can wipe your memory. Like some of his peers, Wharton was raped while passed out from the drug. He had been asleep for six or so hours, and woke up to someone having sex with him. “That was the worst point, without a doubt – rock bottom,” he tells me. “[But] it didn’t stop me from returning to those activities again.”

There is a chemsex-related death every 12 days in London from usually accidental GBL overdoses; a problem that Wharton compares to the AIDS epidemic in a book he’s written about his experiences, Something for the Weekend.


Wharton has written a book about his experiences. Photo: Biteback

Wharton’s first encounter with the drug, at a gathering he was taken to by a date a couple of years ago, had him hooked.

“I loved it and I wanted more immediately,” he recalls. From then on, he would take it every weekend, and found doctors, teachers, lawyers, parliamentary researchers, journalists and city workers all doing the same thing. He describes regular participants as the “London gay elite”.

“Chemsex was the most traumatic chapter of my life” 

Topics of conversation “bounce from things like Lady Gaga’s current single to Donald Trump”, Wharton boggles. “You’d see people talking about the general election, to why is Britney Spears the worst diva of them all?”

Eventually, he found himself addicted to the whole chemsex culture. “It’s not one single person, it’s not one single drug, it’s just all of it,” he says.



Wharton was in the Household Cavalry alongside Prince Harry. Photos: Biteback and James Wharton

Wharton feels the stigma attached to chemsex is stopping people practising it safely, or being able to stop. He’s found a support network through gay community-led advice services, drop-ins and workshops. Not everyone has that access, or feels confident coming forward.

“This is the real consequence of Section 28,” says Wharton, who left school in 2003, the year this legislation against “promoting” homosexuality was repealed. “Who teaches gay men how to have sex? Because the birds and the bees chat your mum gives you is wholly irrelevant.”


Wharton was the first openly gay soldier to appear in the military in-house magazine. Photo courtesy of Biteback

Wharton only learned that condoms are needed in gay sex when he first went to a gay bar at 18. He was brought up in Wrexham, north Wales, by working-class parents, and described himself as a “somewhat geeky gay” prior to his chemsex days.

After four years together, he and his long-term partner had a civil partnership in 2010; they lived in a little cottage in Windsor with two dogs. Their break-up in 2014 launched him into London life as a single man.

As an openly gay soldier, Wharton was also an Army poster boy; he appeared in his uniform on the cover of gay magazine Attitude. He served in the Household Cavalry with Prince Harry, who once defended him from homophobic abuse, and spent seven months in Iraq.


In 2012, Wharton appeared with his then civil partner in Attitude magazine. Photo courtesy of Biteback

A large Union Jack shield tattoo covering his left bicep pokes out from his t-shirt – a physical reminder of his time at war on his now much leaner frame. He had it done the day he returned from Iraq.

Yet even including war, Wharton calls chemsex “the most traumatic chapter” of his life. “Iraq was absolutely Ronseal, it did exactly what it said on the tin,” he says. “It was going to be a bit shit, and then I was coming home. But with chemsex, you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

“When I did my divorce, I had support around me. When I did the Army, I had a lot of support. Chemsex was like a million miles an hour for 47 hours, then on the 48th hour it was me on my own, in the back of an Uber, thinking where did it all go wrong? And that’s traumatic.”

Something for the Weekend: Life in the Chemsex Underworld by James Wharton is published by Biteback.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.