Monthly Archives: March 2007

Sindy’s Stance on Skunk Stinks

If I ever become an actual politician, when I am inevitably asked “did you ever smoke cannabis in your youth?” I will have a terribly dull answer. I didn’t. I ate a hash brownie once but it didn’t seem to have any effect. In fact, generally I’m uncomfortable about taking any substance that has an effect on my mental state, although that doesn’t prevent me from the occasional tipple or chunking down enormous quantities of sugar and chocolate. In short, when it comes to personal practice, I am the Daily Mail’s poster child for insouciant hypocrisy.

Yet, inconveniently for the anti-legalisation lobby, I’m in favour of legalising – and thus regulating – cannabis. The rise of skunk (and Ben Goldacre puts some of the more alarmist headlines into perspective), far from causing me to doubt my opinion, has confirmed to me that prohibition has a toxic effect on society. Five years after alcohol prohibition had been imposed on the US in the 20s, you can guarantee that the sort of alcohol available on the black market was much more dangerous than when it was legal. With no quality control, with huge profits to be made and with huge penalties imposed when dealers were caught, the rise of moonshine was an inevitability. Skunk, grown in people’s cupboards, is the equivalent of moonshine.

What annoys me most about the Sindy’s stance is that it is based on the moronic rubric that because the medical dangers are greater than we may have thought, the case for legalisation goes right out of the window. Yet no-one (apart from that bloke with a guitar who stands outside all the party conferences each year) believes that tobacco should be made illegal – people would be injecting nicotine within months. If there is a medical problem, the solution should be a medical one, yet that is hindered by criminalising the users and forcing them to buy their supply from criminals. From what I’ve seen though, the Sindy seems utterly uninterested in even exploring that argument.

I’m afraid that the fact the Sindy is starting this debate demonstrates two things all too clearly. Firstly, the tabloidisation of the Independent papers is now complete. First it was the size, then it was the content, now it is the mindset. The obvious kneejerk populism is a blatant attempt to gain sales, not to enlighten debate.

The second factor is that liberalism in the UK has been significantly weakened over the past half decade, and it will take years to recover. Drugs policy is a case in point. Back in 1999, the rightwing press attempted to cause a storm over the fact that Charles Kennedy had publicly backed the party’s policy to have a royal commission on drugs policy (which Paddy hated). This quickly turned into a damp squib however as it became clear that the public wasn’t interested. Later, the Tories’ hypocrisy on drug policy was exposed when it emerged that half the then-cabinet happily admitted to taking cannabis when they were younger.

Now we have Cameron screaming about his right to privacy (except for when it is convenient for him to show off his disabled child) and now, the Sindy pretending to be the Mail on Sunday. We live in a different country now.

In September 2001, I was getting t-shirt’s printed to promote LDYS’ latest scam, the libdemsondrugs online debating website on drugs policy. We were hoping to cause a real outrage and get ourselves on the front page of every red top in the land. Then 9/11 happened. Sad.

Why Tories are so poor at the art of seduction

What a pathetic little nothing Gideon Osbourne is. After moaning about how Gordon Brown ignores him (Gordo’s only human I guess), he went on to suggest the man was autistic.

Now the little squit, having been outed for shamelessly going around trying to get MPs to defect, is suggesting that the people he has been button holing ought to respect his confidence:

It was a private conversation between the two of us and only one person went and told the press about it, I guess, because it wasn’t me, so you’d better go and get David Laws on your programme and he will tell you.

Utterly defensive, utterly pathetic.

Meanwhile, I hear reports that Cameron has started writing to PPCs again, claiming what a liberal Conservative he is. The problem he has is that when it comes to liberal issues, he can’t get his own party to follow him into the division lobby.

For example, a majority of Tories voted against their own manifesto commitment on Lords reform. An overwhelming majority of his own MPs defied him over the sexual orientation discrimination regulations. Oh, and let’s not forget the ignoble end of the A-list. To be blunt, when the Conservative Parliamentary Party doesn’t agree with Cameron, it simply ignores him.

This issue can only grow and grow as tensions begin to increase over the party’s drawn out policy development process. They’re still the unruly stubborn mules who dragged John Major into the dirt. For all Cameron’s sweetness and light, they can’t be lead. Anyone with true liberal instincts who is superficially attracted to the idea of defecting to them has seen this, which is why Gideon and Dave’s attempts at courting them has amounted to seducing just a handful of no-marks.

If Gordon Brown can time the election just right, for all his failings, he will look like a paragon of credibility next to his Tory rival. When it comes right down for it, however tired they are of Labour, however poor the choice, I suspect the public will back Joe Stalin against another John Major trying to manage a pack of rabid dogs any day. As soon as they realise that is the choice they are being asked to make, Cameron’s days are numbered.

Brian Souter’s party abstained on sexual orientation discrimination regs

Interesting to see that, of the 6 SNP MPs, 1 voted for the sexual orientation discrimination regulations, 1 voted against, and 4 sat on their hands.

This, just days after receiving half a million pounds from Scotland’s homophobe-in-chief, Brian Souter.

Did they abstain to avoid provoking their new cash cow? What implications does this have for the Scottish Parliament? The Scottish public have a right to know.

Interesting to note that the MP who voted against them was Angus MacNeil. Angus has been lionised in the media over the last few months because of his involvement in the cash-for-peerages allegations. To read the Guardian over the last year, you would think he was a candidate for sainthood. Perhaps those journalists might want to revise their opinions of the man.

Ming gets wit’ da yoot!

I noticed this link on the BBC News page, which all looks terribly fun but I’d have liked to have seen the final interview (one surmises it was on Newsround, which on the odd occasion that I’ve watched it recently impressed me quite a bit).

If you follow the link, you’ll also find another school preparing for their interview with Cameron. Is it me or do they all look and sound a bit, well, posh? Ming’s bunch appeared to be much more fun.

Internal party democracy – Tory style

If you can ignore the fact that the Conservative policy is for the House of Lords to be elected using the first past the post system, which is itself a closed list system, you could be forgiven for thinking they had quite a principled take in the Lords reform debate a few weeks ago. To quote Theresa May:

Yes, under the Government’s proposals 50 per cent. of the new peers would be elected, but the Government propose that those elections should use a list system. Effectively, therefore, the parties choose who is elected, so peers would owe their place in the Lords to their party bosses. Crucially, it would make it much harder for independent candidates to run for office successfully. We should do all that we can to encourage independent elected Members in the other place, and I doubt that the Leader of the Opposition believes that a list system would make for a truly independent upper Chamber.

That was all, so, last week though. Now they are considering tearing up the existing rights of party members to order the closed lists for the European Parliament elections. No doubt Theresa May’s response to this will be, as it was at a Hansard debate last month, that the Tories use primary selections, so it shouldn’t matter how the choice of candidates is restricted (as it has been by the A-list), but it doesn’t wash. The hunger for control from the centre is just as strong amongst Cameroons as it was amongst the Blairites.

Say what you like about the Lib Dems, but we tend to take these rights for granted. We have real debates at our conferences in which the leadership occasionally has to fight to save their cherished policies; the Tories pretend to be on Dragon’s Den. If a commitment to democracy doesn’t actually run through you veins, faking it tends to make you look slightly ridiculous.

(Hat tip: Iain Dale. More info: MEPWatch)

Freedom of information. But don’t tell anyone.

Quote of the week must go to Charlie Falconer:

“People not the press must be the priority. There is a right to know, not a right to tell.”

You only need to think about this for a couple of seconds to realise how dumb it is. After all, freedom of speech IS a right, and how can you know if no-one is allowed to report it?

This idea that the Government seem to have cooked up that you can have freedom of speech but without any media involved is utterly pernicious. Frankly, I can’t believe Falconer gave the game away as blatantly as this.

How elections work

Ignore me. I’m talking shite.

More quality journalism from the BBC (cf From fact to headline: how the media distorts news):

Headline: Brown ‘may not face leader vote’

Okay, so this presumably means that a) the other potential candidates are unlikely to stand or b) that if he is the only candidate he will be declared unopposed.

First para: Gordon Brown will not face a vote if he is the only candidate to succeed Tony Blair as Labour leader, the party’s National Executive Committee has said.

Okay, so (b) it is then. But no:

Para halfway down article: Tuesday’s decision, during a day-long meeting of the NEC at Westminster, spares Mr Brown having to go through an “affirmative ballot” if he is the only candidate.

So even if he’s the only candidate, he WILL face a vote. What did that headline say again?

What makes me wonder is how the monkey who wrote this thinks it might work.

Boris Again

A point that I forgot to mention in my post about the Tories and the environment yesterday. Boris Johnson is quoted as saying:

I associate road humps with the Liberal Democrats. I blame the Lib Dems for speed humps, which necessitate the need for 4x4s.

It is an interesting causal link. The flaw in this statement though should be apparent to anyone who has ever visited the London Borough of Barnet. Here, the Tory administration drained its highways budget for years ripping out traffic calming measures. I don’t know of any near where I live. Yet, if you throw a stone anywhere in the borough, it is likely to hit a 4×4.

I know it’s just good old Boris saying outrageous things in that posh, bumbling manner of his, but does anyone know when the man has anything that actually worth listening to?

Is racism Levy’s middle name?

Curious dead horse flogging from Lynne Featherstone yesterday, which I’m rebutting here in a vain attempt to stop yet another conspiracy theory gaining ground:

But there is one point that has struck me as valid – why do we keep on being told Lord Levy’s middle name? It’s Abraham – and so telling us his middle name in a news report emphasises, deliberately or not, that he’s Jewish.

All a bit rum. I’m very loathe to leap to the assumption that people in the BBC and elsewhere in the media are being deliberately anti-Semitic, and I’d like to think that even a charge of inadvertent anti-Semitism can be explained away, but I’m stumped for a decent explanation for the repeated use of “Abraham”.

As I pointed out on her comments, the explanation is pretty mundane. Look up Levy in Dod’s and you’ll find his full name listed as “Michael Abraham Levy”. I suspect it is listed in the same way in Who’s Who. Levy has control over both of these entries. Ruth Turner is certainly not listed in the former, and, given its snootiness regarding ordinary people without titles, lots of money or a high profile media career, presumably not included in the latter.

Journalists, being lazy working to tight deadlines, rely on such sources to quickly find out biographical information about people. In short, if you choose to have yourself listed as “Michael Abraham Levy,” then you are bound to find people call you “Michael Abraham Levy.” If Levy preferred to call himself “Michael Levy,” that would be a different matter, but he doesn’t.

But the most bizarre thing about this claim is that the man is called Levy, which is about as Jewish a name as you can get. If you’re intention is to make him ‘sound’ Jewish, why would you emphasise Abraham, a prophet recognised by the Christian and Islamic traditions? Should we now be restricted to calling him Mike, just to make sure we don’t offend anyone?