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Martin Sewell: Should Drugs tolerance become the new Racism?

Martin_sewell Martin Sewell is a Family Lawyer specialising in Child Protection and Adoption and an Anglican Lay Reader.  His work puts him in daily contact with the disadvantaged of society who experience the consequences of social policy the most acutely.

In November’s edition of Marie Claire, you can read an interview with television celebrity Graham Norton in which he cheerfully acknowledges having used a variety of drugs, and indicating that the only “downside” is the people you end up mixing with. 

It is, rather like Ernest Thesiger’s condemnation of  the First World War

“ My dear, the noise ..... and the people!” 

Never mind the reality, it’s only the affectation that matters.

True to form, the BBC duly rushed to reassure us that these utterances in no way placed Mr Norton’s lucrative career as a presenter at any jeopardy . He is of course, paid at very considerable - and compulsory - expense, by you and I.

The rush to defend his quite deliberate exposition of anti-social views stands in marked contrast with the fate of the hapless football pundit Ron Atkinson whose off camera remark about the racial origin of French footballer Marcel Dessailly was not only caught accidentally but deliberately publicised by the broadcaster to make a public point, and it had a completely different outcome.

Overlooking the hapless Ron’s first class record in introducing ethnic minority players into the senior game (not least England’s first black international Laurie Cunningham), he was immediately cast into the farthest corners of media purgatory where he can only occasionally be seen as a commentator on cable channels.

The contrast is instructive and put me in mind of the questions raised by Newt Gingrich. Do we truly believe that drugs are undermining the fabric of our society, and are we prepared to take the necessary measures to stop it. Sadly, he remarked, in the case of our political and media leaders,  the answers to such questions are by no means as clear cut as you might assume.

Is it time to change this? 

Is it time that we took the argument purposefully and ruthlessly to our “sophisticated” liberal establishment in plain and well documented terms.

Should we not force the drugs apologists to acknowledge and own the costs and consequences of their attitudes as plainly as the victims of drink drivers once did, and by such methods to confront them with the only accusation that truly stings the liberal conscience - “hypocrisy”.

Rich people, who would never buy blood diamonds, and would prefer to go naked than wear fur: fashionistas who would campaign against slave wages in the sports wear industries, and political radicals who have secured smoking bans to protect workers in the catering industry, will all go home to share a joint or to pass round a dish of cocaine with their free-thinking friends, with precious little acknowledgment that their recreation stands at the apex of a vile, degrading and violent trade that abuses producers and traffickers alike and is mainly responsible for widespread social mayhem in this country at huge economic cost to us all.

As a practicing lawyer specialising in child protection, I see, on a daily basis, the consequences of the trade that gives our celebrities their giggling highs and my clients so many of  their deep life tragedies. 

There was a time when my case load was a mixed bag of life’s troubles. Today it could largely summed up in a word - “drugs” .The same might be said of my criminal law colleagues.

During the New Labour years, the growth of family breakdown, child neglect and abuse, gun crime, burglary, prostitution and mental illness of adults and young people alike, all have significant roots in the drugs culture which is so easily presented on our television screens as “naughty but nice”. Only those of us working at the sharp end of social collapse see the true costs and outcomes of such attitudes.

Imagine, for a moment, the seismic effect on public opinion if the BBC had had the moral courage to treat Mr Norton in the same way that treated Big Ron was treated for his gaffe.  Suppose they had sacked him for some of the above reasons declaring that it was again time to encourage a change of public attitudes. 

It is not as if this is something they are unwilling to do as a matter of corporate principle. Over the years they have promoted a change of attitudes over a wide range of issues.  With their support, marriage has been undermined, monarchy ridiculed,  public language coarsened, and religion marginalised in a way that would have been unthinkable in the 1950's. 

There was nothing inevitable about this. It was a public policy choice made on our behalf by those advancing a “progressive” agenda at our expense and without any real accountability to those who pay.

Our social elites have collectively devised editorial policies which have permeated newsroom and soap opera script writing alike.  Steadily we have seen, drink-driving, smacking, domestic violence and  unequal pay become something that few would attempt to defend in polite company. More recently the emboldened BBC has clearly determined that it is not good for us to drive gas guzzling cars or to look on those intent on killing us as “terrorists”. 

So why are drugs such a sacred cow? Why are they so singularly unwilling to attempt to change the social consensus in this area?

Given the BBC ‘s well established history of re-engineering social attitudes, as listed above, it is surely a small thing to ask that our national broadcasting corporation could play a part in putting an end to a social acceptance of a trade and culture that arguably may adversely affect more people in a year, and results in more misery even than racism.

That is a deliberately provocative comparison. However it may not only be true but a usefully stimulus to a much needed debate.   

In short, why should not our broadcasters make it a declared objective to make the usage of illegal drugs something that no decent person would wish to admit to?


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