Conservative Diary


27 Sep 2009 18:31:54

CCHQ ready for Marr to question Cameron's drug history

Picture 18

After Andrew Marr's question to Gordon Brown on whether he was using pain-killing drugs (his answer was "no" - watch here) CCHQ is ready for a similar kind of question next week when David Cameron is on the Sunday morning couch.  You can bet that Downing Street will be pressuring the Marr team into tough questioning.

The expectation is that it will be on David Cameron's drug history.  This ground was so well-trodden in the Tory leadership race, however, that I can't see it of being political importance.

A lot of centre right blogs enjoyed Marr's question today and think it excuses years of soft ball questioning from the BBC's former Political Editor.  I cannot agree.  What Britain lacks is a serious interviewer of the Tim Russert variety.  His Meet The Press interviews (until his untimely death) were forensic examinations of the policy positions of American politicians.  Marr's interviews rarely yield anything interesting.

Should Marr have asked the question?  I certainly found it uncomfortable to watch but agree with James Forsyth that "if Brown was on anti-depressants that could affect his judgement then the public has a right to know."  But James' second point is also very true: "I wonder if Brown should have been asked such a question without some more evidence for it to be based on. Even though, Brown said that he wasn’t on any pills the mere fact of him being asked if he was will have an effect on how voters view him."

One of the weaknesses of political journalism in Britain is the way it is more interested in personality issues, opinion polls, what's new rather than what's important and the 'who's up, who's down' gossip.  There is very little serious policy analysis or contextual reporting.  I think you can find the best and worst of all these traits on the blogosphere.

Tim Montgomerie

1 Aug 2009 16:22:30

Rehabilitation is key to the drugs challenge says IDS

In yesterday's Telegraph, drawing on the experience of Holland and Sweden, Iain Duncan Smith condemned the UK Drug Policy Commission's recommendation that the fight against drugs should focus on minimising its harmful side effects.

'Harm reduction' rather than 'harm avoidance' is now the prevailing ethos of Britain's drug policy establishment.  IDS attacks this policy in his article:

"This approach is not only defeatist, but dangerous. It is a policy which seems to believe that so long as an addict doesn't mug someone, kill them or rob their house, then that's fine. It is a policy that parks addicts on methadone, entrenching addiction and ensuring that many of their children follow suit. It fails to address the problems of drugs and alcohol in terms of breaking the cycle of addiction, or in terms of recovery – which is why a significantly higher percentage of Britons are addicts than is the case with any of our neighbours. Rehabilitation treatment has been marginalised, with only a tiny number of addicts helped to get off drugs. The problem is made worse by the authorities' failure to recognise that high levels of alcohol consumption among young people have a strong connection to the rise in the drugs culture."

He writes about Sweden where drug laws are properly policed and "expunging of the criminal record" follows participation in a rehabilitation programme.   

The Conservative Party is committed to a big switch of drug treatment programmes away from, for example, methadone substitution and so that more people are rehabilitated and become drug-free.

Tim Montgomerie

> Listen to IDS debate with the UK Drugs Policy Commission on Radio 4's Today

4 May 2009 17:25:39


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