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« 'Comeback kid' Davis will relaunch this week | Main | ICM poll undermines Clarke's leadership pitch »

Comments

Ronald Collinson

I suspect most people under 40 (including most Tory MPs) did things they'd later regret at University.

The problem is that Cameron does not seem to regret it. Look at his apparent views on the liberalisation of drug laws, for example. He also implied that taking drugs was part of the 'normal university experience', which is an utterly despicable and defeatist view.

James Hellyer

Most politicians won't answer the cannabis question, because it is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" question, and you know that very well.

Which is why plenty of members of the Shadow Cabinet have answered that question (admittedly Oliver Letwin's answer was the silliest I've heard)...

Answering "yes" or "no" truthfully would kill the story. Some people would disapprove, there would be some fuss in the next day's press, and mentions in the odd editorial but the matter wouldn't be raised at every interview, the way it will be after the "I won't say" answer. And most importantly the people who would disapprove of the "yes" know full well what the "I won't say" means and disapprove anyway.

James Hellyer

an utterly despicable and defeatist view

Which is precisely the opinion opponents of liberalisation have of Cameron's views on legalising hard drugs.

Cllr Iain Lindley

Incidentally, I'm sixteen. Despite going to a (state-funded) grammar school, most of my fellow pupils are completely apolitical. Even in my Government and Politics class, I hear comments like, "Malcolm Rifkind is an idiot because he looks like an idiot."

I studied politics at York (ranked #1 for undergraduate teaching in politics) and a worrying proportion of my peers were depressingly ignorant about party politics. It must have made their degree work so much harder...

At least I know I'm not (at 22) the baby of this debate. :)

Although I'm loathe to judge on the basis of age (one of my pet hates over the years) I do try to steer away from talking about things that happened prior to my own political experiences as if I'd been there. It doesn't generally help your argument. At sixteen I have to wonder on what you base your "faith" in the party membership and in our parliamentarians.

I have to confess I also know at least one person who, at sixteen, would have argued the same case as you, and just as eloquently. At nineteen he has declared his support for Cameron.

Ronald Collinson

I am an opponent of liberalisation! Are you agreeing with me, or have we had our wires crossed?

Cllr Iain Lindley

He also implied that taking drugs was part of the 'normal university experience', which is an utterly despicable and defeatist view.

I'm afraid that's a sentence that could only be written by a sixteen-year-old or a sixty-year-old. Most students smoke weed on at least the odd occasion, most of those who don't, don't find it objectionable. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either lying, ignorant or innocent.

There's a big difference between the odd puff of a joint, and crack cocaine.

malcolm

I'm over 40 and I did several things including taking cannabis when I was at University which I now regret.It's not the biggest thing in life,Cameron should answer it and move on. Why he seems to inspire such hatred amongst so many people on this blog I can't understand,he hasn't after all done anything terrible.
Whilst it is unlikely I'll support him I am happy that he played his part in making the Conservative conference a success and giving us some favourable headlines for a change.If those continue I'll be even happier.

Cllr Iain Lindley

I think James was agreeing with you, Ronald.

Ronald Collinson

Although I'm loathe to judge on the basis of age (one of my pet hates over the years) I do try to steer away from talking about things that happened prior to my own political experiences as if I'd been there. It doesn't generally help your argument. At sixteen I have to wonder on what you base your "faith" in the party membership and in our parliamentarians.

Somehow, I knew I was going to get that reaction. It's a reasonable point. I am young; I am ignorant; I am inexperienced. I will, however, point out that I am always happy to learn, and that I would find it limiting to restrict myself to the very little I have directly seen. There are many ways of learning about the past, and talking about it is one of the best of them.

I will admit to a blind faith at this point. I'm perfectly capable of cynicism if that is required, but I find that applying it to any democratic process is rather damaging. This may be inspired by youth and ignorance, but there it is.

I accept, without question, four things: that Britain is Great; that the Monarchy must be preserved; that, when candidates 'play by the rules', an electorate will always make the right choice (by definition); that the decision of a fair jury will always be correct if all evidence is made available.

I am aware that there are arguments against all of those things, and I am happy to defend my viewpoint, but it would be a great shock to me to have any of those convictions shaken.

Get back to me in three years and see if I support David Cameron by then.

I'm afraid that's a sentence that could only be written by a sixteen-year-old or a sixty-year-old.

There we go again. Am I to lose all credibility? But, there: I was compared to a sixty-year-old! Respect the wisdom of your elder, and the innocence of the children. Oh, deary me...

Of course it is. I am unsullied by experience of users of that drug (well, that's not actually true, but less sullied than most people), and so can approach it from a truly (nearly) objective standpoint. I have never thought that the standards of modern society are very useful markers.

Rob D

Is it really a surprise that the Shadow Education Spokesman would be talking about the closing of special schools? And is it really a surprise that the media would pick up on the fact that he has a disabled child and is therefore in an excellent position to be talking about the issue? Cameron seems to be using his position to try to make a situation he has come across at home better for everyone who experiences it, I can't see how that could be seen as a bad thing.

I am 29, I resigned from the party under IDS but have been enthralled by the last week or so. It has turned me back on to the Tory party and yesterday I rejoined, in large part due to the way Cameron has performed over the last week. He is not the only good leader in this competition but he has certainly made things more interesting.

The fact that he obviously took some drugs at university (and his answers are clearly saying that without him actually having to say yes) does not really connect him to young people, they are not that fickle. However only the Mail on Sunday has made an issue of it which he really shouldn't worry him very much, the floating voters we need to win the the next election are not reading the MoS! Most people who hear that he took drugs at university will just say "who didn't?" and move on, it won't affect them either positively or negatively.

James Hellyer

I was agreeing with Ronald.

We don't have to accept that drugs are a way of life, Iain. The drugs policy in The Netherlands is based on that acceptance and adopts a policy of "harm reduction". This has seen the use of cannabis and ecstasy more than double, with significant increases in use by the 15 to 16 age bracket.

By contrast, policy in Sweden stated from the proposition that drugs use in inimical to civilised society. Their policy has therefore been to create a "drugs free society", with the police, courts and schools all working to this end. The result has been overall lifetime prevalence of drugs use among 15 to 16 year olds dropping to 8% compared to 29% in the Netherlands.

Those statements of Cameron's that are on the record indicate that he'd take our public policy more in the direction of the Netherlands. I don't see that as desirable. That's why rather than dodge questions, I think he should clarify his views.

Ronald Collinson

But surely his evasiveness should count against him? If he has taken drugs, but has truly repented, he should be able to admit it, and renounce his past. Equivocating is not going to win him any friends.

The case appears to be that he is not willing to condemn that part of his life. This will not suit the ageing membership of our party. And even some of its impudent youngsters might be rather upset...

tom

Yes. I find it amazing how quick to judge eveyone is. Cameron's rise has been very quick and yes he may crash and burn, but so far he has done a lot right. He has also stated a lot of generalities which I think are absolutely right about the state we are in. He may be light on policy (yet) but I am sure he will thouroughly tested in the months to come. I think in all honesty that he would probably be better off playing second fiddle to Clarke but I rather like the fact he wants it. Good luck to the bugger I say. He is no reluctant leader. He is intelligent and he holds his own, but yes he is very untested. But I would rather knock him when I know more about him, rather than trying to do him down beforehand.

On the drugs issue. Ronald - life can be a complex affair. Much is grey and less is black and white than you may think. Personally I think David will be a better person for having tried drugs and for having a slightly more open mind as a result.

Rob

All this hullabaloo made me finally go and have a look at David Cameron's campaign site.

The navigation bar down the left hand site is made from Macromedia Flash. I looked for a link to a text only version of the site, but couldn't see one.

Would it not be a interesting irony, in the context of the discussions above, if Cameron's campaign ignored the Disability Discrimination Act to come up with a website that was inaccessible by screenreaders and text only browsers? Surely he wouldn't have put style and looks above a functional site that was accessible by impaired internet users?

Ronald Collinson

On the drugs issue. Ronald - life can be a complex affair.

I am feeling slightly patronised, here. I suppose I brought it on myself. Oh, well.

Nonetheless, I fail to see how the consumption of illegal drugs can possibly be considered 'black and white'. Taking cannabis is against the law; moreover, it has been proven that it is damaging to health, and so that law is justified.

I cannot see that there is any argument for the taking of cannabis. I do not, for that matter, see how it could possibly cause the mind to open. With that on his conscience, Cameron would be predisposed to support liberalisation.

Perhaps you could elaborate? In what way is this a grey area?

As long as the party stays to the right the party will continue to be defeared in elections.A right-wing view is no longera popular view withing the british public.We need to move to more center-ground in order to give ourself the best chance to win.Ime sure that many wont agree with me and that is because that most party mp's and members dont know what is good for them.They know what THEY want and not what the COUNTRY wants from them.

Cllr Iain Lindley

Ronald, do you intend to wait until your 18th birthday before consuming an alcoholic beverage in a bar or pub? I suspect not...

Parts of Britain have serious drug problems. They fuel crime sprees, destroy lives and split apart families. We need an honest, grown-up debate on how we tackle this problem - saying "drugs are bad and wrong" on its own has achieved little for those communities and families torn apart by drugs.

I mentioned the Bow Group's excellent paper "Go Zones" earlier and I'd recommend the section on "the needle and the damage done" to anyone who can view the proposals on controlled drug treatment without a hysterical reaction.

By contrast, a student with the odd spliff is really a non-issue. On our city streets cannabis is a "gateway drug" because the dealers have a vested interest in getting kids hooked on something harder. That isn't the case with a student on campus or in a boarding-school bedroom.

Cllr Iain Lindley

Out of interest Ronald, where are you from?

tom

Sorry I didnt mean to patronise. One of the things that states do is legislate and generally they legislate according to the general wishes of the population to ensure a stable society - macro level. From a moral point however from the individual level it is much more complex. Everybody makes their own decisions as to how they behave and generally a free state will allow as much freedom as is possible without enabling other people to cause harm to others. Drugs law is one of those areas - knock on effects of drugs are crime, and social breakdown from a macro level. However and this is important - from a micro level everybody makes their own decisions and some people may enjoy using drugs and why should anybody stop them from using them it is after all their own body that they are abusing. The problem is when that drug use impacts on other people which is very often. However the classic libertarian view which some may argue is the ultimate conservative viewpoint is that you give that freedom to each individual to decide for themselves how they treat their body.

So to cut a long story short. From a societal point of view yes it is easy to make the argument that you should ban drugs. From an individual point of view it is less easy. That is why it is grey. Laws of a country may mean morality to you, but to may other people who have opinions that are just as valid morality cuts across the boundaries of the state laws. Anyway enough of such waffle but suffice to say (aged 31) as you get older life definitely becomes more grey.
My view about drugs is that the real problem is the stigma. Most people want to work and achieve stuff, and drugs dont help, but there is so much peer pressure to take them nowadays that it causes loads more abuse than there should be. But that is in turn caused by the fact that they are illegal and most human beings when they get to their teens (and way before actually) spend most of their time trying to test the boundaries that they are set. Drugs are a classic example. If it wasnt cool most people wouldnt touch them in the first place but unfortunately the state we live in at the moment bans them and in doing so glorifies them. And that will always be the case while they are legal. Is there the possibility of making them legal and increasing education to such a degree that over time the stigma will disappear thus reducing their use while at the same time taking away the markets of so many criminal cartels? Worth investigating I say. I hope DC does too.

James Hellyer

I'd recommend the section on "the needle and the damage done" to anyone who can view the proposals on controlled drug treatment without a hysterical reaction.

Doubtless pointing out that countries that have tried just that policy have quickly lost all hope of weaning their addicts off heroin (e.g. Switzerland).

On our city streets cannabis is a "gateway drug" because the dealers have a vested interest in getting kids hooked on something harder. That isn't the case with a student on campus or in a boarding-school bedroom.

Not really true. Dealers will inevitably try and sell "harder" substances to their client base - whetehr those clients are students are inhabitants of an inner city estate. This isn't an argument for legalisation though. Even in countries where the "soft" drugs have been legalised, there remains a problem with hard drugs being pushed to "soft" drug users. The dealer knows that the sort of person likely to visit a cannabis cafe is more likely to be willing to experiment than someone who won't go to such an establishment.


Ronald Collinson

Ronald, do you intend to wait until your 18th birthday before consuming an alcoholic beverage in a bar or pub?

I am afraid that I intend to wait forever, having a firm commitment to teetotalism. This makes me unique amongst my peers, all of whom are by now well-accustomed to the apparent delights of alcohol, but there we have it.

Out of interest Ronald, where are you from?

I live on the Welsh border (to be more specific, in the west of North Shropshire), and have lived a decidedly rural lifestyle. This is in marked difference to my mother, who had a strict working class upbringing, and my father, who grew up in middle-class America. My exposure to drugs has, thankfully, been through a smoky haze, but, over the past few years, more and more of my acquaintances – friends, some of them – have taken up the smoking of cannabis and tobacco. Some have since progressed to considerably more dangerous substances, with predictable results. All of this has, of course, been a cause of considerable alarm to me, but, aside from moral protestations, I am powerless to do anything about it.

Nonetheless, you would be right in thinking that my experience of inner-city problems is second hand. I know a number of people from such areas, but that hardly compares with living through it.

Despite my rural location, my family background does not incline towards conservatism. My father is extremely liberal, and though my mother is very patriotic, she has never voted for the Conservative Party.

More to the point, my family is presently sustained largely by state benefits (my father having quit his teaching job in order to look after my grandmother, who was incapacitated by a stroke). This has led to a considerable decline in fortune. My family is therefore on the receiving end of a great deal of government legislation, and I am expected to be grateful.

My development of a political awareness was a direct result of the the election of George W. Bush, a man I detest. Developing a hatred of him because of his vandalism of the environment, I learned to understand the importance of the political sphere.

And that is that. Sorry for the life story, but I thought I might as well explain the position from which I'm coming.

We need an honest, grown-up debate on how we tackle this problem - saying "drugs are bad and wrong" on its own has achieved little for those communities and families torn apart by drugs.

This seems, unfortunately, to be true. The strength of my reaction is, in part, due to the fact that David Cameron is not a member of one of those communities. A man in his privileged position could easily avoid breaking the law, but chose not to. Nonetheless, any new measure cannot be accompanied by effective approbation of drugs. The government must make a moral stand, and set an example.

By contrast, a student with the odd spliff is really a non-issue.

It is exactly that attitude which makes drugs so prevalent in our society. We can never treat a willingness to break the law as a non-issue.

The problem is when that drug use impacts on other people which is very often.

The fact of the matter is that this is not just 'very often', but 'nearly always'. Use of harmful substances is incredibly selfish; almost all people have friends and families who will be greatly distressed by that action.

Laws of a country may mean morality to you, but to may other people who have opinions that are just as valid morality cuts across the boundaries of the state laws

While I agree that laws must be founded on common sense, this is again another example of a statement which contributes to the degredation of values. In most cases, especially in a free country like Great Britain, breaking the law is inherently wrong. Laws are there for a reason, and people should realise this.

...but there is so much peer pressure to take them nowadays that it causes loads more abuse than there should be

Which leads to the crux of my argument. The number of people who are forced to take drugs is very low indeed, and yet enormous numbers – even here in rural Shropshire, bastion of morality – take them. Bolstered by a loyalty to my parents, and a rigid set of moral values, I have never had the slightest difficulty in rejecting such offers. I believe strongly in individual responsibility. The problem is not that people are coerced into taking drugs, but that they see no reason not to. Effective approbation by the state, by means of legalisation, will only enhance that.

To a certain extent, there is very little the state can do but pick up the pieces; it is the duty of parents to instil moral values. Nonetheless, the state retains the ability to make the problem immeasureably worse.

TOM

Of course you are right but both of us are speaking about different ends of the scale and the practical experience make both of them very difficult. If there was no criminalisation then there is a lot to be said for your view but years and years of experience and millions of pounds have been put into trying to catch the gangs that supply the drugs and all it has done is maintained the cache of drugs whilst failing to make a dent in the activities of the criminals. There is a very strong argument for state provision, higher penalties for transgressions, and much improved education as a means to an improved state of nation but it would have to be a very long term view. The practical experience does make your ideal although a laudable aim an extremely difficult one not least because of the extraordinary abilities of criminal gangs to get round the authorities

Jack STONE

If David Cameron is expected to answer if he as taken drugs or not surely someone should ask David Davis the same thing which I have not heard anyone do and expect him to answer as well or are pre-forty year olds the only people presumed to have used drugs!

James Hellyer

Jack,

Ken Clarke, David Davis, Dr Fox and Sir Malcolm Rifkind have all been asked that question. They all answered that they had never used cannabis.

David Taylor

It is noteworthy that MP's (especially new ones) will jump on any camp that they think will enhance their careers. Does anyone expect DC to give a monkeys about all his sycophantic new Tory MP followers. Get a grip you sheep! Since we have lost people like Theresa Goram etc the parliamentary party has looked far more like a mindless lot.

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