Drugs and Politics: Can #GE2019 deliver significant policy change?

ParliamentThe nation’s political leaders have been vociferously spouting we have “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to facilitate significant change [for the better] in our society. Unfortunately and so far, I can’t say I’m really that convinced…

As the latest General Election looms ever closer (did you register to vote?), one of my first questions is… give me one good example of where politicians have delivered something that the electorate wanted in the past?

You might need to go back as far as the Representation of the People Act 1918, or Bevan‘s creation of our beloved NHS (1948). Perhaps Peel’s creation of ‘modern’ policing (1829) could also answer the question but increasingly, based upon recent political performances, many have come to believe; the only person that ever entered the Houses of Parliament, with ‘honest’ intent, was Guy Fawkes!

Most if not all our social support structures, like health and the emergency services, which many see as life-saving National Treasures, are also today’s political hot-potatoes. And that’s before you even start to consider any of the issues around poverty, homelessness or children’s and older person’s support services.

In short, our ‘civilised’ society isn’t looking very ‘civil’ or supportive of those most in need at the moment. One area where this is prevalent is our understanding of and response to drugs and addictions,. The [political] policies and process underpinning our view of drugs, and how we support people impacted by addiction, have long been a social and political failing.

The Guardian (Oct 2012) – It’s drugs politics, not drugs policy, that needs an inquiry: The mere word drugs gives every politician the heebie-jeebies and turns libertarians into control freaks. (Simon Jenkins)

All ‘change’ and vision of ‘better’ is subjective… better for who? Especially when any improvements may or may not actually come to fruition. Given the performances and self-interest displayed by so many of our politicians over recent years, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Britain on drugs is where China is on hanging, Saudi Arabia on beating, Russia on censorship and the Taliban on girls’ education. (Simon Jenkins)

If I do live to see tangible ‘change’ or ‘success’ I might end up having to munch on my hat. Any change, assuming it does arrive, will all be dependent upon how well the politicians can match the desires and expectations of the electorate… in delivering results that align with ingrained political allegiances of individuals.

Of all the things on which the world has declared “war” in modern times, self-harming substances must be the daftest. Yet the result has been to destroy millions of lives, expend trillions of dollars, and helplessly corrupt sovereign states, from Afghanistan to Colombia. It is the greatest single failure of modern statecraft. It is the dark ages, and we are still in them. (Simon Jenkins)

I hold some buoyant belief that, thanks to recent noise from many ‘expert’ voices across the drugs and addictions landscape; more politicians (who want votes) are belatedly taking some notice of the comments and available evidence, which to be fair, has been there for years.

Parties set out drug and alcohol manifesto pledges (Drink & Drug News)

Recent publication of political manifesto documents might suggest that political parties finally are getting their acts together. Some are listening to the evidence around the abject folly of their failed War on Drugs. Or, perhaps it is due to being smacked in the face with spreadsheets full of statistics about the horrific increase in violent crime and drug related deaths.

Irrespective of the interesting offerings so far, positive drug policy change still appears to be a little lacking amongst (some) manifesto documents? The (Stop Brexit) Liberal Democrats, the (Eco Friendly / People’s Referendum) Greens and the Labour Party, who are marketing some of their “Real Change” rhetoric, have all published (at the time of this post). All we need now is the  “Get Brexit Done” crowd at the Conservative Party to publish their missive.

Despite the Labour Party telling us “it’s time for real change” much that could have been said on drug policy appears to be missing, that alone is somewhat surprising.

Labour should be the party that shouts the loudest about the need for drug reform. Their political ideology should see drug reform as an opportunity to stand out from the rest of the field. (VoltFace)

So, the Green Party intends to “repeal the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971” and “pardon those already convicted of small-scale drug possession”. The ‘Greens’ manifesto (correctly) argues that the “prohibition of drug use has caused many more problems than it has solved” – probably to thunderous applause from so many who know.

If elected, the Greens say they would regard problematic drug use “as a health issue, not a crime”. Laudable and correct but… the chances of them securing enough votes to form a majority Government are probably relatively slim.

In Scotland, with the greatest number of drug-related deaths in the UK (and Europe), the Scottish National Party previously announced that they would formally back “decriminalisation of possession and consumption of controlled drugs” in their recent annual conference (see here).

Across in Wales, Plaid Cymru, the self-styled ‘Party of Wales’ say within their manifesto;  “Reform on drug laws would be pursued, with the party establishing a national commission to examine changing legislation on drug dependency.”

Irrespective of all the undoubted need for significant environmental, economic, social and political change; most if not all any difference will be totally reliant upon leadership, honesty, integrity and capability of delivery, from whichever political party ascends to office. Always assuming any one of their leaders can secure the majority required to govern.

My fingers firmly crossed eh!

Addendum 24th Nov 219: So Boris Johnson has vowed to ‘forge a new Britain’ as the Conservatives launched their manifesto (see here) however; I’m struggling to find any news (so far) that suggests they might be looking at new/improved policy to support people with addictions, rather than criminalise them. Perhaps more will become clear in time?

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