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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Julian Huppert

I Have Had The Most Terrible Post-Election Nightmare.

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Libdem leaders

Julian Huppert, Norman Baker, Lynne Featherstone

Our principal allies on the Liberal Democrat benches have all lost their seats.

Quickly now, the government will be formed.  No surprise that Theresa May has already been reappointed Home Secretary but who will the junior Home Office ministers be?

Brokenshire may leave for another department.  He’s probably due for a promotion.  It would be very good to see the back of him.  Who will the Crime Prevention Minister be?  Within that portfolio rests responsibility for drugs.

This is when the nightmare struck.  Key candidates for Home Office ministers will be backbenchers who have sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee.  I hardly dare write his name in case it puts ideas in Cameron’s mind – Michael Ellis.

Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis

Ellis is a hard line prohibitionist, anti-drugs, anti-liberty, anti-science, criminal barrister with a particular record of boorish behaviour during PMQs.  He’s a junior barrister working out of chambers in Northampton and he thinks that his experience with a few scumbag dealers qualifies him to know all about drugs policy.

The idea is a nightmare.  Cameron will see his increased number of seats as vindication of all past policies so he may well go further to the right.  I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps we will get some young MP with a brain in his head and an eye for the free market economy that is blossoming in Colorado and elsewhere.  Let’s hope so.

There’s also the new members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Who will they be?  We need to get to know them and present our case.

We must re-design, re-target, re-focus and refine our campaign for our new audience – Tory ministers are our most important targets.

Our messages must be developed for Tory eyes. More focus on the free market, profit opportunities, public expenditure savings.  And our tactics must work with Tories as well.  There is even less room now for the self-defeating tactics of protest, civil disobedience and flaunting alternative lifestyles in a way that distracts from our very powerful arguments.  Such tactics might cause a right-wing backlash now.

Instead of being self-obsessed, as so much of the cannabis campaign is, if we want to be effective we must see things through the eyes of our target audiences, look outward not in, recognise that preaching to the choir achieves little.  It is people who don’t agree with our cause that we must talk to and it is to their standards that we must dress and behave if we want to influence them.

Now, more than ever before, we need to be smart about the way we campaign for cannabis law reform.  We do have allies in the Tory party and the worldwide momentum continues to build.

A few adjustments on the tiller are necessary but we remain on course.  Let’s just be sure we adjust our sails and our technique for the new weather.

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Why I Have Joined the Liberal Democrats.

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Coalition first 100 days

In my view the only rational choice for the next UK government is another Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

The Labour Party is simply a joke.  Miliband is an out-of-touch, Hampstead-socialist buffoon who was part of the team whose reckless borrowing meant that the banking crisis destroyed this country’s economy.  It is ludicrous that we should even consider giving the same people another chance.

Cameron is an oily, two-faced oaf who has transformed the Conservative Party into the Bullingdon Club Party, dominated by out-of-touch posh boys with quasi-fascists like Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling as their attack dogs.

The only redeeming factor about the Tories is a basic competence in managing the economy. Osborne knows what he is doing but left unrestrained he would devastate our society: trashing the benefits system, care for the disabled and access to justice.

We must have the decent, fair, rational and conscientious Liberal Democrats in government with the Tories. Crucially they must hold out for a much tougher coalition agreement which will see the disgusting policies of Duncan Smith and Grayling reversed.  I think it’s too much to hope that we will see the back of Theresa May but definitely, in my area of special interest, the Liberal Democrats will insist on drugs policy reform.  The evidence-free, prejudice-based, self-defeating and cruel drugs policies of the past must be overturned. They have caused too much harm, suffering and promoted the interests of organised crime and the alcohol industry over common sense and the national interest.

So, in February I joined the Liberal Democrats. I was free to do so because that month the CLEAR Executive Committee resolved that we would no longer be a political party. An explanation of that decision is here.

My decision had a lot to do with drugs policy but, as I have explained above, was considered across the wider issues.  I think it reflects the fact that the LibDems are less ideologically-driven, more rational, evidence-based and fair in their policies.  All my life I have been a Tory voter for the crucial values of individual liberty, regulated free markets and opposed to the cloying, repressive ideas of socialism and the overbearing state – but the Tories have lost their way, their moral compass and their integrity.  I will never, ever vote Tory again.

CLEAR has worked closely with the LibDems since I first led a delegation of medicinal cannabis users to meet Norman Baker, then drugs minister, in July 2014.  Just a few weeks later he publicly called for a change in policy on medicinal cannabis, the most significant breakthrough in the UK cannabis campaign for nearly 50 years.  This year we have worked closely with Nick Clegg’s team and the LibDem manifesto incorporated CLEAR’s policy on medicinal cannabis word for word.  I had the privilege of personally briefing him on medicinal cannabis just a few weeks ago.  Julian Huppert, Norman Lamb and Lynne Featherstone, also LibDems, have been of great help to the CLEAR campaign and demonstrated outstanding sincerity, honesty and commitment, uncommon qualities amongst politicians.  Personally, I also greatly admire the courage of LibDem David Ward in standing against Israeli war crimes and in support of Palestine.

On the narrow issue of drugs policy, once again, Labour is a joke.  It doesn’t have one.  With a few honourable exceptions, such as Paul Flynn, David Winnick and Bob Ainsworth, the party is stuck in reefer madness, terrorised by tabloid editors and prefers prejudice and scare stories to science and evidence.  The Tories have more individuals who support reform but the party as a whole is in a corrupt relationship with the alcohol industry and also terrorised by the tabloid press.

As far as the Greens are concerned, yes they have a sensible drugs policy (originally drafted, in fact, by Derek Williams, my colleague on the CLEAR Executive Committee) but they have no chance of any influence in the new government.  Caroline Lucas did a good job on getting the drugs debate in Parliament last year but I cannot support her party’s bizarre behaviour in the illiberal ‘No More Page 3’ censorship and fracking campaigns.  The Green’s attitude to fracking is as evidence-free and based on prejudice as is Labour’s attitude to cannabis.  Also, CLEAR gave the Greens an opportunity to present their drugs policy to our supporters but despite repeated efforts they couldn’t get it together.  By contrast, the LibDems welcomed us enthusiastically and at the highest level.

I am a Eurosceptic LibDem, which is unusual.  In fact, I voted for UKIP in the last European elections and although the party itself is confused on the issue, I have talked with Nigel Farage in person at length on drugs policy and he is progressive, intelligent and pragmatic on the subject.

CISTA, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol party?  Well, I know a number of the candidates personally and I would recommend voting for them in constituencies where the LibDems stand no chance. Overall though the party is a waste of Paul Birch’s money and I can say that with the experience of CLEAR’s 16 years as a political party.  It’s great that they are bringing some attention to the campaign but it’s a futile strategy and Birch has spurned all efforts at support and assistance from CLEAR.  Had he even returned our calls we would have endorsed and promoted CISTA candidates in some constituencies.

So in conclusion, for drugs policy reform, particularly for access to medicinal cannabis, but also for a fairer society where policy is based on evidence and compassion rather than prejudice and vested interests, vote Liberal Democrat!

A Day In Cambridge On Drugs.

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Homerton College, Cambridge.

Homerton College, Cambridge.

George and Dean were where I expected them to be.  In the car park, ‘medicating’ in order to get them through a long afternoon.

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) Drugs Conference took place in the delightful surroundings of Homerton College, Cambridge.  I know there were several others there who were only able to make it because they committed criminal offences in order to maintain their health.  I attended with George Hutchings and Dean Price, leading members of the CLEAR Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel.

Almost everybody who is anybody in UK drugs policy was there and while there were no groundbreaking new revelations or ideas, it was an important occasion.  It marked the current position of the debate on drugs policy in Britain at the end of the first coalition government since 1945. As Keith Vaz, chair of the HASC, said, the conference will influence the drugs policy agenda in the next government.

I know I wasn’t the only person who lobbied in advance for medicinal cannabis to be included in the conference programme.  It wasn’t but what was of enormous significance was that it was probably the single issue mentioned most often, time and time again in fact, throughout the day. I trust that the committee will take this on board and ensure that in any future event, it is given proper attention.

Dr Julian Huppert MP; Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister;Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Danny Kushlick

Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Baroness Molly Meacher, Danny Kushlick

It’s no good saying it’s a health issue because until the Home Office releases its stranglehold on the throats of the thousands who need medicinal cannabis, it’s the HASC that needs to hold the government to account. CLEAR estimates that around one million people already use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the UK.  This equates closely to the proportion of medicinal users in jurisdictions where there is some degree of legal access.

Julian Huppert mentioned medicinal cannabis in his review of the HASC’s work, confirming that the Liberal Democrats have adopted the policy advanced by CLEAR almost word for word.

Baroness Molly Meacher made an impassioned plea for medicinal cannabis access in her address, expressing her anger and outrage that people are denied the medicine they need.

Jonathan Liebling, of United Patients Alliance, and I also raised the issue independently in questions from the floor. I also dealt with Professor Neil McKeganey’s attempt to dismiss the issue.  He claimed that there are perfectly satisfactory procedures for licensing medicines.  I explained how cannabis cannot be regulated like single-molecule pharmaceutical products and gave a brief description of research on the ‘entourage effect’.

The Home Office minister, Lynne Featherstone, gave the keynote speech and I was delighted that she chose to mention her meeting ten days ago with a CLEAR medicinal users delegation.

David Nutt was as wise and authoritative as ever . Then Neil McKeganey launched into an entertaining rant about how the conference programme, the speakers and delegates were massively biased in favour of reform.  He claimed that this was not a proper reflection of the evidence or nationwide opinion.

I like Neil, even though we are on opposite sides of the debate. In fact, at events like this I prefer to engage with the opposition rather than back-slapping and self-affirming chats with those on the side of reform. I also had good informal discusions with David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance and Sarah Graham, the magnet-wielding addiction therapist.

Tom Lloyd’s speech was inspiring.  He also made a powerful case for medicinal cannabis and as ex-chief constable of Cambridge, it was extraordinary to see him lambast the new drug driving law as “…outrageous…unjust…will criminalise people who are in no way impaired…”

The final speech was given by Mike Trace, chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who is deeply involved in preparing for the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on drugs policy.

So, a fascinating and worthwhile day.  All we need to do now is get through the General Election.  In about two months we will know where we are and unless we have the disaster of a Tory or Labour majority government, then drug policy reform should be high on the agenda.

“War On Drugs Has Failed, Say Former Heads Of MI5, CPS And BBC”, The Daily Telegraph, 21st March 2011

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The “war on drugs” has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Drug availability and use has increased with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin

Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.

Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.

The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.

The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.

It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.

Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.

The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.

The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher – who is also chairman of an NHS trust – told The Daily Telegraph: “Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities.

“In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished.

“We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of young people’s drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”

Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said: “I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster.

“This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don’t know what the right answer is – I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”

Other high-profile figures in the group include Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007; Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair; Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions; and Lord Walton of Detchant, a former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council.

Current MPs on the group include Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher; Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade; and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.

The group’s formation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which paved the way for a war on drugs by describing addiction as a “serious evil”, attempting to limit production for medicinal and scientific uses only, and coordinating international action against traffickers.

The peers and MPs say that despite governments “pouring vast resources” into the attempt to control drug markets, availability and use has increased, with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in 2008.

By Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent

They believe the trade in illegal drugs makes more than £200 billion a year for criminals and terrorists, as well as destabilising entire nations such as Afghanistan and Mexico.

As a result, the all-party group is working with the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, to review current policies and scientific evidence in order to draw up proposed new ways to deal with the problem.