Why might Liberal Democrat PPCs and MPs be interested in supporting a motion to control and regulate the manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs?
In 2005 we had the Iraq War to distinguish us from the other political parties. The population respected our taking a stand. We risk going into the next general election with no stand-up-and-take-notice policy that will attract attention to our existing policies which deserve to be taken seriously by the voters.
This is an excerpt from the speech I gave to the LDDPR fringe event at Autumn conference:
“I truly believe we can win this argument. This is what politicians are for: Presenting policies that will improve people's lives and persuading people to vote in their best interests. In a time when faith in politics is all but lost, this is a policy that could certainly not be described as cynical populism. It appeals to the best in people. It asks them to think and to empathise with the people whose lives prohibition is ruining. Yes, some will be scared by it, but others will be so enthused by it that they will join the party and enthusiastically campaign on our behalf. So long as we get our message straight, this policy can reinvigorate interest in all of our policies and allow us that chance of a genuine breakthrough.
I'd like you to imagine standing on a constituent's doorstep presenting a policy that is likely to do the following:
Reduce acquisitive crime by over 50% and domestic burglaries by around 80%. Constituents will like the nice reduction in their insurance premiums that should result.
Allow around two thirds of street prostitutes to leave prostitution, free of the need to fund their drug habit. I should point out that prostitutes suffer post-traumatic stress disorder at 5 times the rate of soldiers returning from Iraq. We can and should save them from their horrific routine.
Reduce overcrowding in existing prisons and save the £2-3bn planned to be spent on building new ones.
Free up tens of thousands of police for community policing and other priorities.
Substantially increase the respect for the police among our nation's youth.
Remove a major criminal career path as an option for these youth's future.
Deprive organised criminals of over £5bn in income.
Increase stability in Latin America and Afghanistan by cutting a considerable source of income from organised criminal gangs and the Taliban.
Allow us to ensure that all people thinking about taking drugs are aware of all the potential health, social and economic consequences of their use.
And virtually eliminate the chances of our young people encountering pushers of hard drugs.
If the constituent's response is “Wow, but how are you paying for all this.” you can say. “Well actually, this policy is projected to save at least £10bn each year.”
I'd now like to present some arguments for the media debate I hope will occur:
Every time a drug trafficking operation is disrupted there may be a temporary reduction in purity and increase in price. This increases the health risks and the criminal activity needed to maintain a habit. Every time a sex trafficking operation is disrupted, you are freeing women from sex slavery. I'd like to ask the moral absolutist prohibitionists where they'd rather their taxes were spent.
While the tories/labour/the daily mail may not intentionally be representing the interests of organised crime and the Taleban, they should understand that the gangsters and terrorists of the world will be hoping and praying that it is the tories/labour/the daily mail and not us that win the argument.
David Cameron has expressed strongly pro-reform views as a backbencher based on the evidence he heard on the Home Affairs Select Committee. Will he now support a policy he believes will effectively tackle many of society's problems, or will he accept the advice of his political advisers and let the people of this nation continue to suffer in the interests of gaining power?
We have the evidence.
We have the weapons and skills to win the arguments.
But does this party have the courage and confidence to stand up and lead?
If, like me, you fear where a conservative government will take our country, I'd suggest we find that courage and find it fast.
There is no great ideological chasm to cross. Rather, the voters are divided into the well-informed, the yet to be well-informed and Melanie Phillips.”
Since I delivered this speech in September, Transform Drug Policy Foundation have released “After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation”, which, in addition to their earlier publication “After the War on Drugs: Tools for the Debate” gives the party a wide array of arguments with which to defend a policy of strictly regulated control, and many tools that will be useful in actively promoting this course of action to the voters.
Chris Huhne recently argued that there are massive problems with reform because of the UN conventions. The Liberal Democrats are famously internationalist. We are firm friends of the EU and the UN. Sometimes a friend has to say “I'm sorry but you are wrong. You're hurting people. We're not going to go along with this anymore.”
With dramatic recent rises in youth unemployment, it is vital that we act soon to prevent another generation getting caught up in the misery of prohibited addiction. Important allies are experiencing similar economic hardship and are being led by relatively liberal governments, a situation that may not be present at an election 5 years from now. There are no other policies that could reduce spending while improving public health, reducing crime, creating jobs, increasing freedom and undermining international criminal gangs and terrorists.
We don't have to fear a political backlash on this issue. Any argument against us would be founded on ignorance or prejudice, and the politician or commentator could be quickly made to look foolish. What we do have to fear is the act of going into a general election campaign with no one policy that neatly sums up our guiding principles. We need to draw a line in the sand. The old politics of Labour and the Conservatives with their focus groups and grasping populism, or the new politics of a Liberal Democrat party having the courage to lead the world in standing up against the criminals sucking the life out of our communities. If we do the right thing, and pronounce this policy with confidence with the supporting evidence presented clearly for all to see, we will gain considerable admiration amongst the population here and abroad, and (perhaps most importantly) we will gain a considerable number of seats.
The motion can be found here along with instructions on how to add your support: http://act.libdems.org.uk/group/liberaldemocratsfordrugpolicyreform/forum/topics/urgent-final-draft-ready-for