Britain’s drug problem: Compassion vs Coercion

Britain’s drug problem: Compassion vs Coercion

Compassion, not coercion, is the answer to Britain’s drug problem.

Over the last two weeks, the main talking point in British politics has been the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage concerning the issue of Europe. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage came off far better, and Clegg was largely left mumbling about how Farage either loves Putin or was a conspiracy theorist who thought Elvis was still alive. It was clear that the two men are not obvious political allies, and that they are divided on almost every issue. I say almost, because there is one area on which the two men find consensus: drug policy reform.

Farage declared that the war on drugs had been lost ‘many, many years ago’, and that he supported full decriminalisation. I never thought that I would say this, but bravo Mr Farage. Completely at odds with his party, the Ukip leader has bravely gone exactly where he should be going. Ukip advertises itself as a Libertarian Party, and by supporting full decriminalisation of drugs in the UK, Farage is showing that this claim might not be totally off the mark. I’ve always been sceptical of the claim that Ukip were Libertarians, it seemed to me that they were Libertarian about issues they wanted to be (environment and taxation) and not so much about issues they didn’t want to be (same-sex marriage and drug legalisation), but perhaps with the announcement that Farage does support same-sex marriage, followed by this new announcement, they will soon genuinely be able to make that claim.

Likewise, in February of this year, Clegg announced, after a visit to Columbia, that, ‘if you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform’. Impressively, Clegg became the first party leader to stand up against our failed drug policy and say that things needed to change. Although some may see this as an attempt to differentiate the Lib-Dems from the Conservatives in the run-up to the general election, it is, without doubt, a step in the right direction. The general public have realised that British Drug laws aren’t working, with the majority of people agreeing that government’s approach to illegal drugs is ineffective, and now politicians are beginning to realise too.

I think that most people agree that drugs are an awful stain on our society, but this does not mean that criminalisation is the answer. People die at the hands of these drugs, but there is no evidence to suggest that making them illegal means that fewer people will take them. The country that spends the most money, by far, on its anti-drugs campaign is the United States, and yet, it leads the table for the highest cocaine use in the world, it leads the table for the highest cannabis use in the world, and it leads the table for the most people in prison for drug use in the world. Why? Wouldn’t you expect, given the amount of money that is spent on keeping people from using drugs, that the rates of abuse would be much lower? Portugal is another interesting case study. In 2001, drug use was decriminalised across the country, and yet, its annual prevalence of cocaine use is 0.3% compared to the US’ 2.8%, and its annual prevalence of cannabis use is 7.6% compared to the US’ 51.6%. Put simply, the United States’ drug laws are not working, but Portugal’s are. The United Kingdom is not far behind the United States, being third in the world for cocaine use and ninth in the world for cannabis use.

Some may argue that Portugal’s drug use has always been lower than that of the United States (or the UK), and that the decriminalisation was not what made the difference, but rather a difference of culture. The statistics again show that this is untrue. Portugal’s reformed policy lead to a reduction in drug related deaths, a reduction in drug use among teenagers, an increase uptake of treatment programs, and a reduction in HIV deaths due to shared needles. What we have seen in Portugal is not a wave of new drug users who have been enticed by their decriminalisation, as we have been warned about by our government, we have not seen more people dying as we have been told there would be, and we have not seen more young people turning to drugs. What we have been told is simply wrong.

So, what is the answer? Compassion and care for drug users. We need to treat drug use, not drug users, as the problem. We need to offer treatment and advice, and try to make sure people are not in a bad enough state that they resort to drug use in the first place. We know the causes of drug abuse, and we know that people in poverty are much more likely to resort to using hard drugs. Income inequality is another factor behind drug use; we know that the worse a country scores on the Gini Coefficient (a measurement of income inequality), the more likely they are to have a drug-taking population. Interestingly, one country that bucks the trend here is Portugal, where there is high income inequality yet low drug use. Any guesses as to why?

The British political landscape is changing. In 2010, we saw the first hung parliament since 1974, showing that the people of the UK are disillusioned with the main two political parties. The smaller parties are rising fast, and these are the parties who are pushing for radical drug law reform. It is only so long until the main parties catch up. I say, the sooner, the better.

 

Sam Glover

Clegg’s Conscious Uncoupling

Clegg’s Conscious Uncoupling

The debate political hacks were waiting for, Clegg Vs Farage on EU membership treated viewers and listeners to a spectacle generating more heat than light. Both sides were in combative mood. Farage playing the ‘I’m a real man’ act, not part of the ‘Westminster bubble’, ‘I feel the pain of ordinary hard-working people’. Whilst Clegg presented himself as a numbers man ready to undermine UKIP hyperbole on immigration and champion common sense liberal values over political scaremongering. Political pundits and pollsters now begin the work of

chewing over the audience response. So who won it? Well there are no losers. Both win, some polls place Farage ahead but Clegg probably doesn’t mind very much.  A closer look at Clegg’s strategy shows us that he is not after the Farage vote, like Paltrow, Clegg is going through a conscious uncoupling of his own.  Read more

Tories plan to scrap the Human Rights Act

Tories plan to scrap the Human Rights Act

The Conservatives plan to scrap the Human rights Act

After World War Two the European Convention of Human Rights was created to prohibit any breach of our basic human rights. This was a convention signed by European countries, so in order for it to be enforced you had to take the long road to Strasbourg for a decision to be made. The Human Rights Act was passed in 1998 so the UK could clarify and safeguard the rights of its people through bringing the ECHR on UK statute. Examples of these rights include the right to life and the right to a fair trial.

Theresa May vowed to scrap the Human Rights Act back in September should the Tories win the next general election. The Home Secretary also spoke of a new Immigration Bill that would allow an easier deportation if there was no risk of serious harm to the deportee. It is understood that this is a reaction to the extensive effort to deport hate preacher Abu Qatada. Considering the consequences, Theresa May confirmed the Conservative Party are also prepared to leave the European Convention of Human Rights if necessary. In 2011, David Cameron suggested the repeal of the Human Rights Act. Cameron proposed the UK should have its own British Bill of Rights similar to the United States that would result in an entrenched law in our seemingly uncodified constitution, however it seems those plans are now on the back burner. The Conservatives were never particularly in favour of the Act and it is probably the Liberal Democrats that have been their major obstacle in trying to remove it.

The Labour Party has completely supported the Human Rights Act since its inception in 1998. Labour MP Sadiq Khan has been very open in defending The Human Rights Act as well as criticising the “myths” (as he describes) surrounding it. The Liberal Democrats share the same view to Labour.  In March 2007, Lord Lester (Lib Dem peer) was quoted in the House of Lords that the act has “strong Lib Dem support”. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also defended The Human Rights Act claiming it protects the vulnerable.

Should Labour or the Lib Dems (highly unlikely) gain a majority in 2015 then we can expect little or no change to the Human Rights Act. However, if the Conservatives win with a majority we could see a drastic change in the way our rights are defined in this country.

 

Harry Camci

The Timeline of the UK’s Uncodified Constitution

The Timeline of the UK’s Uncodified Constitution

Timeline of the UK’s constitutional changes

The role of a constitution is to organise, distribute and regulate state power. By doing so, the constitution creates the structure of the state and sets out the principles of governing for the state’s citizens, whilst also outlining the role of government. Britain is unusual in that it has an ‘unwritten’ constitution. Unlike the great majority of countries, such as the USA, there is no single legal document which sets out in one place the fundamental laws outlining how the state works. Thus, Britain’s lack of a ‘written’ constitution is often explained via its history. In other countries, many of whom have experienced revolution (E.G. France) or regime change, it has been necessary to start from scratch or begin from first principles, constructing new state institutions and defining in detail their relations with each other and their citizens.

The British Constitution has evolved over a long period of time, reflecting the relative stability of the British Government. Britain has never truly been close to a written constitution, although the Liberal Democrats portray their great interest as shown in their wish for a political reform whereby Britain becomes codified. The Lib Dem’s pledge that they  ”will involve the people in producing a written constitution” evidently indicates they are oblivious to the fact that Britain is not susceptible to change, particularly when it is mostly producing a strong government. Of course, there is the other matter that parties and politicians are infamous for failing to keep their promises made before the elections, lets see, tuition fees, tax cut for millionaires, mansion tax - hence, another major reason citizens may lack faith in the Liberal Democrat’s desire for a codified constitution.

 

Presently, what Britain obtains is an accumulation of various statutes, conventions, judicial decisions and treaties which collectively can be referred to as the British Constitution. Today we now refer to Britain’s constitution as an ‘uncodified’ constitution, rather than an ‘unwritten’ one. By accurate definition, an uncodified constitution means there is no single document which explains how we are governed. Instead constitutional experts point to a number of treaties, laws and conventions (another word for ‘habits’) which together make up the constitution. These include:

Read more

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th January 2014

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 13th-19th January 2014

Parliament Roundup – 13/01/14-19/01/14

 

Labour Speech

This week, Labour leader Ed Miliband and his shadow ministers will make speeches for the electorate in order to announce Labour’s upcoming plans. The speeches are designed to broaden the debate away from spending and the deficit. Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds made a speech on Tuesday reemphasising on Labour’s plans to build more than 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next Parliament in 2020 by stressing that we need to increase social housing. However, this might prove tricky for Labour as they will have to allow more borrowing in order to reach this ambitious goal. This goal in particular might be seen as Ed Miliband’s way of proving that Labour is not just about short term goals such as his established energy price freeze.

Euro sceptics unsatisfied

 

95 of Conservative backbenchers have recently signed a vote for the law to be changed for the House of Commons to veto new EU regulations. There has been much recent disagreement with this vote and William Hague recently said that it’s unrealistic to give every country a veto on EU law. The main issue is that the euro sceptics will never be satisfied by any of Cameron’s actions towards the European Union. It is very obvious that our relationship with Europe isn’t working but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should back out when we feel like it and tie the House Commons down with every EU law that is put in place. We can’t join an international treaty and then simply pick and choose what we like and what we don’t like, the whole point of being in union with Europe is to work together and compromise on some issues.  We also need to trust that Cameron is doing the best he can and we should simply let the people decide in 2017 in Cameron’s referendum promise whether or not they want to stay in the EU. Making the House of Commons veto every single EU regulation will not solve the deep underlying issues which Britain need to sort out with the EU.

PMQs

Ed Miliband and other members of his party have realised that there have been a slight decline in the number of people watching PMQs due to the programme becoming too much like a ‘Punch and Judy Show’ (starring himself and David Cameron). Therefore Miliband is attempting to act more civilized and ordered. So as to doing this, he is trying to find some areas where he and Cameron agree on certain issues. This was visible on Wednesday’s PMQs where Miliband, instead of beginning his questions rather loudly and impatiently towards Cameron, acted in a more ‘professional’ manner. We will see how long it will all last before his tantrums about the Cost of Living Crisis begins again

Miliband questioned Cameron about The Royal Bank of Scotland asking the government to approve bonuses to 100% on multi million pound salaries. It seemed like he was willing to talk about this issue in an orderly manner whereas Cameron resulted to attacking him again about the failures of the labour government to handle the issues with RBS. David Cameron even went as far as stating that Miliband should be apologising of the mess that they made of RBS in the first place.

Other News

- David Cameron will announce that the government will give new incentives to allow shale gas/fracking development .Councils will get more than 1.7 million pounds a year for these sites. See the Guardian for more detail

 

Gloria Ganda

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers: 5th-12th January 2014

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers: 5th-12th January 2014

Woodhouse Pick of the Papers (5/01/2014 – 12/01/2014)

Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus.

1.  Political Parties must be reformed: they are the best ways of delivering democracy.

source: The Guardian

Politics Topic: (Democracy and Participation)

Summary: Voters are engaged with issues that affect them and do want to get involved, but they are turned off by how politics is implemented in Parliament as well as the adversarial parliamentary style in the House of Lords. All of this has to change, writes the Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umuna.

Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron, 2011

2. Miliband’s enemies’ don’t know what to make of him- the trouble is, neither his friends.

Source: The New Statesman

Politics topic: Party, Policies and Ideas

Summary: Miliband has split the Conservative opinion on him, whether he is dangerous to them or just outright ridiculous. Optimists write him off while pessimists respects him. But his own cabinet don’t know what goes through his mind and don’t know if he can connect with the public to win the next election.

3. If the Tories lose the next election, Clegg must leave with them.

Source: The New Statesmen

Politics topic: Party, Policies and Ideas

Summary: If the Tories do lose the next election in 2015, and the Liberals do swap sides with Labour, there must be a price to pay which they must pay otherwise it would offend the essential order of our democracy as Nick Clegg has become a ‘poodle’ to the Tories.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg visit Wandsworth Day Nursery on 19 March 2013

4. House of Lords warned not to ‘ignore the public’s wishes’ on EU referendum

Source: The Independent

Politics Topic: House of Lords

Summary: The House of Lords has been warned by Conservatives that if they block the bid to put a referendum into the public’s hand they would be in a difficult situation as a unelected chamber is not representative of the people’s voice .


5. Will social media change the way Scotland votes?

Source: BBC News Politics

Politics topic: Democracy/Referendum

Summary: Joe Twyman, director of political and social research at Yougov, believes the role of social media is “overplayed”, with most people still relying on television, radio and newspapers for information. In the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, 16 and 17-year-olds will be allowed to participate in the vote.

Click to read more on study that suggests most 16/17 year olds would vote ‘no’

Kevin Augustine

Weekly Parliament Roundup:4th-11th December 2013

Weekly Parliament Roundup:4th-11th December 2013

Parliament Roundup: 4/12/13-11/12/13

MPs to receive 11% pay rise:

Click for a video explanation

IPSA(Independent Parliament Standards Authority) have recently proposed to provide MPs with a pay rise of 11% which will increase their salary to £74,000. They have stated that there will be changes to the pension scheme which will save tax payer 2.5 billion pounds if the rise is to take place. Even though this might be seen as a great thing for the MPs, lots of them are scared to state publicly that they think it is a good idea. The main issue with this proposal is that it might be the wrong time to make such high rises in MP’s salaries when other public sectors are facing difficult freezes. However, of this proposal is to go ahead, it will take legislation in 2015 to stop this from occurring.

The public might not like the sound of the proposal at first because many might feel that the MPs don’t deserve such a high pay rise as they have failed to improve costs of living. Despite this, the huge worry for IPSA and for several MPs is that the public won’t fully understand the fact that this will not affect them in any major way. This money will not be taken out of the tax payer’s pockets and in fact, it might even aid them. This proposal will also mean that there might be tougher regulations on expenses.

Shadow Red Ed

Following George Osborne’s autumn statement stating that ‘Britain’s economic plan is working’ and that ‘The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts’, Ed Balls made one of the most disastrous responses which led him to be mocked by Osborne and the rest of the opposition. In his response, he stated that Labour was winning the economic argument despite being contradicted by recent polls. Despite this, he has recently stated that he’s not bothered at all about the gossip about his performance in House of Commons and he also refuses to accept the fact that his response was weak. David Cameron also attempted to throw an attack at him again in this week’s PMQs by saying that ‘He can dish it out but he can’t take it.’ 

Click here for more detail on Cameron’s argument

 

Tributes to Mandela

After the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Parliament paid tribute to the iconic figure on Monday. All parties stressed upon the fact that he’s legacy will stay imminent in our lives. David Cameron also talked about Mandela’s strength of character and mentioned the fact that progress is not won by people accept the way things are but dreaming of what it can be. Cameron,Clegg and Miliband went to Johannesburg for Mandela’s memorial service on earlier on this week and Prince Charles will be attending the funeral on Sunday.

PMQs

This week’s PMQs saw the return of Cameron Vs Miliband on another round of Cost of living, only this time the debate was dominated by the 11% proposed pay rise for MPs which Ed Miliband used to strengthen his argument of course. Mr Miliband asked Cameron that if given the current living standards issues among families should MPs receive a pay rise. Surprisingly, the two men agreed on the fact that these proposals were in fact unacceptable and Cameron reemphasized the fact that these decision weren’t finally. After a few seconds of agreement, Cameron once again played the blame game and replied to Miliband’s request to work together on the issue by saying that the Conservatives are still left with the mess that Labour has left behind.

 

Gloria Ganda

 

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers: 25th November-1st December 2013

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers: 25th November-1st December 2013

Pick Of The Papers (25/11/13-1/12/13)

Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus.

1. Powerful swing voters say Labour lacks vision – and that the Tories are still nasty.

Source: The Independent

Politics Topic: Parties Policies and Ideas

Summary: Voters in four key marginals were asked about the two main parties – neither came out well. Voters believe that Miliband lacks vision to become a future prime minister as his policy of an “energy freeze” is nothing more than a “sweetener” as well as the Conservatives due swing voters believing that they “favour the rich” and are associated with “cuts”.

ALevelPolitics Help: Labour leading in YouGov poll but Cameron claims Miliband’s policies are “weak”

 

2. George Osborne: Boris Johnson is wrong to say low IQs were to blame for people who struggle to get on

Source: The Telegraph Party

Politics Topic: Policies and Ideas

Summary: Chancellor says he does ‘not agree’ with the comments the Mayor of London made arguing that because people have varying IQs economic equality is impossible. In a speech at the Margaret Thatcher lecture last week Mr Johnson suggested that economic equality will never be possible which some have suggested that he is Margaret Thatcher’s Heir. Mr Osborne has been the first Conservative to distance himself from the Mayor of London.

Boris Johnson tells George Osborne to cut NI and 50p tax

 

3. Cameron warned to protect green policies or risk party split

Source: The Telegraph

Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas

Summary: The Prime Minister has been told by a group of his own MPs that he risks division within the Conservative party if he waters down green policies to please the Right.

ALevelPolitics Help: Can Cameron claim a green government? 

 

4. The Lib Dems’ shift left could be more dangerous for the Tories than Labour

Source: The New Statesman

Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas

Summary: With the Tories his party’s main electoral foe, Clegg is seeking to woo the One Nation voters alienated by the Conservatives’ UKIP tendency. Any Labour/Lib Dem coalition after the next election is likely to be based upon common agreement in the policy areas of tax, the environment and housing. This is good news for Labour as Lib Dem voters believe that those three main areas plus jobs are the four key principles in the 2015 manifesto.

Clegg is seeking to woo One Nation voters.

 

5. Tories deny seeking Big Six energy price freeze

Source: The Independent

Politics Topic: Party Policies and Ideas

Summary: Downing Street is on the back foot over Ed Miliband’s energy price freeze policy as Labour suggests that the government is in disarray over energy freezes over energy companies stating that ministers asked them to halt energy price rises as well as condemning Labour for calling for energy freezes as they are a “con”.

ALevelPolitics Help: Cameron’s Dilemma 

 

Kevin Augustine

 

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 20th-27th November 2013

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 20th-27th November 2013

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 20th -27th November 

      

Cameron to take on Brussels:

A Liberal Democrat cabinet minister shared concerns that David Cameron is prepared to take on Brussels by imposing tougher conditions on European migrants. The minister claimed and stressed upon the fact that any rules on migrants’ eligibility to welfare payments should be discussed with all members of the European Union.  David Cameron wants to extend the time that migrants stay in the UK before they are eligible to receive welfare payments. He believes that this would be the best way to ensure that the migrants don’t take advantage of the welfare system which is put in place to help genuine citizens in need. However, he will need an agreement and permission from the EU to do this but it is not obvious on how the conditions will be imposed.

PMQs:

 

In this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions there was an ongoing battle between Cameron and Miliband in regards to payday lenders and the cost of living crisis, including the proposed 20 month energy price freeze by Labour. When Ed Miliband attempted to attack Mr Cameron on the current payday lenders issue, the Prime Minister attacked back harder by stating that there are ‘dreadful practices’ which take place within the payday lenders industries and for 30 years, Labour has done nothing about it. The fact that the Conservatives are taking action on the payday lenders issue might highlight Labour’s inability to take action on their plans. More importantly, Mr Cameron pointed out that Mr Miliband has never asked a question in regards to payday lenders during for three years and it is only when it becomes an arising issue that Miliband feels the need to take an opportunity to begin questioning Mr Cameron’s intentions on the issue.

More Bobbies on the Beat:

There is to be a report on the future of policing in England and Wales which will recommend that there should be more guaranteed Bobbies on the beat in neighbourhoods. Labour asked Lord Stephens to carry out the enquiry and it will call for more neighbouring policing. Miliband stated that the report’s outcomes will be important for ‘helping communities and tackling crime’. In addition to this, it will also restrict the use of private company policing.

Scottish Independence:

On Tuesday 26th , Scotland unveiled its blueprint for an Independent Nation. In the document, it states that an Independent Scotland would keep the British pound, have the Queen as a monarch, stay in in the EU and have access to the BBC. In addition, an independent Scotland would have its own defence force and even collect its own taxes. On top of all this, there are various other changes which Scotland also wishes for but the big question is, would an independent Scotland truly be independent? The very fact that they want to keep the British pound and the Queen as a monarch might slightly imply that Scotland doesn’t want to fully let go of the tight bond and benefits it has gained from being united with England. However, the document might be the first step for Scotland to achieve the freedom that they evidently wish for.

Labour tied to the Co-op Bank:

Despite the recent scandals that have been tied to the Co-operative bank, Labour can’t seem to get out of the trap of defending them when attacked about the issue by the Conservatives. The bank is one of the main major funders of the Labour party and it has been recently claimed that the party are heavily dependent on the bank for funding.  Labour can’t actually deny support of this bank since their other major funders are trade unions and as they have recently been questioning trade union bosses, they can’t make the wrong move as they might lose both major funding sources. As a result of the issue, the Conservatives have found the perfect opportunity to keep questioning the Labour party about the Co-op bank as this will eventually make them weaker and weaker. The Conservatives don’t really know what they’re after with this but as long as Miliband gets a taste of his own interrogation medicine, Cameron will be just fine.

 

Gloria Ganda