Politicians and the Skeptical Voter

November 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm (government, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Some politicians have rather peculiar views. Often, these views are not informed by evidence. While people will probably remember Tony Blair’s stance on faith schools, they may not recall Peter Hain on Alt Med or Ken Livingstone on MMR. There’s also Nadine Dorries and David Tredinnick. Recently, there was also the case of Alan Johnson and Professor Nutt. Elected politicians are vulnerable, as they can be voted out. This may make it worth lobbying MPs who promote pseudoscience and counterknowledge. It may also be worth looking at how MPs approach evidence in the run-up to the next election.#

I mentioned the case of Professor Nutt, and also the views of Nadine Dorries in my introduction. Well, Dorries has made some rather interesting comments on Twitter today regarding drugs and illegality. Interesting is, of course, being used euphemistically here. Here are some quotes from her Twitter feed:

East East Politics show features The Living Room in Stevenage. Drug Rehab unit with 70% success rate and my iv with Charles Clarke + Lamb.

Lamb made the point that based on statistics, alcohol is more serious than drugs. I’ve never seen anyone selling booze at a school gate. [http://twitter.com/NadineDorriesMP/status/6168531952]

I’ve never heard of anyone stabbing or murdering someone or trafficking for a drink and our Prisons aren’t full of alcoholics. [http://twitter.com/NadineDorriesMP/status/6168961615]

Off licences don’t control housing estates and publicans don’t run brothels, control child prostitutes and fund trafficking from booze.

Abstinence rehab works. Methodone usage up from 1 m scripts to 1.8 in 4 yrs. Druig related crime costs economy 110 billion per year.

Compuls abstinence rehab orders for every offence Strong policy message drugs are illegal, dangerous to individuals and society as a whole.

Dorries makes the point that, despite statistics apparently showing alcohol to be “more serious” (I presume the point being that alcohol causes “more serious harm”), she has never seen anyone selling booze at a school gate. It seems not to have occurred to her that perhaps the reason why she has yet to witness the sale of alcohol outside a school is that alcohol is legal, and controlled – there is little or no motivation to sell alcohol outside the school gates. As long as it is legal to sell alcohol to over-18s in a pub or off-licence, why should anyone risk legal problems by trying to sell alcohol to children at the school gate? It strikes me that, rather than being an argument for keeping drugs illegal this is actually an argument for properly regulating drugs.

I would also argue that Nadine’s personal experience of school gates may not be representative – after all, I went to school for several years myself (believe it or not) and do not recall seeing dealers pushing drugs to children outside the school gates. Perhaps some data would help? If only Nadine were not so evidencephobic, it might be worth discussing the actual incidence of drug-pushing outside schools with her.

Dorries has “never heard of anyone stabbing or murdering someone or trafficking for a drink” – again, this seems to me to be an argument for keeping the supply of drugs out of the hands of criminals. Also, I would make the point that while Nadine may not have heard of anyone killing for a drink there have certainly been many cases where alcohol has been linked to violent crime. In fact, the Home Office website [PDF of Google’s cache: Alcohol-related crime] states that:

  • in nearly half (45%) of all violent incidents, victims believed offenders to be under the influence of alcohol
  • this figure rose to 58% in cases of attacks by people they did not know
  • 37% of domestic violence cases involve alcohol
  • in nearly a million violent attacks in 2007-08, the aggressors were believed to be drunk [(Source: British Crime Survey 2007/08)]

Our Prisons may not be “full of alcoholics”, but there are certainly a number of violent offenders whose crimes have been associated with alcohol. Some of whom are presumably serving prison sentences as I write this.

The point Dorries makes that “Off licences don’t control housing estates and publicans don’t run brothels, control child prostitutes and fund trafficking from booze” is simply a rehash of the argument I have already dealt with – the illegal nature of the drugs Nadine disapproves of and the legal nature of alcohol will almost inevitably lead to a disparity in the crimes associated with each (or at least the nature of the crimes associated with each). If you want to divorce currently illegal drugs from criminals, then regulation rather than criminalisation would seem to be the answer.

“Druig related crime costs economy 110 billion per year.” Okay, and what if drugs were properly regulated instead of being prohibited? How much would drug-related crime cost the economy then? I doubt Nadine has even considered this.*

The final quote includes this: “Strong policy message drugs are illegal, dangerous to individuals and society as a whole.” But does this policy message actually work? We’ve been telling people for years now that drugs are illegal – and that they are dangerous to individuals and society – and it doesn’t seem to have worked. It strikes me that the “strong policy message” that drugs are illegal and dangerous is based on either (a) a moral distaste for the drugs that are currently illegal or (b) fear of what the moralising media, particularly in the form of the red-tops and the Daily Mail, will write about you if you take a different stance. Perhaps it is a mixture of both?

Would you vote for Dorries?

More

*Fortunately, TDPF have. Here is a Comparison of the Cost-effectiveness of the Prohibition and Regulation of Drugs. Their home page is here and there are some publications available for download.

#For skeptical voters who are interested in the approach to evidence taken by their MP, there is a website that is beginning to collect information on that very subject. Here is an index of MPs. Here is the page for Nadine Dorries. Readers may also enjoy the page for David Tredinnick.

Tony Baldry Tony Baldry MP

19 Comments

  1. jdc325 said,

    I mentioned Tredinnick in my post, but neglected to tell you of his views about scientists. Here, you will find quotes to the effect that scientists are:

    ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced too

    So, all you ignorant and racially prejudiced scientists – where are you? I’ve yet to meet or correspond with a scientist who fits that description.

  2. Tweets that mention Politicians and the Skeptical Voter « Stuff And Nonsense -- Topsy.com said,

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Daily Quail and jdc 325, jdc 325. jdc 325 said: Politicians and the Skeptical Voter: Inspired by Nadine Dorries, I take a brief look at the way politicians approac… http://bit.ly/7Kzcbk […]

  3. endlesspsych said,

    It’s worth noting that in Glasgow “murder capital of Western Europe” unlike the Taggart portrayal around half of all murders are alcohol related…

    As for no one selling alcohol at the school gates… well what about alchopops and the like?

  4. uberVU - social comments said,

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jdc325: Politicians and the Skeptical Voter: Inspired by Nadine Dorries, I take a brief look at the way politicians approac… http://bit.ly/7Kzcbk

  5. Grumpy Bob said,

    I am one of Nadine Dorries’ constituents! This constituency is unlikely to elect anyone other than a Conservative…

    Perhaps one might look at the effects of alcohol prohibition in the USA, and the criminality that engendered!

  6. jdc325 said,

    “I am one of Nadine Dorries’ constituents! This constituency is unlikely to elect anyone other than a Conservative…”
    You have my sympathies Bob – does this contribute to your grumpiness, perhaps?

    “Perhaps one might look at the effects of alcohol prohibition in the USA, and the criminality that engendered!”
    Yes, there are probably similar issues with alcohol prohibition then and drug prohibition now – market controlled by gangsters and the associated crime problems plus, e.g., issues of purity.

  7. Zeno said,

    The recent House of Commons Science and Technology Select sub-committee that examined the evidence (or rather the lack of it) for homeopathy was a snigger and a laugh a minute.

    Just think what it would have been like if Dorries had turned up. Yes, she’s on that committee…

  8. draust said,

    I can’t decide whether it was worse having Dorries on the select C’ttee that dealt with Education, where she was previously. The woman is a complete idiot, not to mention a religious loony. Just the person to take a view on any of Education, Skills, Science, Technology, Universities (not – to all of the above).

    Another Epic Fail by the Tory Party brains trust for putting her up there.

  9. jdc325 said,

    @Zeno @draust – thanks for commenting. I’ve just managed to get the video working for today’s evidence check session and am watching it now. Will try to imagine what it would be like with added Dorries.

  10. The incisive arguments of Nadine Dorries | Sim-O said,

    […] Two more posts on the same set of Dorries tweets, the first from JDC325 who has more detail on the figures and stuff, and the second (via JDC325) from Mark Reckons which […]

  11. Mik82 said,

    Has Nadine Dorries actually seen someone dealing drugs at a school gate then?

  12. jdc325 said,

    That’s an excellent question Mik82. I’d ask Nadine, but I don’t think she’d respond. I’ve tried to comment on her blog before, but my comment never made it through moderation. I am also blocked by @NadineDorriesMP on twitter. It seems her preferred response to questioning or criticism is to stick her fingers in her ears and reply with “LA, LA, LA, LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU”. Rather frustrating, and notably different from the approach taken by other politicians such as Lord Drayson – who takes time to answer many of the tweets he receives, whether they are critical or not.

  13. draust said,

    Nadine Dorries doesn’t have to have seen something to believe it with 100% certainty. This is, I assume, the basis of her religious conviction and she appears to apply the same logic (or rather lack of it) to all other areas of her life and beliefs -see (inter alia) the abortion time limit debate, internet hoaxes about late-term abortion, the harm effects of alcohol (this post), and so on – or “etc etc ad nauseam” as Private Eye would say.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t say “evidence-ophobic” so much as “completely reality-ophobic”. And some might even say “Truth-ophobic”, when the truth conflicts with her beliefs.

    I see it as a sign of just how desperate the Cameroonies are not to be seen as the party of (overwhelmingly male) privately-educated wealth and privilege that they have shoved Dorries to the fore. She is the British Sarah Palin, in my opinion.

    I suppose we should probably be relieved that the differences between the UK and the US are such that no-one has suggested Mad Nad as a future Prime Minister.

  14. draust said,

    PS Re Lord Drayson, I think he is one of only two politician to emerge from the Nutt fiasco with his reputation enhanced (at least among scientists), the other being Evan Harris.

  15. Neuroskeptic said,

    Good post. I was amused by this from Mad Nad:

    Drug Rehab unit with 70% success rate and my iv with Charles Clarke + Lamb.

    She was taking i.v. drugs with Charles Clark & Lamb, eh?

  16. Nancy said,

    Real (homeopathic) medicine cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails

  17. Zeno said,

    Yet more spam, Dr Nancy Malik?

  18. grammarking said,

    There’s one thing the skeptical voter does need (and it may exist already, I’ve no idea). There should be a list of votes that were relevant to skeptical voters, together with the date of the vote. Things like the embryology bill, anything on alternative medicine. I wouldn’t mind contributing to the wiki but it’s difficult to find issues on the Public Whip website without knowing what date it happened.

    Before the next general election I’ll be emailing all the Parliamentary candidates in my constituency, but there’s so much that could be done beforehand with just a bit of information.

  19. Health Select Committee – Dorries And Tredinnick « Stuff And Nonsense said,

    […] wrote about Nadine Dorries on drugs last year and used comments made by Dorries on Twitter as the basis of my post. Her responses to […]

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