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?
*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.