Before I start writing this, I just want to point everyone in the direction of the comments to my Joe The Barbarian post. There’s some fantastic stuff there, and I’m just sorry I’ve not been online enough to engage in that discussion more. It’s comment threads like that that make the ridiculous amount of time I spend on this worthwhile.
A couple of days ago, two teenagers died. This is, unequivocally, a bad thing. It’s also not, unfortunately, that unusual.
These two teenagers were, by all accounts, taking methadone, a highly dangerous opiate. They were also, apparently, drinking a large amount of alcohol – which is not only dangerous in itself, but which when combined with methadone can lead to respiratory problems and even death. They were also taking a substance called mephedrome (4-methylmethcathinone) but which the press, for God only knows what reason, are referring to as ‘miaow miaow’ (a large number of people have as a result also been asking if they’d been taking yellow bentines or clarky cat) – an amphetamine-type stimulant. It is suspected that one or more of these substances may have contributed to their deaths.
So far, so reasonable. It’s the kind of thing that happens all too often, but it *does* happen, and there appears very little we can do about it.
The press, however, have been stating that ‘miaow miaow’ – and that alone – *definitely* killed these two people. This is entirely possible – having spent a couple of years working with mental patients with substance dependencies, I am all too familiar with the damage amphetamine-type stimulants can cause (even caffeine, in sufficiently large doses, can do some alarming things to you, as I discovered myself about eighteen months ago – caffeine is an amphetamine-type stimulant too). However, given that as far as can be discerned only one other death has ever been caused by use of the substance, which is used by (at least) thousands of people, I would suggest the burden of proof is on those making this claim.
The response of the Conservative Party to this has been instructive. It hasn’t been just to suggest criminalising mephedrone (I wouldn’t agree with this, but given the drug’s pharmacology it would at least be consistent with current drug policy), but to say they will criminalise ‘all legal highs’.
This has led to many jokes on Twitter about coffee and chocolate being banned, but to be honest I don’t think we should be giving them ideas. Just because something sounds insane and unworkable doesn’t mean that the current political classes won’t try to do it anyway, as the history of the last thirty years should show anyone. Just because it’s pretty much impossible to formulate a legal definition of ‘legal high’ doesn’t mean they won’t pass such a law.
Now, I’m voting for the Liberal Democrats this election, because I agree with the majority (though far from all) of their policies, because I think their elected representatives are generally doing a good job, and because the other two major parties are, frankly, evil.
However, given that the Lib Dems are unlikely in the extreme to form the next government – and I’d be very surprised if we even get in in my constituency (which has, allowing for boundary changes, had the same MP for forty years, and apart from a four-year period in the thirties has had a Labour MP since 1922 or 1906, depending on which of the old constituencies that make it up you look at) – here’s something that could make me vote for either of them.
If they’d just promise to *DO NOTHING* for five years.
I would gladly vote for a government that I knew was – unlike every government of my lifetime – not going to actively make things worse. Even if things stayed just as bad as they are, just *NOT MAKING THEM WORSE* would be good enough for me. No new legislation passed, no big organisational changes, just let everyone get on with it for five years.
A government that would say “We’re not going to start any more wars of aggression, or torture any more people. We’ll keep the current ridiculous drug laws, but if someone discovers a slightly different method of getting off their tits, good for them. If the DEBill gets passed before the election, we’ll keep it, but not criminalise all the trivial technical ways round it that will become popular two days after it passes. We’ll keep all the laws against ‘extreme pornography’, but if someone somewhere discovers a new way of getting themselves off, we won’t stop them. The schools and hospitals will continue to be crap, but we won’t, for example, get rid of two more mental health beds every single day on average, like Labour have since 1997, so they won’t get any crapper. The BBC will keep producing crap that you don’t watch, but it’ll still be there for at least another five years and its executives won’t have to grovel to us and chop bits off in order to keep the service going. We won’t deliberately inflate any massive economic bubbles that take money from the poor and give it to the rich in the name of ‘growth’, and if any bubbles happen and then burst, we won’t take money from the poor and give it to the rich in the name of ‘recovery’. Things will still be bad in five years – but they won’t be *WORSE*”
If either of the two main parties were to say that – and mean it – they’d get my vote.
But as it is, I’ll be voting for a party which not only won’t make things worse, it might even make things slightly better if it’s given the choice. Why not join me?