Nobody will now be able to get the picture out of their head of the Right Honourable Michael Gove snorting cocaine up his nostrils at some louche London gathering
Nobody will now be able to get the picture out of their head of the Right Honourable Michael Gove, Cabinet Minister, intellectual and parliamentarian, perhaps our next Premier, snorting cocaine up his nostrils at some louche London gathering.
In the background, his heedless fellow guests are braying and giggling. Thousands of miles away, the trade they have helped to finance is destroying lives by the hundred. But the menace is close at hand as well. In the dark streets not far away, the same trade is spreading like a stain, unrestrained by police and courts who long ago lost the will to fight it.
And why did they lose the will? Because they take their signals from above, and they know, in the police force and the prosecution service, and on the magistrates’ bench, that their modern masters don’t want too much fuss about drugs. For where might it end? If the drug laws were enforced, who knows who else might be treading the fools’ parade in the exercise yards of Her Majesty’s’ prisons – not just Cabinet Ministers and Privy Counsellors, but police chiefs, judges, bishops, school heads, university professors, senior civil servants, newspaper editors and BBC executives.
So rather than see that, let us be thoroughly egalitarian and just let everyone off.
I have to say Mr Gove’s confession comes as no great surprise to me. Our entire political and media elite, across all major parties, have long been corrupted by drug abuse. I am not talking about the teenage follies they sometimes confess to. Legions of them have taken illegal drugs far more recently than they care to admit, and even more of them, idiotically, allow their teenage children to do so.
Since I was at university in the early 1970s, where I was rare in refusing to have anything to do with drugs, I have known that this country’s educated elite is trapped in this corruption.
But drug corruption is a new and special version of the plague. It is enforced by fear, not money. All of these elite bohemians know that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of witnesses to their open criminal behaviour. By the nature of the crime, they probably cannot remember all the occasions when they broke the law.
So even if they grow up and realise how stupid they have been, they dare not act seriously against the drugs menace, in case they are exposed as hypocrites by a forgotten voice from the past.
I have to say Mr Gove’s confession comes as no great surprise to me. Our entire political and media elite, across all major parties, have long been corrupted by drug abuse
Mr Gove was Secretary of State for Justice from 2015 to 2016. If proposals for proper enforcement of drug laws had come before the Cabinet he would have known as he studied them that he had, as an adult, committed the offence of possession of a Class A drug. For this crime he would have been open to a sentence of up to seven years in one of the prisons for which he was responsible. Knowing that, how could he have enthusiastically supported any initiative that would have genuinely made it more likely that drug abusers would go to prison?
That is why I give one faint cheer for Mr Gove’s confession. He has outed himself and so cannot be blackmailed on this issue in future, though he can and will be jeered at till the end of his days. But I am reserving the other two cheers for later.
He will not get them from me unless and until he declares that he is in favour of properly enforcing the drug laws he once so carelessly broke.
By that, I don’t mean just saying he doesn’t favour getting rid of the existing laws, as he notably did in The Times towards the end of his White Powder period in 1999. As those laws are not enforced and have not been enforced for decades, and as he knows that perfectly well from personal experience, such a stance is empty and meaningless.
If he ever suggests in public that the Government is enforcing the drug laws, then I shall remind him as noisily as possible that he knows directly that this is complete rubbish. If they were enforcing them, then his career would have been ruined and ended 20 years ago.
If he ever speaks of ‘prohibition’ or claims that the existing laws are ruining young lives by ‘criminalising’ users, I shall point out that he knows perfectly well that this is a flat lie.
The young lives are being ruined because children at school have rightly noticed that the drug laws are not enforced. As a result, many of them have bought and smoked cannabis and become irreversibly mentally ill.
And older lives are being ruined too; first because these mentally ill young people are also often violent, and second because, even where they are not, their families must look after them for the rest of their lives.
It is what Mr Gove does next that is decisive. Politicians quite often reveal their past drug use solely to damage and weaken the drug laws.
In October 2000, a whole platoon of nonentities from the then Tory Shadow Cabinet confessed to youthful marijuana smoking. This was an organised effort to undermine an attempt by the Shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe, to toughen the penalties for cannabis possession. It worked. Her plan was destroyed. The incident effectively put an end to her political career. Real opposition to drugs was not wanted in the new Blairite Tory Party.
It also prepared the Tory Party for the reign of David Cameron. Mr Cameron’s lone significant political act as an MP, before he became Tory leader, had been to back a Home Affairs Committee report calling for the weakening of the drug laws.
Why was he so keen on this dangerous policy? We can only guess. He has always refused to answer questions about his own drug use, inventing a rule that politicians are entitled to a private past. Eventually, those who still wanted to know were shushed into silence as if the issue was not important any more, or it was rude to ask.
He got away with this, as Michael Gove will get away with his confession, because the Conservative Party is not in fact conservative, and probably never was.
Even on issues like this, where its supporters long for some sort of resolve and firmness, it long ago went as soft inside as an over-ripe pear.
Like all the other parties, it puts individual selfishness far above the general good. Whichever way they turn, in the hope of finding some sort of rescue from lawlessness and disorder, those who once hoped for these things from the Tory Party see nothing but surrender and weakness.
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