The beginning of the end for Gordon and Labour.

Posted: November 4, 2009 in Politics
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These last couple of weeks have proved to be very tricky for Gordon Brown and his beleaguered Labour government. We had the row over immigration after Nick Griffin’s controversial appearance on Question Time, and the contentious sacking of Professor David Nutt after he dared to state his belief (and pretty much scientifically-backed view) that cannabis was far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Coming so soon after the scandal over MPs’ expenses as well as the general feeling of disappointment over how his Cabinet have handled the worldwide economic down-turn (in their defence I think they were damned whatever they tried to do), these represent damaging blows to a Government which is already holed below the waterline.

The drugs issue is the more clear-cut of the two cases from this week, with Professor Nutt sacked merely for stating something which did not correlate with party opinion. This sacking was ludicrously unfair, and for a Government to do so whilst stating it was because of the Government’s drugs policy is enough to make me speechless. If scientists can’t research and present findings that are totally unbiased and impartial, then what’s the point of having them advise on matters at all? To me, this stinks of a Government attempt to ensure that they can keep the classification of cannabis as class B (from a decision made by Jacqui Smith in 2008 reversing David Blunkett’s reclassification to Class C) despite independent advice that this was wrong. It has been proven that alcohol-related deaths and illnesses are far greater in number than those related to cannabis, indeed most cannabis use is only rendered more dangerous by the mixing of tobacco with the cannabis. Professor Nutt was sacked because his views didn’t fit the Labour party’s policy. This does set a dangerous precedent. Who now will bother to state their opinion without it being biased by what the Government want them to be saying?

Two members of the drugs advisory council have resigned over the sacking, and Professor Nutt has stated his intention to found a new advisory panel which will be able to state its findings without fear of Government action. This is a good move, as the full evidence of any research can be presented in an unbiased way.

I think the reason the Government has reacted in the way it has is because it is almost heresy to say that any drug is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Coincidentally those are two of the biggest earners in terms of tax income. Anyone surprised? I do think the Government is missing a trick, and a chance to show itself as being in touch with scientific evidence and general opinion. Let’s see cannabis legalised, and then the Government can place a tax on it and earn even more tax revenue. It would end the debate about legality, and free up many police hours to be devoted to other crimes. Briefly, on the subject of the police I’d like to see an independent division set up for traffic crimes, but that’s a story for another blog.

Onto the murkier subject of immigration. This is a tricky one to judge, and personally I think there seems to be a feeling that all parties are at either extreme of the argument. the truth, however, lies somewhere in the middle, as it always seems to in politics. Labour’s policies on immigration are widely seen to have been disastrous with immigrants flooding certain areas of the country placing a strain on public services. The Tories want to see a much stricter policy brought in, whilst the BNP would shut our doors completely and send all foreign residents back to their respective countries. I think the way this should be handled is by placing a much bigger restriction on illegal immigrants, whilst allowing those that follow the correct legal procedures right of entry and right of settlement. Whilst we don’t want to be seen as an easy target for illegal immigrants, we also don’t want to be seen as not wanting to help where it is needed and where it is justified. The government’s points system is nowhere near strict enough, and the appeals procedure is so long-winded that immigrants can end up staying in the country for years. Estimates are that there are 40,000 immigrants currently living in the UK that should have been deported 6 years ago. That’s six years of taxpayer’s money going towards the upkeep of people who should not be in this country. Immigration will be one of the biggest issues of the next election, and that is something the BNP will be playing on in areas with perceived problems with immigration. If one of the main parties actually steps up to the plate and opens a reasonable debate on immigration policy then the BNP can be sidelined, but as long as politicians continue to skirt the subject for fear of upsetting constituents and their bosses then the BNP will have their chance to increase their power base.

These are two of the areas where the Government will lose the next election. If Gordon Brown wants to be Prime Minister by the end of 2010 his only real hope would be a hung Parliament and trying to negotiate with the Liberal Democrats over a coalition Government. This is a real possibility as the points swing indicated by independent polls has shown that for a Tory Government in 2010 the swing would need to be the biggest swing recorded for a UK election. Other than that, he would need to resign and hand over the reins to another member of the party. Who, though? Home Secretary Alan Johnson hasn’t exactly made the best start in the role and doesn’t appear to have the full confidence of his party. Chancellor Alistair Darling? The man is lucky to still be in his post after a disastrous 2008 saw massive downturns int he economy, and his generally perceived failing in bringing in tough enough measures on the banking sector. That leaves David Miliband, the current Foreign Secretary. He will one day lead the Labour party, but he is too young at 44, and too inexperienced to be considered just yet, having only been involved in front-bench and Cabinet affairs since 2002. Unfortunately he is Labour’s only hope. After the election next year, if Labour lose then I would suggest he makes a stand for leadership giving him up to five years to reform Labour and introduce better policies. He would garner support from the corners of the party that still support the Old Labour views, but would he win over those Blair-ites, those committed to the New Labour vision? Time will tell. What is almost certain though, is that we will have a new Government in 2010, whether it be a Cameron-led Tory Government or a coalition Labour-Lib Dem Government remains to be seen.


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