Not a headline I was expecting to give to a blog post any time soon, but occasionally Nick Clegg does speak up in favour of Liberal Democrat party policy. Today he’s talking about drugs and becoming probably the most senior UK politician to make the argument that if you really want to be ‘anti-drugs’ and cut the number of people using drugs and the harm that’s caused, then you need to be in favour of reforming the current system. There’s coverage all over the place of his statements, but see here for an interview with the BBC (and a report of the same), and see here for Clegg talking about it in The Sun and not getting pilloried. Maybe things are changing.

The Sun also has some interesting poll results, which might have influenced the decision not to go after Clegg on this, which shows that 57% of people think government drug policy has worked fairly or very badly in reducing drug use, 60% of people want a Royal Commission to look into drug policy and more people want either decriminalisation (30%) or legalisation (19%) of drug use than those who want the current law to remain (43%).

I’m reminded of an American study I read about three years ago (blogged about by Mark Thompson here) which showed that while a majority of people were in favour of a more liberal policy on drugs, that same majority consistently thought that their view was a minority one. What makes Clegg’s announcement today interesting is that while many politicians have said that the ‘war on drugs’ is failing, they tend to say that when they’re out of office (Jacqui Smith is a recent example). That he’s made it now – and that The Sun has taken it as an exclusive, not as a ‘Batty Lib Dems soft on drugs’ headline – might indicate that the tide is turning. As people see the evidence from Portugal, from the US states that have legalised medical marijuana and more, the message might finally be sinking in that there are alternatives to the ‘war on drugs’ which like many wars is very good for the generals fighting it on both sides, but hell for those caught in the middle of it.

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I should remember to never talk about the weather. Yesterday doesn’t appear to have been a blip in the generally sunny election we’ve been having, and the rain has returned. Typical Bank Holiday weather, of course, including a brief hailstorm, but really scuppers the best laid plans of deliverers and canvassers.

That didn’t stop electioneering from going on between the showers. David Cameron appears to be launching a special Conservative effort to target the insomniac voter, by promising that the Conservatives will campaign ‘through the night’ on Tuesday. I suspect someone’s borrowed an idea from American politics, where there’s much talk of candidates doing 36-hour last-ditch campaign swings, but it makes sense in a country with multiple time zones and many opportunities to sleep on flights between events. It doesn’t really mean much if you’re wandering round Smithfield at 3am trying to get a photograph with someone who’s not covered in too much blood.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown was in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft today with Duncan Bannatyne. Bannatyne is currently hosting a series called Seaside Rescue. Ever get the feeling that their hearts just aren’t in it at Labour HQ, or are they attempting to make lives easier for newspaper headline and caption writers?

Here’s a list of celebrity Lib Dem supporters. Rumours that Armando Ianucci’s there because a) we’re the only party not to have asked him to direct an election broadcast and b) a strong third party and a balanced Parliament creates some interesting plots for The Thick Of It would likely be strongly denied by the party’s press officers.

Today’s linkage gives you the opportunity to see Mark Reckons using the word ‘bunkum’, which just doesn’t get used enough in political discourse, Liberal England bringing us Betty Boothroyd’s views on electoral reform, and Chris Brooke discussing post-election possibilities for the Liberal Democrats.

Elsewhere, Splintered Sunrise collects several Northern Ireland election broadcasts into a single post, showing that one result of the peace process is that Sinn Fein can now make videos that are just as banal as any other political party. However, my personal favourite in that collection is the SDLP’s, which features a number of scenes that look like attempts to enter a competition for the world’s worst Reservoir Dogs-esque walk.

Things I didn’t expect to be posting links to in this election campaign: Lib Dem flashmobs in Trafalgar Square.

They Work For You have created a very good site to help you decide who you should vote for. Linking with the work done by Democracy Club, you get to answer questions on local and national issues and see how they match up to your local candidates, not just national party lists. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my results gave me Bob Russell (Lib Dem) first, Peter Lynn (Green) second and Garryck Noble of the People’s Party Essex third, with BNP and UKIP tied for fourth. And no, I haven’t discovered some latent swivel-eyed loon tendency – that’s far behind in last place because our Labour, Tory, English Democrat and independent candidates haven’t responded to any of the questions.

As for my campaigning, I’ve done about 350 deliveries today, which takes the total up to about 3,350, I believe. Whole lot more to come over the next few days, but none of it is in my house at the moment.

And finally, some music, with Right Said Fred’s ‘Lib Dem anthem’. While it does have a singalong chorus, I can’t see it being requested that much at the next Conference Glee Club:

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In a post about drugs I wrote a few weeks ago, I noted that there had been an apparent recent increase in the number of calls for decriminalisation, and now I’m wondering whether we might be reaching a point of critical debating mass on the issue where the number of people who just want the subject to be openly debated will be too large to be ignored.

Well, the little snowball continues to grow as it reaches the mass required. First, Mark Reckons has an interesting interview with former Conservative minister Phillip Oppenheim:

We have pretty much the tougest laws on drugs (and drink) in the EU and pretty much the worst problem – we treat people like kids and the result is they behave like kids, and criminality flourishes.

And also, though perhaps less surprisingly, Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute:

Dealing with drugs costs money. The Department of Health and the Strategy Unit put the costs of drug use at £15bn-£20bn per year. Although ministers and police officers have uttered tough phrases such as “zero tolerance”, drug crime has steadily increased, not diminished. When a policy achieves the opposite of what was intended, rarely is more of it needed.

And since the last time I wrote about this, several articles in the Guardian on the subject, including this Observer editorial.

The political fixation on drugs prohibition really took hold in the west in the 1960s as much from moral panic about a subversive counterculture as from analysis of the harm caused by particular drugs.

Since then, the law has tried to maintain a distinction between reputable and disreputable substances that neither users nor medical research recognise. Scientific attempts to classify drugs in terms of the harm they do – to the body and society – routinely place tobacco and alcohol ahead of cannabis and ecstasy. The point is not that the wrong drugs are banned, but that the law is nonsense to anyone with real knowledge of the substances involved.

But is anything like to happen? As Oppenheim notes, it’s hard for Cameron to get any traction against the Conservative grass roots on this issue and we’ve seen how Labour like to ignore evidence in favour of appearing tough. So, are we Lib Dems going to discuss it openly, or will we get the ‘we definitely think we should have a debate on this, but now’s not the right time’ response?

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There’s an interesting discussion between Alex and Mark in the comments on this post about Daniel Hannan’s latest bit of controversy.

However, beyond the question of whether Hannan was using the name of Enoch Powell as a codeword or dog whistle for various people on the hard right, there’s an interesting question of what his overall aim is. Is he just riding the fifteen minutes of fame he got from his YouTubed rant about Gordon Brown, grasping all the wingnut welfare he can before the short attention span moves on to someone else, or is he trying something more?

It’s interesting to note that Hannan is remaining as an MEP, with seemingly no designs on going to Westminster in the near future – one certainly can’t imagine Conservative Central Office risking the furore that parachuting him into a seat for the next General Election would cause – yet will that necessarily harm him? Being an MEP rather than an MP offers him a lot more freedom to build his profile and champion the causes of the Tory Right without getting sidetracked by constituency business or being silenced by becoming Under-Secretary of State for Grass Clippings in a Tory Government. He can keep capitalising on his fame – and doesn’t have to resort to the rubber chicken circuit of speaking to local parties anymore – and build himself a reputation as the true standard-bearer for the Tory Right, the King over the water waiting for the call from his people, especially if/when Cameron fails in office. (He’ll certainly have noticed that one of his fellow former South East MEPs was a challenger for his party’s leadership less than a year after being elected to Westminster.) He can get adulation without power or responsibility, and if all else fails there’s always Fox News.

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