Tory MP Crispin Blunt, who was in charge of UK prisons under the coalition government, has suggested that the Conservative party has been knowingly implementing an ineffective and damaging drugs policy.
At a quiet fringe event at the ongoing Tory conference in Birmingham, he spoke about his experience of attempting to probe the negative link between drugs and an overwhelmed justice system, and subsequently being told at a minister's meeting that it was a "singularly unpolitic question" which might "unpick" the government's position and "[send] the wrong message".
Yesterday he revealed that "when I then asked the department to tell me just how much did drugs cost the criminal justice system, remarkably, answer came there none".
Blunt apparently even went so far as to ask his Labour shadow Bob Ainsworth to formally question him about it in Parliament so the policy fallacy would come to light: "I got him to table the questions to me or to the Ministry of Justice to see if the department would then come up with the answers to a formal parliamentary question," he said. "That didn't work either, and we couldn't actually get answers on it."
Censoring evidence that shows how worthless Tory policy is allegedly isn't anything new for senior Conservative politicians. Earlier this year, Nick Clegg claimed that, as Home Secretary, Theresa May tried to delete parts of a drugs review she didn't like back in 2014.
Crispin Blunt is now the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, but has consistently criticised the Tory policy on drugs as having "ceased to be baserdd on the evidence". Born with a name perfect for campaigning for the Legalise movement, Blunt is in favour of a Royal Commission to start the process of regulating all drugs. He's also the guy who stood up in Parliament and told everyone that he uses poppers during debates for the Psychoactive Substances Act, a bill he called "fantastically stupid".
As Blunt and many others – including, apparently, the Conservative party – already know, the War on Drugs is worse than pointless; it's actively making things worse. An approach where possession is punished and there is little focus on rehabilitation or education basically just means more putting vulnerable people in prisons. The poverty and social alienation faced by ex-convicts upon release likely increases drug use and therefore the probability of recidivism and re-conviction, with between a third and half of new prisoners estimated to be problem drug users in the UK. It's a downward spiral that costs the justice department huge amounts in building and maintaining prisons: drug-related crime costs an estimated £13.5 billion in England and Wales alone.
While he spoke of his views being part of a "global movement", Blunt also acknowledged at an event yesterday that he could only be so outspoken because "my ministerial career is 100 percent behind me, so I can be slightly braver about taking positions which I did argue for while in office, but was constrained by collective responsibility".
Unfortunately – and unsurprisingly – then, it seems that until MPs start putting public health before climbing the greasy pole, they will continue to knowingly support policy based on fear instead of evidence.