Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Interview with Nigel Farage of UKIP on drugs policy

I have just spent a few minutes talking to former UKIP leader Nigel Farage about his views on drugs policy. he recently called for a change in approach on Radio 4's "Any Questions" programme which I previously blogged about here. I did try to record the interview but my recording software has failed me! However fresh from my memory, here is how the discussion went:

I started by asking him to set out his views on this subject and why he holds them. He explained that in his view the "War on Drugs" has failed. Every year things get worse, and it costs an absolute fortune. However this is a subject on which the political classes band together and stick to the same script. If a politician moves outside this very narrow subject view then they are inevitably shot down. He pointed out that it is the most deprived parts of the country that suffer most from this failing drugs war and something needs to change. It is his experiences as an elected politician having seen this for himself and representing these people that has helped confirm his opinion on this. His view is that there should be a Royal Commission to take this subject out of the hands of politicians and allow a full, free process to take place where decriminalisation of drugs (or at the very least soft drugs) should be considered.

I questioned what sort of a reaction he had had to him having made his views plan on Any Questions. He said that the reaction from the political classes had been typical of what he had expected and that he was perceived as very much being out on a limb. However the reaction from the public in e-mails, letters and on blogs had been much more encouraging. The vast majority had been on his side and indeed he pointed out that the audience on the programme was a middle-England middle-class grouping from Devon and many there had been nodding in agreement with his comments. He said that the reaction he has had has made him even more sure that he is on the right track here.

I asked why he thought that drugs are such a no go area for politicians. His view is that it's just one of these subjects that politicians don't want to talk about. They group together out of fear of what might happen. He also thinks that they often don't understand the issue properly and can only think in terms of crack-downs irrespective of whether they work or not.

I also asked whether his UKIP colleagues agreed with him on this subject. He explained that UKIP is a very broad church and that he knows there are people within it who would actually go the other way and wish for there to be further crack-downs. However he does think that the direction of opinion within the party is with him. He pointed out that at its core UKIP is a libertarian party. He said they are the only party to oppose the smoking ban on principle and that they often show their credentials in this area on other subjects such as the fox-hunting ban which they see as an irrelevance. He suggested that were this policy to be put to the party, after a debate he would expect a majority to be in favour of it.

Finally, I asked him when he thought things would change in terms of drugs policy. His honest answer was that he does not know. He said that if David Cameron becomes Prime Minister then there will definitely be no change as their policy is identical to Labour's. Longer term it is harder to say, however he does think that public opinion is way ahead of the politicians on this issue and they cannot be ignored for ever.

Just as we finished I mentioned to him the fact that on Any Answers after the Saturday broadcast of Any Questions, Jonathan Dimbleby had stated that the majority of respondents had been in favour of what he had been suggesting. He pointed out that 10 years ago that would have been unlikely to happen and that it demonstrates his point about the public being ahead of politicians on the issue.

I would like to thank Nigel Farage for his time.


Heresiarch said...

Great piece. Did no one in the mainstream press think to do this?

Farage is right about politicians only being able to think in terms of crackdowns. Not just on drugs policy, either. Is it just paucity of debate or imagination, though, or is it part of the psychological make-up of the political personality?

Mark Thompson said...

Thanks! Not sure why the mainstream press have not properly followed this up. I think it's pretty significant for a senior politician to be talking about this subject in these terms.

The main question you pose is the one I am constantly trying to find the answer to! There seems to be some sort of pervasive group-think dynamic at large that infects many politicians as soon as they get anywhere near power. Good to see people like Farage questioning this quite loudly though. I hope more follow in his footsteps.

Duncan Stott said...

UKIP's immigration policy means they can never be considered libertarian.

But I welcome another well-known voice calling for a reassessment of drugs policy.

Now if I lived in Buckingham, who would I vote for?

Kalvis Jansons said...

A very interesting interview, and good ideas.

emily said...

nice one. farage is sound.

Disco Biscuit said...

Farage is rather blossoming of late, isn't he? Not quite the swizel-eyed nutter we'd come to expect.

He's quite right that mainstream politicians take the view that they do on drugs out of fear. But it's fear of the reaction of the press to anything drugs-related that drives them, not particularly fear of public opinion.

The question is, when will the press start to reflect the views of the public?

Most of us know, drugs are fun, and relatively harmless. Why the hell would anyone take them otherwise?

Glyn H said...

Useful little piece, thank you. Shame it got so little follow up publicity.

I too heard Farage on Any Questions, and he was right on immigration, right on Europe and right on drugs. Personally I didn’t agree with him about daylight saving but the Scots could have their own time zone.

Farage is a proper human being, unlike so many of the vile Brown/Balls or silly Yeo/Teather types. On that show, Herbert was weak, Kramer squawked and Hain (once I Liberal I think) was more full of puss than a boil.

AQ came from Holsworthy; time was when you lot had a decent MP in North Devon, fellow name of Thorpe who was thoroughly entertaining. Pity about his daft friends but I bet he knew what they were about.

Bryan Turner said...

Wrong, in every way. I am a politician (Council level) and I know a bit about drugs and drug abuse having spent 27 yrs in pharmacy working with the victims on a daily basis. Society going soft on drugs will cost lives, never mind the social cost which will be far worse than now. You Lib Dems simply do not live in the real world.

asquith said...

Bryan Turner, do 'Kippers live in what you deem the real world? Because the last I looked Farage wasn't a Lib Dem. Oh dear.

Twig said...

As usual Farage is pointing out what politicians refuse to acknowledge - the Emperor is naked.

If you want to understand the source of the problem, follow the money. There is a huge amount being made by peddling drugs, if you take away the profit motive, who will market the product?

Where there's a will there's a way, but there is no will within the Establishment, and if you keep voting for them you can expect nothing to change.

Perhaps we should change our voting habits and give the smaller parties and independents a chance.

Paul Latham said...

Nigel Farage is right about the lack of original thinking among politicians of both New Labour and Conservative views.

To solve the increasing and on-going problem about drugs use in this country particularly in deprived areas of high unemployment politicians have to start thinking 'outside the box'.

A Royal Commission puts the issue onto a different level and away from the dogma of daily politics.

Anonymous said...

To Bryan Turner:

Wrong, in every way. I am a former heroin addict and I spent 9 years addicted. I can tell you uncategorically that if you want to buy heroin you can do so in any small town (let alone large or city) within 10 minutes of arriving there. It's so easy it's laughable if it weren't so serious a subject. Categorised drugs are de facto legalised as it stands.

Do you honestly think Police can be bothered chasing down small time dealers or people for possession? What country are you living in?

The only thing prohibition is doing is ensuring that the supply is in the hands of criminals, it does nothing to the demand side of the equation. That is where action has to be taken, demand has to be driven down, not trying to stop supply.

I don't know if you really are a pharmacist. If you are you must have seen lots of addicts coming into your pharmacy over the years. Would you call this a success story?

Do you honestly think that there is a constriction on the supply of illegal drugs in the UK? Do you not think all of your constituents can lay their hands on any drugs within a 5 minute walk of their houses?

If you don't think this is the case you are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Anonymous said...

Of course all drugs should be legalised. Heroin should be on the NHS.

But nobody talks about why no government ever does this.

Treaties with the US and others mean that we have already promised not to, and to support the US war on drugs with our own.

Stop talking about the drugs and talk about the treaties.

qawdqawd said...

@Bryan Turner;

Which council do you work for?

'I know a bit about drugs and drug abuse having spent 27 yrs in pharmacy working with the victims on a daily basis'

May I ask if you contacted the police when meeting these victims?
Surely a criminal record and a prison sentence would have really helped those poor victims.

Perhaps you did call the police, and those people are safely in jail, but you know, sometimes I worry.

At least in prisons there are no drugs right..

Unknown said...

That does not make you an expert. Ive been a drug addict, crack, heroin, amphet. Ive been clean 3yr. I lived it. And I KNOW what needs to be done. Cannabis needs to be legalised and regulated, freeing up time, money and resources to focus on getting crack and heroin off the streets.

Unknown said...

Haha thats what I was thinkin

Walter said...

Thank you Mr Farage for what have you say at the european parlament, we don't wanna leave in a "great Germany",my father had fight for this and i will do too, god bless you, from Italy

Unknown said...

The mainstream press are under the thumb of those who wish to keep the drug laws as they are.

Unknown said...

It's about time someone had the balls to address this problem, the elitist politicians either make too much money from lobbyists or are lacking a spine. Go for it!!