Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The hypocrisy of Simon Heffer

Simon Heffer had a thought provoking column in The Telegraph yesterday entitled "Beer should be the lifeblood of any village". In it he argues that the drink driving limits should not be reduced any further and that the smoking ban has damaged local pubs especially in rural communities.

He clearly feels strongly that people should be free to imbibe one and half pints of beer and then drive as they generally can currently. He also clearly thinks that the state stepping in to ban people from smoking anywhere on private commercial premises is over the top and a bit more reason, perhaps allowing well ventilated specific rooms for smokers to go to if the proprietor so wished would have been a more sensible compromise. I agree with both of his main points and it is a well written piece in my view. I wish more people shared this sort of liberal view on these two points.

It is interesting therefore to note that on 13th December 2006 in the midst of the Ipswich prostitute murders case he wrote about a chat he had had with a professor of ethics about drugs previously:

We fell, in one of the recesses, to discussing the drugs problem. "You know," he said, "a few years ago they had a serious drugs problem in China. So they rounded up 6,000 drugs dealers and shot them in the back of the head. Result: they don't have a drugs problem." He said this without a trace of humour, and without a trace of disapproval. It is a remark on which, in the intervening years, I have often pondered.

That same article concludes:

Drugs use is against the law because of its appalling social consequences. The law should be enforced in an exemplary way. If that means nice middle-class people – possibly like some of those in the shadow cabinet – going to jail, so much the better. It was scandalous, but typical, that Kate Moss was not punished for her recent promiscuous cocaine use, because it indicated that the trade is acceptable too, with heaven knows what results for those who idolise her. If drugs use is made more difficult, there will be fewer pushers. If there are fewer pushers then life will become harder for those further up the food chain.

Punishing drugs users would also be likely to give the police more information about their suppliers. The prisons cannot be too full for such people, who are the most destructive in society. Can we not see this blindingly obvious truth? Of course, even if drugs use were eliminated, there would still be tarts, and there would still be people who kill tarts. There would probably, though, be gratifyingly fewer of both.

Quite aside from the fact that his logic is severely flawed (we have had crack-down after crack-down on drugs for the last 40 years and use has risen hugely), where is the liberal Simon Heffer who wants the government to back off from people's freedoms to drink beer and smoke tobacco? Both of these drugs harm and kill far more people each year than all illegal drugs combined. Why is there such a clear difference in his mind between the two groups of drugs, those that are legal and those that the government (sometimes seemingly arbitrarily) deem illegal?

If drugs use really is against the law because of its appalling social consequences then why is alcohol still legal? And why is Heffer defending everyone's right to use alcohol freely? That drug leads to utterly dreadful social consequences. The hospitals are brimming over every Friday and Saturday night with victims of the abuse of alcohol, both directly and indirectly.

In another article from just a couple of years ago entitled: "Make junkies pay for hospital treatment" he wrote:

I make no apology for being so uncharitable towards the drugs culture, or for hectoring a government that refuses to deal seriously with it. It causes, on a conservative estimate, 70 per cent of the crime in our country. Mugging, burglary, prostitution and most other forms of vice are linked to it. It provokes violence and murder. Poverty, misery and broken families are its result. So, too, as this report shows, are numerous health problems, notably mental illness. The drain this puts on our public resources, whether in the NHS or the social security bill, runs into billions of pounds that could be spent on useful causes - education, care of the elderly, or more police and better hospitals. That toll of money and human misery is what our rulers choose to pay for the drugs menace in this country: or, rather, they choose to have us pay it.

No recognition in the slightest that the fact that these drugs are illegal massively exacerbates their negative effects. Much of the mugging, burglary and prostitution occur as a result of the illegality of the drugs and their corresponding hugely inflated price. Also, there are many more broken homes in this country as a result of alcohol abuse than that of any illegal drug.

In this third article our old friend drug executions rears its head again, although this time Heffer is more definitive having had a couple of years to ponder:

The evil that drug dealers do cannot be adequately punished under our present law; I would take a leaf out of China's book, and have them taken out and shot in the back of the head.


Bizarrely, Heffer waxes lyrical in the first article I linked to about how wonderful a pub landlord he worked for when he was young was with a "charismatic personality". At the same time he is advocating the idea of shooting those who supply other forms of recreational drugs in the back of the head.

He is happy to defend the right to use nice middle-class drugs that he and his friends probably indulge in perhaps even occasionally to excess whilst wishing the death penalty and denial of health-care to those involved with other drugs with mind-altering (and in some cases less harmful) effects.

Simon Heffer is a hypocrite of the highest order


Peter Reynolds said...

Right on Mark. We're of one and the same mind.

Peter Reynolds said...

And, courtesy of Transform, some facts about drug law enforcement in China:

"China has more injecting drug users than any other country in the world - over 2 million. China also has over 500,000 people in mandatory drug detention centers, frequently subject to forced labour, torture and other forms of abusive punishments.

There is absolutely no evidence to show that increased punitiveness or enforcement of drug laws internationally is linked to lower levels of use, or misuse, none. There is a mountain of evidence to show how punitive enforcement is routinely associated with serious human rights abuses"