Towards the end of the House of Comments podcast that we recorded yesterday, we discussed aspiring politicians who have controversial views on issues and the potential consequences of them being completely open about this.
We all agreed it is true that some people who aspire to political office, whether it is local or national play their cards close to their chest on controversial issues. After all, it is easy for political opponents to put screaming headlines on a leaflet such as "SOFT ON DRUGS" or similar and this can cause real damage.
I must admit that towards the end of the discussion I did get a bit passionate on this subject. I did run for council office earlier this year and intend to again. I also at some point in the future may run for higher political office. My views on drugs policy (that I think they should all be legalised and that I have consistently backed up with what I feel is compelling evidence) are well recorded on this blog and elsewhere. So if/when those days come any opponents of mine will have access to my thoughts on this subject and may decide to try and use them against me.
One of the reasons I got involved with politics a few years back is because I want to make a difference and drugs policy is an area in which I am particularly passionate. I very much feel that we are going down the wrong road and that the evidence shows in order to reduce harm, crime and all sorts of other pernicious effects that we need to have a complete rethink. I could have taken a decision early on to not talk about this subject for fear of it damaging my future prospects but I chose to do so instead. My view is that the only way we are ever going to see change is if enough people step forward and air their views until eventually it becomes clear that far from being an extreme, minority view it is instead a widely held opinion. It will also help all the issues around the subject be aired.
Am I being naive in thinking that I can be as outspoken as I have been and still have a potential political career? Maybe. I guess I will find out. But from my perspective there is no point in embarking upon one if I cannot be honest about my views on something that is of critical importance to this country. I have been advised on occasion that it is a "fight that I cannot win" and I would better off focusing my energies on other issues. I completely disagree. People are dying every day as a direct result of current policies. There is untold illness and misery that could be eased and harm reduced if we took a different approach. I fervently believe that in 50 years time we will look back on our current "war on drugs" approach as pretty barbaric or at the very least totally ineffective. It will be viewed as the 1920s prohibition era in the USA is viewed now.
But to get there people have to step forward. If that means I damage my own political aspirations then so be it. But hopefully there will eventually be so many of us (and I know people from all parties who agree with me) that we will no longer be able to be dismissed as extreme.
Only time will tell.