First off, I’ve never taken illegal drugs, never drank or smoked anything, apart from that which bellows out of my burnt barbecue. It actually isn’t burnt – it’s just caramelised.
I do however have several friends who will admit to having indulged in smoking weed, or even experimenting with certain drugs when they were at university and decided never to go near it again. Pretty much all of these are well adjusted and highly accomplished in their chosen careers today. One such friend was talking to me recently about having ‘the talk’ with his son and daughter. I thought he was talking about sex but he said he’d already done that but felt he had to talk with them about drugs. He openly told them of his experience with cannabis and ecstasy and how he never ever wanted them to go near it.
He is a doctor.
By this same logic i.e a doctor who consumed illegal drugs as a medical student now ‘preaching’ to his kids about the dangers of the same thing; Micheal Gove, Dominc Raab, Jeremy Hunt et al are no less qualified to be leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister because of their admission of having taken illegal drugs. I do however wonder why the hell this wasn’t revealed before now. If it wasn’t anyone’s business before they threw their hats in the ring as contenders for the Tory leadership vacancy, then it’s no ones business now – especially when these happened decades ago! They were and currently are in high positions of power before now. Not sure President Obama got much flak for his admission of doing smoking cannabis when a young man.
My biggest takeaway from this sorry episode is that the ongoing issue of our drugs policy being so heavily focused on the supply side while almost downplaying the demand element – is truly shocking. There’s evidence to show that white middle class Brits, in affluent suburbs or metropolitan hubs are major consumers of cocaine and other illegal drugs. The turf war we see in parts of London and our major cities are but a manifestation of the gangs vying for control – with fatal consequences. Until we start tackling both the supply and demand side of this drugs issue, we would only be paying lip service to the violence we’re seeing in our cities.
Now I have met most of the contenders and think them all to be good people who do care about the future of this country. My big concern though is that we run the risk of having ‘fake people’ as our our elected representatives if we are not careful. I am not sure how many people are so saintly as to not have done something embarrassing or that which they do not regret in the past. It is not sufficient to want politicians who know the cost of a loaf of bread, average rent in London or average increase in the cost of fuel between 2017 and 2018; we need elected representatives who have lived life, made mistakes and learned from it. Otherwise one or a combination of several things happen:
Firstly, we end up with elected representatives who have not really learned the lessons of life because they’re just afraid of making mistakes. Of course, I am not condoning any form of illegal activity nor suggesting that the only way to experience life is by experimenting with illegal activities. What I am saying is that because something is illegal doesn’t mean people won’t engage in it, but must we exclude such individuals from all aspects of public life? There’s something to learn from their experience – though I accept there are some past misdeeds that should preclude one from public life.
Secondly, we may end up with politicians who, for their entire lives have set their sights on public office and public office only. Now nothing exactly wrong with that. However, my experience is that they tend to be more calculated in their thinking and everything comes down to political considerations. Do we really need a parliament full of career politicians for whom all of their life’s decisions from the time they could read and think for themselves have been based on what won’t be an issue in the future? A future that’s not even guaranteed anyway. Very few people, I’d guess, set out to become a Member of Parliament or public figure despite their interest in it. By the time maturity sets in, either at age fifteen or fifty, they’d have done things which, according to some of today’s commentators, should bar them from being in the public sphere at all.
Thirdly, and perhaps more worrying of all, we could end up with politicians who are so embarrassed about their past, that they choose to hide it away in the hope that no one finds out.
For me, it is perfectly ok to have someone as Prime Minister who has done some dumb stuff as a young’n or even an adult, clearly learned and moved on from it, than one who pretends to be something s/he isn’t. That is such a sad life to live, thus leaving our society in a worse place.
As I wrote in a recent article, some of the folks we look to as heroes of our time have lived somewhat chequered lives. Martin Luther King Jnr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were flawed characters and some of their choices as adults were questionable before they became the heroes we rightly claim them to be today. Same thing goes for Winston Churchill who is and will always remain a hero. Our public space need not be the sole preserve of saints. There should be room for the repentant sinner as such and oh how heaven knows we all have a past.