Here’s what should happen next:
1) The Daily Mail and co. raise a huge fuss about this and pressure the Govt do something. Think of the children!
2) Scientific committees say that the Govt shouldn’t do anything rash; that caffeine is statistically very safe; and that these were exceptional circumstances.
3) The Govt ban all caffeine (including caffeinated coffee and tea!).
4) Most people continue to use it, though it becomes more dangerous (e.g. yet more concentrated) and more expensive, while criminals grow richer and the Treasury poorer. Others move on to much less well known and less safe drugs.
Of course, that won’t happen, because caffeine is used by a MAJORITY of people (including Daily Mail journalists and readers). I believe it’s the most commonly used drug on the planet. As for alcohol, the deaths that causes aren’t even reported on.
I had been wondering just the other day what would happen if coca tea - in many ways comparable to tea leaf tea - (and possibly opium tea) were legal. Would people necessarily want to move on to powder and crack cocaine? But, I thought, that doesn’t happen with caffeine: people aren’t injecting themselves with caffeine. Aside from questions of addiction, usefulness and risk of death, I think one of the main reasons for this is that people (except for maybe the now-deceased man in the article!) simply wouldn’t consider it. Drinking tea is part of our culture, snorting it or injecting it aren’t. But is there any way that we can put the idea of using crack cocaine back in the box and have the idea not occur to coca tea drinkers?
Conversely, parts of South America have traditions stretching back millenia of chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea. They don’t feel the need to start smoking crack, and aren’t best pleased that tea and coffee drinking US and Europe have tried to eradicate this traditional use. (WHO: “use of coca leaves appears to have no negative health effects and has positive therapeutic, sacred and social functions for indigenous Andean populations.”)
I think it’s time to accept that there are a huge number of chemicals out there - usually produced naturally - that have an effect on our fragile minds, and that a lot of people like to use them. We also need to accept that each drug can be consumed in a variety of ways, some much more dangerous than others, and that it should be the role of the state to provide incentives (e.g. education, culture, price, opening hours, prescriptions) to, at most, use only the least harmful ways.
Our current system of prohibition is terribly inconsistent and either ineffective or actually counterproductive.
The government says £750m ($1.2bn) will be saved over four years on the Trident nuclear deterrent missile system by cutting the number of warheads on each boat from 48 to 40 and reducing the number of missile tubes from 12 to eight. The UK’s nuclear warhead stockpile will be cut from 160 to less than 120. The final “main gate” spending decision on Trident will also be delayed until 2016 - after the next general election.
(from the BBC, where other lovely defence cuts are detailed)
Is this a victory for the Lib Dems? It’s hard to say. Maybe it was simply unavoidable given Osborne’s plans, but if nothing else, perhaps the LDs give the Conservatives room to go back on what they’ve previously said. In any case this is good news. Now what position will Labour take at the next election…?
The other day I discovered the entertaining Tabloid Watch blog (I particularly enjoyed this story about an actress eating a yogurt) with an article on exaggerations and plain lies regarding health and safety gone mad etc.!
This ties in with a BBC article/blog and the new health and safety report from Lord Young (about whom I previously wrote). It turns the fire on the media rather than the government when it comes to health and safety madness. Businesses are often worried about health and safety and lawsuits not because of any legislation but because the media constantly built it up so much.
Journalists delight in castigating the madness of “health and safety” legislation when it is, often, their own scare stories which are to blame. At the same time, when something goes wrong, they demand government action to reduce risk - creating the very legislation that they can then criticise.
Yet another example of the media whipping up hysteria and then commenting on the hysteria (though this post is possibly guilty of the same!).
In 1981, Roy Jenkins had returned from the presidency of the European Commission and, with others, founded the Social Democratic Party - a breakaway group of Labour which would go on to merge with the Liberals into the Liberal Democrats. But his 1982 battle to become an MP again is a great story in itself.
The death of the Conservative MP for Glasgow Hillhead meant a by-election was called and Jenkins went for it. Despite the fact that the seat had been held by the Tories since its creation in 1918, evidently it was now considered winnable.
Complicating matters was another Social Democratic Party, founded in 1979 and apparently not pleased by the new SDP stealing its name. Whether because of this annoyance or because of the encouragement of Labour activists (“to confuse voters and split his potential vote”), they “stood Douglas Parkin, who changed his name to “Roy Harold Jenkins” by deed poll”. Our protagonist, Roy Harris Jenkins, and company were - surprisingly, to me - not able to convince the court that this was a “corrupt practice”. However, they were allowed to “draw attention to the position of their candidate on the ballot paper” and thus, volunteers including one Charles Kennedy, were placed near polling stations with sandwich boards reading “The real Roy Jenkins is number 5”.
Along with the two Roy Jenkins, the candidates were a Tory calling for the reintroduction of hanging, a man for Labour apparently known for his research into the Loch Ness Monster, the SNP, the Ecology party (later, I’m told, to become the Greens), ‘Protestant Crusade against the Papal Visit’ (the clearly mental Jack Glass) and ‘Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident’.
In the end, ‘the real Roy Jenkins’ did win (later losing that seat to George Galloway), with the Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident party winning a record-breaking 5 votes. That would have been an awkward night in the bar with his friends and family, assuming he had any. If you can think of a more bizarre election, please let me know!
Other remarkable elections:
Tony Benn was an MP in 1960 when, to his annoyance, he inherited a peerage. He was thus barred from being an MP and there was a by-election. Although disqualified, Benn stood and the public voted for him. An election court declared the runner up, a Conservative, the winner. Benn eventually got the Peerage Act 1963 passed and was then able to drop his peerage. The Conservative canditate then graciously had himself disqualified from the Commons (outright resignation not being possible!) and Benn was able to win the following by-election (the last by-election in Great Britain to date that there has been no Conservative candidate). What a happy ending!
Less joyously, the following year (1964, a few years before Enoch Powell’s infamous speech), Peter Griffiths won a seat with the campaign slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour”. I heard about this in a Stewart Lee standup set, who says that many young people assume this bit is made up. It’s political correctness gone mad! He goes on to say that, “If political correctness has achieved one thing, it’s to make racists in the Conservative Party cloak their beliefs behind more creative language.”