It must be tough being a politician, especially a senior shadow cabinet member like Alan Duncan MP, when you have the intellectual curiosity and courage to look into a policy idea, agree with it and then write about it, but when it turns out to be a rather contentious idea like drug law reform, a idea that your party wouldn't touch with a barge pole.
So this is where Alan Duncan finds himself tonight, as reported in the Evening Standard on page 2, having been questioned about his support for 'legalisation of all drugs' in the Independent today.
Do you still support the legalisation of all drugs?"The trouble is that anyone, anywhere can easily get hold of drugs if they want to. I am permanently dismayed that by banning drugs we haven't actually stopped them. So we have to keep looking at every way we can to reduce successfully and, I hope, eliminate drug use."
That the Evening Standard has managed to make a headline out of this is actually vaguely amusing, and can barely count as a scoop, given that Duncan wrote about his position on drugs years ago in the book Saturns Children, the chapter in question appears on his website (give it a read - its not bad), and its the number one google search for 'Alan Duncan drugs'. The quote has also been in Transform's supporters of reform quote archive for years. Oh and the Guardian quoted him on this last week.
As Transform has been keen to point out Duncan is hardly alone amongst those of a right leaning political persuasion in supporting a progressive drug law reform position, David Cameron notably put his name to a call for the Government to engage at UN level, in a debate on 'alternatives to prohibtion' including 'legalisation', a fact that has yet to create any Evening Standard headlines.
Alan Duncan makes a rather equivocal comment about legalisation at the end of the ES piece, which is 'issued by Central Office' and has the strong whiff arm twisting to it. Not withstanding this Duncan is to be congratulated for his courage in sticking to his guns on a point of intellectual principle, especially with the 'tough on drugs' populist buffoonery being wheeled out by David Davis on a daily basis. By contrast Tony McNulty, minister of state for the Home Office, should get the opprobrium he deserves for his pathetic response, quoted in the Evening Standard accusing Duncan of sending out a confused message. Exactly the kind of pointless name calling and failure-to-engage-at-anything-above-playground-level idiocy you might expect to hear from Davis about the Government. For McNulty, speaking from the Department overseeing one of the great policy catastrophes of the age, it is perhaps time to grow up and have an adult debate.