Why I Have Joined the Liberal Democrats.
In my view the only rational choice for the next UK government is another Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.
The Labour Party is simply a joke. Miliband is an out-of-touch, Hampstead-socialist buffoon who was part of the team whose reckless borrowing meant that the banking crisis destroyed this country’s economy. It is ludicrous that we should even consider giving the same people another chance.
Cameron is an oily, two-faced oaf who has transformed the Conservative Party into the Bullingdon Club Party, dominated by out-of-touch posh boys with quasi-fascists like Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling as their attack dogs.
The only redeeming factor about the Tories is a basic competence in managing the economy. Osborne knows what he is doing but left unrestrained he would devastate our society: trashing the benefits system, care for the disabled and access to justice.
We must have the decent, fair, rational and conscientious Liberal Democrats in government with the Tories. Crucially they must hold out for a much tougher coalition agreement which will see the disgusting policies of Duncan Smith and Grayling reversed. I think it’s too much to hope that we will see the back of Theresa May but definitely, in my area of special interest, the Liberal Democrats will insist on drugs policy reform. The evidence-free, prejudice-based, self-defeating and cruel drugs policies of the past must be overturned. They have caused too much harm, suffering and promoted the interests of organised crime and the alcohol industry over common sense and the national interest.
So, in February I joined the Liberal Democrats. I was free to do so because that month the CLEAR Executive Committee resolved that we would no longer be a political party. An explanation of that decision is here.
My decision had a lot to do with drugs policy but, as I have explained above, was considered across the wider issues. I think it reflects the fact that the LibDems are less ideologically-driven, more rational, evidence-based and fair in their policies. All my life I have been a Tory voter for the crucial values of individual liberty, regulated free markets and opposed to the cloying, repressive ideas of socialism and the overbearing state – but the Tories have lost their way, their moral compass and their integrity. I will never, ever vote Tory again.
CLEAR has worked closely with the LibDems since I first led a delegation of medicinal cannabis users to meet Norman Baker, then drugs minister, in July 2014. Just a few weeks later he publicly called for a change in policy on medicinal cannabis, the most significant breakthrough in the UK cannabis campaign for nearly 50 years. This year we have worked closely with Nick Clegg’s team and the LibDem manifesto incorporated CLEAR’s policy on medicinal cannabis word for word. I had the privilege of personally briefing him on medicinal cannabis just a few weeks ago. Julian Huppert, Norman Lamb and Lynne Featherstone, also LibDems, have been of great help to the CLEAR campaign and demonstrated outstanding sincerity, honesty and commitment, uncommon qualities amongst politicians. Personally, I also greatly admire the courage of LibDem David Ward in standing against Israeli war crimes and in support of Palestine.
On the narrow issue of drugs policy, once again, Labour is a joke. It doesn’t have one. With a few honourable exceptions, such as Paul Flynn, David Winnick and Bob Ainsworth, the party is stuck in reefer madness, terrorised by tabloid editors and prefers prejudice and scare stories to science and evidence. The Tories have more individuals who support reform but the party as a whole is in a corrupt relationship with the alcohol industry and also terrorised by the tabloid press.
As far as the Greens are concerned, yes they have a sensible drugs policy (originally drafted, in fact, by Derek Williams, my colleague on the CLEAR Executive Committee) but they have no chance of any influence in the new government. Caroline Lucas did a good job on getting the drugs debate in Parliament last year but I cannot support her party’s bizarre behaviour in the illiberal ‘No More Page 3’ censorship and fracking campaigns. The Green’s attitude to fracking is as evidence-free and based on prejudice as is Labour’s attitude to cannabis. Also, CLEAR gave the Greens an opportunity to present their drugs policy to our supporters but despite repeated efforts they couldn’t get it together. By contrast, the LibDems welcomed us enthusiastically and at the highest level.
I am a Eurosceptic LibDem, which is unusual. In fact, I voted for UKIP in the last European elections and although the party itself is confused on the issue, I have talked with Nigel Farage in person at length on drugs policy and he is progressive, intelligent and pragmatic on the subject.
CISTA, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol party? Well, I know a number of the candidates personally and I would recommend voting for them in constituencies where the LibDems stand no chance. Overall though the party is a waste of Paul Birch’s money and I can say that with the experience of CLEAR’s 16 years as a political party. It’s great that they are bringing some attention to the campaign but it’s a futile strategy and Birch has spurned all efforts at support and assistance from CLEAR. Had he even returned our calls we would have endorsed and promoted CISTA candidates in some constituencies.
So in conclusion, for drugs policy reform, particularly for access to medicinal cannabis, but also for a fairer society where policy is based on evidence and compassion rather than prejudice and vested interests, vote Liberal Democrat!