Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category
On Thursday, 16th February 2017, the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion ‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’.
I was honoured to be invited to speak against the motion in the august company of Paul Hayes and Stephen DeAngelo. Speaking for the motion were Andrew Ng, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Shaun Attwood.
We successfully defeated the motion by approximately 120 votes to 90. A video of the debate will be released shortly. I reproduce my speech below.
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
These are the words of Harry Anslinger, who in 1930 was appointed the first ever commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
And this is the exactly same standard of argument and evidence that we have in favour of drug prohibition today.
Anslinger went on to start the war on drugs 40 years before Richard Nixon invented the term. His anti-cannabis crusade was based on racism, the suggestion that it caused madness, violence and depravity – yes, the same scare stories, myths and deceit that we still see published every day in the pages of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Indeed, exactly the same nonsense which every home secretary continues to trot out and on which our present prime minister bases UK drugs policy.
Don’t be in any doubt about it, the Home Office, under successive governments, has been engaged in the systematic deception of the British public. It misleads, misinforms and repeatedly publishes bare faced lies about drugs and drugs policy and subverts every effort towards reform advocated by more enlightened politicians.
In 2013, according to Norman Baker and Nick Clegg, Theresa May tried to falsify the international comparators report which showed that across the world harsh penalties make no difference to the level of drug use. The facts simply don’t fit with her ideology.
And this idiocy pervades our society. It is reflected in this motion which I oppose. The premise of ‘This House Would Say No to Drugs’ is false from the very start. It’s preposterous! We all say yes to drugs, every day, inevitably, in cocktails of medicines and recreational stimulants, in food, drink, in endogenous highs released through exercise and emotions, repeatedly, regularly, all of us, without exception, do drugs.
That our governments have seen fit to draw arbitrary lines as to which drugs are acceptable and which are not, which drugs that we can celebrate and which we will be locked up for, has nothing to do with evidence, science and, least of all, absolutely nothing to do with how harmful or dangerous they are. They are based on prejudice and thinking in 2017 that has advanced no further than Harry Anslinger in 1930.
Sometimes these prejudices have strange echoes in the past. Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking – the governor thought it might unite his opposition. What does that remind you of?
Often these lines are not arbitrary, they are based on vested interests. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia also tried to ban coffee. He argued it interfered with the country’s beer consumption. Before the first International Opium Convention in 1925 Egyptian cotton farmers successfully lobbied for cannabis to be banned as they feared the superior fibre crop of hemp. Back to Harry Anslinger and he was in league with the timber barons who greatly feared the far better option of using hemp to make paper and the fledging oil industry which had just invented nylon, a synthetic alternative to the job that hemp fibre had done for thousands of years. When Henry Ford invented the Model T he designed it to run on ethanol produced from hemp. He planted hemp on his own land for the purpose. It’s no conspiracy theory to argue that the entire oil industry in predicated on the prohibition of cannabis, it’s just good, solid evidence.
Today, in the UK, prohibition of much safer substances like cannabis and MDMA is enforced to preserve the monopoly of legal recreational drugs that belongs to the alcohol industry – a drug that is at least a dangerous as heroin and causes far more misery and death in our society. It’s no surprise when the UK alcohol industry spends £800 million every year on advertising that the media which enjoys that income supports the alcohol monopoly.
As if we didn’t have the clearest possible lesson from the prohibition of alcohol which gave birth to organised crime and demonstrated beyond any doubt that prohibition never works, it just makes the problem worse.
The UK is more backwards, more disgraced, more shamed by a drugs policy that causes far more harm than it prevents, than almost any other first world country.
Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy. If you remember one thing that I say today, please make it this. It sets law enforcement against the communities it is supposed to protect. Being a police office is a noble and honourable calling. Every society needs policing but drugs policy has perverted this profession. The demand for what are deemed illicit drugs comes from society but instead of protecting us from danger, police action increases the dangers we are subject to. The harder the police clamp down, the more the price of drugs rises, the more unscrupulous and violent the unregulated criminal trade becomes and the more contaminated, more concentrated and more dangerous are the drugs themselves.
In Amsterdam, there is no problem with Spice, the synthetic cannabinoid that is ravaging our streets and British prisons at present. In sane, civilised society like California, Colorado or Washington, where adults can access safe, properly regulated cannabis, there is no Spice problem like we have in the UK. This disgusting, horrible product is the direct responsibility of the politicians who continue to pursue our ignorant anti-cannabis policy. It is just one example of the great, immoral evil that prohibition causes. And I ask you, if this crazy policy of prohibition cannot be enforced in prisons, then how do we expect to enforce it in wider society?
It is prohibition and drugs policy based on prejudice that destroys police and community relations. It is current policy that means 70% of all acquisitive crime is caused by drug addiction – for which we send sick and poorly people to jail where they find easy access to more and nastier drugs. This is the real madness that drugs cause. It is the madness of deranged government ministers and their refusal to consider evidence or to resist pressure from their masters in Fleet Street.
What we need to do is say yes to a drugs policy that is designed to reduce harm and protect our communities. Alcohol is promoted and so easily available as to be ridiculous, in every other shop on the high street, yet we control the access of children to alcohol and tobacco quite effectively. But we abandon them to the street weed dealer who sells them muck grown by other children who have been trafficked from overseas and locked in hidden farms which are dangerous fire risks. This is the shameful reality that our policies have produced.
Doctors freely prescribe anti-depressants, tranquilisers, highly toxic opioids such as tramadol, weird drugs for pain and epilepsy like gabapentin, which we don’t really understand at all. Yet it is a criminal offence for a doctor to prescribe cannabis, a remedy that mankind has used safely and effectively for at least 10,000 years.
We mislead and misinform. We encourage young people to go out and drink, yet we make ecstasy, MDMA, a drug far safer than even paracetamol, a class A substance , and we threaten people with years in jail just for handing a single dose to a friend. It’s estimated that between two and ten million doses of MDMA are taken every weekend in the UK and we get about 50 deaths a year. 200 people die every year from paracetamol. How much safer would MDMA be if the product was regulated with known strength and purity? It would probably be virtually harmless.
Now everyone is a victim of this drug war propaganda and the terrible effects of prohibition. Politicians, police officers, social workers, mothers and fathers have all been drenched in this propaganda from birth. Many sincerely believe the rubbish they have been fed and they do all they can to pass on misguided ideas to the next generation.
We need to grow up, get a grip and drag Britain out of the dark ages. Drugs can cause harm but British drugs policy is a scourge on our society. It damages the lives of millions and costs us billions. Please oppose the motion, saying no to drugs is a nonsense. Let’s say yes to a rational drugs policy.
You talk like Marlene Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there`s diamonds and pearls in your hair
You live in a fancy appartement
Of the Boulevard of St. Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel
But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head
I’ve seen all your qualifications
You got from the Sorbonne
And the painting you stole from Picasso
Your loveliness goes on and on, yes it does
When you go on your summer vacation
You go to Juan-les-Pines
With your carefully designed topless swimsuit
You get an even suntan, on your back and on your legs
When the snow falls you’re found in St. Moritz
With the others of the jet-set
And you sip your Napoleon Brandy
But you never get your lips wet
But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head, yes I do
Your name is heard in high places
You know the Aga Khan
He sent you a racehorse for chistmas
And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh haha
They say that when you get married
It’ll be to a millionaire
But they don’t realize where you came from
And I wonder if they really care, they give a damn
But where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head
I remember the back streets of Naples
Two children begging in rags
Both touched with a burning ambition
To shake off their lowly brown tags, yes they try
So look into my face Marie-Claire
And remember just who you are
Then go and forget me forever
`Cause I know you still bear
the scar, deep inside, yes you do
I know where you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
`Cause I can look inside your head
Capone Stanley Reynolds, to give him his full name, has been my faithful, handsome and sweet-natured companion since 2007. He really is a lovely dog, a strong silent type, very self-contained, gentle, calm and, I believe, wise.
Sadly, he developed epilepsy around the age of five and a couple of years later was struck with severe arthritis which means for the last three years or so he hasn’t been able to walk with me as he used to. However, regular use of CBD oil has transformed his life and I think we will have several more years together before he goes to that neverending walk in the sky where he will be able to run and play as he did when he was younger.
He’s a cross between a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and a German Shorthaired Pointer – which is where he gets his gorgeous coat from, a mottled mixture of grey, black, white and a few touches of orange. I believe that, apart from his siblings, he is unique and he attracts a great deal of attention. People say he looks like a leopard and several times I have been offered large sums of money for him.
We have walked hundreds of miles together. He first came to live with me when I lived in Emsworth, Hampshire. We learned the pleasure of walking together around Chichester Harbour and I had an article about our adventures published in Country Walking magazine.
I had once before, in the late 70s, seen someone fall down on a zebra crossing while having an epileptic fit. Nothing prepares you though for when someone you love first endures a seizure. It is frightening and deeply distressing. I can only despair at what it must be like for a parent whose small child suffers so.
Quickly though, you become used to it. You have to, for your own sake and so that you can look after the one who is fitting. In fact, there’s not a lot you can do, except protect them from hurting themselves while thrashing about. Every seizure is different but for Capone they all start with the most intense rigidity, arched back, teeth clenched and violent shaking. Then, after a minute or so, he will appear to relax and his legs will start a frantic bicycling motion while he froths at the mouth and usually loses control of his bladder, weeing everywhere. Occasionally he will go back into the rigid phase but at some point, usually within three or four minutes, he will jump slightly as if he’s just woken up – and indeed he has. Then he wants to stand up, although he doesn’t have proper control of his legs and he will fall over or walk into the wall or furniture. For up to an hour afterwards he will be wide-eyed, panting crazily and usually ravenously hungry. Gradually he calms down, until at last he sleeps, exhausted.
Capone’s seizures come in clusters over a 36 to 48 hour period. To begin with it was about every three hours, so it’s utterly draining, all through the night, never more than an hour or two’s sleep before the next one starts. When at last it comes to an end, it takes three or four days for him to recover. It’s almost like he’s had a stroke and he seems stupid, off balance and doesn’t really seem to know where he is. Thankfully, he always has recovered, right back to normal again and a week later it’s all forgotten.
I can’t remember the exact sequence of events now but it was around this time that the story of Charlotte Figi became known, the remarkable effect of CBD oil on this small child with Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe form of paediatric epilepsy. It wasn’t long before I decided to try Capone on CBD.
His arthritis had also dramatically worsened by now. We went from walking five miles every day to the point where it was taking the same amount of time for him just to walk half a mile or so. Both I and my other dog, Carla, were frustrated and suffering from a lack of exercise. Eventually I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave him at home and just Carla and I would go for a walk. With a lack of exercise he began to put on weight and it became a vicious circle. About three years ago it had reached the stage where he couldn’t walk more than about 20 yards and I feared I would have to make the toughest decision of all. In this state, when a cluster of seizures came along, he truly was a pathetic sight, my wonderful, beautiful dog and friend in so much distress and pain.
I tried various CBD products. I didn’t really know what I was doing and they didn’t seem to have much impact. But then, nothing did. The best the vet could offer was rectal tubes of diazepam, like a small toothpaste tube with a nozzle that you stick up his bum and squeeze. They had no impact at all. I have given him 30mg of diazepam while he was fitting (enough to lay me flat out for 24 hours) and it’s made absolutely no difference. But then neither did CBD. There was none of this immediate effect like you see on the many YouTube videos of children being dosed with CBD oil.
Gradually though the frequency and intensity of his seizures started to diminish. I had settled on using PlusCBD Gold oil. Two grams of this dissolved in olive or hempseed oil contains about 500mg of CBD and that would last for a month or so, giving him a dropper full every morning with his breakfast.
He was walking better. On a good day he could now manage a couple of hundred yards. In the summer he was able to do his very favourite thing and walk up the garden into full, unshaded sunlight and spend most of the day there sleeping on the lawn. The seizures seemed to have stopped.
Then, perhaps a year ago, I quadrupled his dose. I now use LoveHemp 20% oil which provides a full 2000mg of CBD. I dissolve this in olive or hempseed oil in a 50ml dropper bottle and he continues to get one dropper full every day.
In the past two years, Capone has had just one cluster of seizures. It took place over the same period but there were far fewer fits of much less intensity, perhaps seven or eight over 48 hours. He can walk a few hundred yards now. He’ll never be the vigorous, fast-running dog he once was but occasionally I take him for a slow walk now for half an hour or so. If he sees another dog he gets excited and gets up a rather ungainly and clumsy turn of pace – but it’s almost a run and he’s still Capone and I treasure every minute that we have together. CBD oil, or as it should be more accurately termed, low-THC whole plant cannabis extract, has saved his life.
Just four months younger than me, he was born in Cardiff in January 1958, 10 miles from where I was born in Newport, the previous September. We share the same three names: Peter John Reynolds. Clearly something of an eccentric but well respected, he is best known as the composer of the world’s shortest opera, ‘The Sands of Time’ (1993). It depicts a row that takes place during the boiling of an egg.
I can confirm that it is the only opera that I have listened to in full. Enjoy!
His obituary as published in The Times, 2nd November 2016
Peter Reynolds earned a place in Guinness World Records for The Sands of Time(1993), the world’s shortest opera. It lasts for three minutes, 34 seconds (no interval), about half the length of Darius Milhaud’s Deliverance of Theseus, which had held the record since 1928.
The piece is set in a suburban kitchen of the 1990s, as an egg is boiling (the length of the opera). Stan and Flo, husband and wife, are having an argument at breakfast when a knock at the door tells them that they have won the pools. Peace is restored as the egg is lifted out of the pan.
“It certainly has the influence of 19th-century Italian opera,” argued Reynolds, pointing out that his work included eight separate numbers. “Stan’s aria, ‘Down with the splash of cologne and deodorant spray’, was very much me doing early Verdi, the heroic tenor aria as in Il Trovatore. The patter song with its resonances of Gilbert and Sullivan is very quick.”
The Sands of Time, which has a libretto by Simon Rees, was conducted at its premiere at an outdoor shopping centre in Cardiff by Carlo Rizzi, the music director of Welsh National Opera. Reynolds later admitted that the work had been written in a hurry. “It took me an evening to write,” he said, adding: “I’m very proud to have used deodorant for the first time [in an opera]. It isn’t product placement. It’s simply facing reality in its harshest form.”
Later he would be embarrassed by the state of the work’s only copy. “I didn’t produce the neatest score in the world,” he said. “Twenty years on it’s still getting performances every year and each time I feel a bit more embarrassed about the old score.”
Peter John Reynolds was born in Cardiff in 1958. Almost as soon as he could walk he taught himself to play LPs and 78s on his parents’ 1954 radiogram. “I was enthusiastic, but none too careful and was often told off for playing 78s using an LP stylus,” he recalled.
He went to St Teilo’s school, studied music at University College, Cardiff, and was awarded a series of bursaries in the 1980s to attend composition classes at Dartington Summer School, with Morton Feldman, Peter Maxwell Davies and Gordon Crosse. In 1986 he was awarded the Michael Tippett award for composition, and the following year wrote his first large-scale commission, a work for chamber orchestra, that was performed at Dartington.
Over the following years Reynolds was an integral part of the vibrant Welsh music scene. He founded the PM Ensemble, major players in contemporary music at the end of the century; was artistic director of the Lower Machen Festival; wrote programme notes for more than 2,000 pieces of music; programmed concerts for St David’s Hall; set up a series of foyer concerts at Wales Millennium Centre; and, in 2009, published a history of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
In 1994 he joined the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where he was friend, mentor and confidant to a wide range of students. He would caution them against wasting energy on large-scale composing, while encouraging vigorous discussion in the bar.
Reynolds’s music was characterised by stillness, simplicity, an occasional playfulness and a tendency to set unusual and quixotic texts. For example, Adieu to all Alluring Toys, a set of songs, took its title from the epitaph on an 18th-century child’s grave at a tiny country church in Breconshire. He was recently the recipient of a Creative Wales award, enabling him to explore the relationship between music, architecture and landscape.
He tended to compose in longhand rather than use computer software. “It slows me down and makes me consider more carefully what I write,” he said. “I remember that Morton Feldman used to say that copying out his music in different drafts brought him closer to the material.”
Friends recalled that he was often seen at his local farmers market, cooked a delicious tagine and enjoyed exploring cycle tracks around Cardiff on his bike. At the time of his death Reynolds, who never married, was working on a car-horn fanfare for the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, to be performed by vintage cars.
Peter Reynolds, composer, was born on January 12, 1958. He died suddenly on October 11, 2016, aged 58
Email to my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, concerning the Investigatory Powers Bill
From: Peter Reynolds
Sent: 25 November 2016 15:01
To: Oliver Letwin
Subject: The Investigatory Powers Bill
Perhaps you can explain to me on what basis of reason, justice or liberty the following organisations will shortly have access at will to my (and your) internet browsing history?
This is an outrageous intrusion into my private life and completely unacceptable. I think it’s time we started a UK campaign for the right to bear arms. Every day it seems the government is becoming more and more of an oppressor. I reject this entirely and it does not have my consent.
Metropolitan Police Service
City of London Police
Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
Police Service of Scotland
Police Service of Northern Ireland
British Transport Police
Ministry of Defence Police
Royal Navy Police
Royal Military Police
Royal Air Force Police
Secret Intelligence Service
Ministry of Defence
Department of Health
Ministry of Justice
National Crime Agency
HM Revenue & Customs
Department for Transport
Department for Work and Pensions
NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
Competition and Markets Authority
Criminal Cases Review Commission
Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
Financial Conduct Authority
Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
Food Standards Agency
Food Standards Scotland
Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
Health and Safety Executive
Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
NHS Business Services Authority
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
Office of Communications
Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
Scottish Ambulance Service Board
Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
Serious Fraud Office
Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust
Seriously, how can any MP with any integrity or honour vote for such Soviet-style government snooping?
This is the classic breakfast for me. It’s essential to serve it with HP sauce, genuine HP sauce (I know of no acceptable own brand substitutes).
Split, season and bake large tomatoes at about 150 C for about 20 mins. It has to be smoked bacon for me, fried until it just starts to go crispy in some places. Serve on thick, buttered, granary toast.
Tip. You don’t get what you pay for with bacon, particularly not in supermarkets. Those expensive, flat trays where six rashers of bacon are artfully displayed alongside various logos, brands and quality claims are mainly a rip off. A proper butcher is of course best and sliced thickly but I use Sainsbury’s value brand, smoked back bacon. It’s excellent value and very tasty.
I am the most fortunate of fathers. I could never have dreamed that my children would scale such heights. A fortnight ago my youngest son, Evan, qualified as a chartered surveyor. Today my eldest, Richard, capped his extraordinary achievement in becoming a barrister by gaining tenancy at 9, Bedford Row, possibly the top international criminal and human rights set in London.
In the 21st century, the route to success as a barrister is almost impossible to negotiate but Richard has done so despite many disadvantages and challenges.
Born five weeks premature, he spent his first days of life in the special care baby unit. Twice-butchered, traumatised before the age of three in what should have been a minor operation at the Royal Surrey Hospital, he was at last properly served by a skilled surgeon at Great Ormond Street. Then, at the age of four, he was diagnosed with type one diabetes. His response, even as a small child, was to become an expert. Before he was a teenager he could have taken on any doctor, any diabetician, any endocrinologist and taught them a thing or two. His whole life is characterised by determination and an ability to gain knowledge through intense study and the application of his most remarkable intelligence.
As a child, he was known in our wider family as ‘the next prime minster but six’. I still have no doubt that he could achieve that if he put his mind to it – and he still may. He was individual national champion in the ‘Debating Matters’ competition and then, despite dyslexia, diabetes and far from the finest secondary education, he made his way to the University of East Anglia to study politics, philosophy and economics, that degree most favoured by our leaders and the elite. In truth, he neglected his studies for student politics, editing ‘Concrete’, the university newspaper and then launching a rival, Norwich-wide student magazine. Despite this he gained the requisite 2:1 and was by that time set on a career in the law.
Unlike many of his contemporaries at the bar, there was no silver spoon for Richard. His mother’s hard work, the support of his grandparents and his own diligence at some depressing jobs enabled his second degree in the law and successful completion of the bar course. To see him called at Middle Temple in October 2014 was then the proudest moment of my life, particularly as it was the very last such occasion for my father, himself a retired lawyer, before he died on the last day of that year. I believe Richard knows what supreme joy he brought to his grandfather in those last weeks of his life.
The next stage in a barrister’s career is to gain pupillage, the essential apprenticeship that leads to a practising certificate. Fewer than one in ten who are called to the bar achieve this and often they are aided by family contacts, networks, their Oxbridge or public school connections. Richard had none of this, only his ability, courage and a focus which makes determination an inadequate word to describe him.
I am very grateful that 9, Bedford Row granted Richard pupillage and has now given him the opportunity to reach the very top in his chosen profession. In the year before he began pupillage he showed how much the open market already values him and was appointed General Counsel on a fat salary at TES Global, the world’s leading educational publisher.
I am in awe of my son. He humbles me with his achievements. I have no doubt that he will take silk, become a judge, or triumph at whatever challenges he chooses. I am the proudest father.