Tag Archives: cocaine

#CorridorsOfPowder – hypocritical Tories will force big employers to do random drug tests. What about Westminster?

Shaun Bailey: he has already been branded as the Conservative candidate for Islamophobia, sexism and misogyny. Now he’s adding hypocrisy to the list with a plan for drug testing in major firms, but not in Parliament – which is known to have a serious cocaine problem.

It seems Priti Patel has picked up on Tory London Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey’s plan to force firms that employ more than 250 people to subject the workforce to random drug tests.

Her endorsement follows one by Iain Duncan Smith last month.

But how strange that the UK Parliament, where the House of Commons alone employes around 2,040 people – not counting MPs, is to be exempt from any such legislation!

The Conservative government are planning to introduce legislation which would force big employers to carry out random drug tests on their employees – but MPs look set to be exempt from the policy.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary Priti Patel endorsed controversial plans drawn up by the Tory candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey.

The Tory Mayoral candidate says the policy is designed to reduce ‘middle-class cocaine usage‘ in the capital. However, MPs – who are notorious users of the drug – will be exempt.

Yes indeed. Back in August, This Site pointed out that cocaine use in the House of Commons has become so bad that at one point even the arch-Tory Daily Mail published an article dubbing the Palace of Westminster “corridors of powder”.

Apparently the washrooms of Parliament are… awash with the stuff.

I wonder if this is not a subtle (especially for the Tories) bid to sabotage Bailey’s bid to be Mayor of London.

He has already blotted his copy book in the past and it seems hard to believe this plan will be a vote-winner. People who take the drug won’t support a man who has inflicted random testing on them and those who don’t will hate the fact that the Tories are imposing tests on others but not submitting to the same tests themselves, even though it is well-established that Westminster has a serious nose candy problem.

Perhaps someone thinks it is a way to get rid of him, while still imposing a little extra unnecessary unpleasantness into the lives of ordinary people (most of whom won’t have been anywhere near cocaine).

Source: The Tories are planning to force workers to undergo random drug tests – but MPs will be exempt | Evolve Politics

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POLL: Does anybody care about all these Tory leadership hopefuls and their druggie pasts?

Andrea Leadsom: She’s the fourth Tory leadership candidate to admit having smoked “weed”.

Can somebody please tell me how having taken drugs in the past makes someone a better candidate to be the leader of the Conservative Party – let alone prime minister?

Jeremy Hunt was the first; he admitted taking a cannabis lassi (it’s a kind of drink made in India).

Then Rory Stewart said he took opium at a wedding in Iran, prompting speculation in some quarters that he was pre-empting a revelation – possibly by a rival.

And then the floodgates opened.

Boris Johnson took cocaine and cannabis at college. Can anybody say they’re surprised?

Dominic Raab has had cannabis, and so has Andrea Leadsom.

And Michael Gove took cocaine. In his confession, he went on at length about the drug’s harmful effects (“drugs damage lives”) and about his feelings on the subject now (“it is something I deeply regret”). This caused more rancour than the straight confessions of the others.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said it was “rank hypocrisy” to admit to “mistakes” while “backing policies that perpetuate harm”.

Crispin Blunt, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform, said: “Michael has delivered a politically-crafted and deeply unconvincing hand-wringing statement of regret for committing a victimless crime. He should have used the opportunity to join a vital and urgent policy debate.”

Ex-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron pointed out that all six “continue to back policies that send less fortunate folk to prison for the same thing. It’s disgusting”.

And current Lib Dem leadership hopeful Ed Davey observed: “They might all be historical confessions but the way this Tory leadership is going it’s like they’re all off their heads.”

That certainly appears to be the conclusion of the satirists, who have been having great fun concocting fictional pasts for other MPs. I particularly enjoyed the idea of Jacob Rees-Mogg having used camphorated tincture of laudanum with his nanny in 1899.

And apparently Larry the Downing Street Cat has admitted a continuing fondness for catnip. Well, why not?

In the interests of full disclosure, This Writer is happy to admit a long history of substance abuse including cocktails of diesel, metal polish and (when I can get it) Uranium-239. We journalists run on heavy fuel!

But there is a serious question here.

The issue of illegal drugs has been a major political football for decades. Remember the “war on drugs”? The lives of millions of people have been affected – many ruined – by organised drug-pushers; Michael Gove wasn’t wrong about that. And many people have been punished – sometimes jailed – simply for possession of certain substances.

And the hypocrisy of the mass media should also be taken into account. Remember the thunderous furore after Diane Abbott drank a mojito on a train? In comparison, we get hardly a whimper after people who may become prime minister confessed to serious historical crimes.

Against this background, it is right to question the attitude of these confessors. Let’s have a poll:

Source: Tory leadership hopeful Andrea Leadsom becomes 6th candidate to admit drugs past – Mirror Online

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Keith Vaz can only embarrass Labour if he retains Justice Committee membership

Keith Vaz MP [Image: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror].

Keith Vaz MP [Image: Andy Commins/Daily Mirror].

It’s true – if Mr Vaz tries to hold on to any high-profile role within Parliament while he is being investigated by the police, he will be an easy target for Tory snipers and will bring embarrassment down on the Labour Party.

He should withdraw from such roles – including membership of the Justice Committee – for the duration of the inquiry. Obviously, if any matter goes to trial and any guilt is proved, he’ll have long-term questions to answer.

But that doesn’t mean his place on the committee should go empty. Tories who have been demanding the removal of Mr Vaz should also accept the nomination of a Labour Party replacement, to ensure the committee is at full strength at all times.

That probably isn’t what they want, but it is the democratic way.

Pressure is mounting on Keith Vaz to step down from a powerful Commons committee after it emerged he is at the centre of a police investigation over drug allegations .

The police probe was launched after a review into claims the Labour MP discussed cocaine with male escorts at sex parties.

Mr Vaz said he would ‘cooperate with the investigation in any way he can’.

But the Tories said it was ‘not appropriate’ for the disgraced Labour MP to stay on the Justice Committee during the police probe.

Source: MPs tell shamed Keith Vaz to quit powerful Justice Committee amid police drugs probe – Mirror Online

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By their own standards, Coalition ministers should be in prison

131125criminality

Everyone should agree that the Tory fuss over former Co-op Bank chief Paul Flowers is an attempt to distract us all from a more serious transgression that they themselves have committed.

Flowers, who is also a former Labour councillor, was arrested last week after being filmed allegedly handing over money to pay for cocaine.

The Conservatives have spent the last few days working very hard to establish a link, in the public consciousness, between the criminal allegations against Flowers, the Co-op Bank’s current financial embarrassment – believed to have been caused because Flowers knew nothing about banking, and the Labour Party, which has benefited from loans and a £50,000 donation to the office of Ed Balls.

This is unwise, considering a current Tory peer, Viscount Matt Ridley, was chairman of Northern Rock at the time it experienced the first run on a British bank in 150 years. He was as well-qualified to chair that bank as Paul Flowers was to chair the Co-op. A writer and journalist, his only claim on the role was that his father was the previous chairman (apparently the chairmanship of Northern Rock was a hereditary position).

Ridley was accepted as a Tory peer after the disaster took place (a fact which, itself, casts light on Conservative claims that they were going to be tough on bankers after the banker-engineered collapse of the western economies that started on his watch). The Conservatives are currently obsessing about what happened between Flowers and the Labour Party before the allegations of criminality were made.

Ridley is listed as having failed in his duty of care, which is not very far away from the kind of responsibility for the Co-op Bank’s collapse that is alleged of Paul Flowers. (Source: BBC Any Questions, November 22, 2013)

In addition, the Co-op Bank is not the Co-operative Party or the Co-operative Movement, and those two organisations – one of which is affiliated with the Labour Party – must not be tarred with the same brush.

The Tories are hoping that the public will accept what they are told, rather than digging a little deeper for the facts.

There’s no real basis for their venom; they ennobled a man who presided over much worse damage to the UK’s financial institutions, and attracting attention to criminal behaviour by members or supporters of political parties would be a huge own-goal.

Therefore this is a distraction. From what?

Cast about a little and we discover that Jeremy Hunt is threatening to create a new criminal offence for doctors, nurses and NHS managers if they are found to have wilfully neglected or mistreated patients – carrying a penalty of up to five years in jail.

The law was recommended in the summer by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to Barack Obama, who recommended criminal penalties for “leaders who have acted wilfully, recklessly, or with a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude and whose behaviour causes avoidable death or serious harm”.

Some of you may be delighted by this move, in the wake of the Mid Staffs scandal – even though questions have been raised over the accuracy of the evidence in that case.

But let’s look at another controversial area of government – that of social security benefits for the seriously ill.

It appears the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith, is planning to remove financial support for more than half a million people who – by its own standards – are too ill to seek, or hold, employment.

Apparently Smith wants to disband the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants, because they aren’t coming off-benefit fast enough to meet his targets.

The Observer‘s report makes it clear that the arguments are all about money, rather than patient care. Smith is concerned that “only half of WRAG claimants are coming off-benefit within three years, and hundreds of millions of pounds are being tied up in administration of the benefit, including work capability assessments and the appeals process”.

No mention is made of the fact, revealed more than a year ago, that many of those in the WRAG in fact belong in the Support Group for ESA (the group for people recognised to have long-term conditions that are not likely to go away within the year afforded to WRAG members). They have been put in the WRAG because targets set by Smith mean only around one-eighth of claimants are put into the Support Group.

The knock-on effect is that many claimants appeal against DWP decisions. This has not only caused deep embarrassment for Smith and his officials, but added millions of pounds to their outgoings – in benefit payments and tribunal costs.

Not only that, but – and this is the big “but” – it is known that many thousands of ESA claimants have suffered increased health problems as a result of the anxiety and stress placed on them by the oppressive process forced upon them by Iain Duncan Smith.

This means that between January and November 2011, we know 3,500 people in the WRAG died prematurely. This cannot be disputed by the DWP because its claim is that everyone in the WRAG is expected to become well enough to work within a year.

These are not the only ESA claimants to have died during that period; a further 7,100 in the Support Group also lost their lives but are not used in these figures because they had serious conditions which were acknowledged by the government and were getting the maximum benefit allowed by the law.

What about the people who were refused benefit? What about the 70 per cent of claimants who are marked “fit for work” (according to, again, the unacknowledged targets revealed more than a year ago by TV documentary crews)?

We don’t have any figures for them because the DWP does not keep them. But we do know that many of these people have died – some while awaiting appeal, others from destitution because their benefits have been stopped, and more from the added stress and insecurity of seeking work while they were too ill to do it.

Now Iain Duncan Smith (we call him ‘RTU’ or ‘Returned To Unit’, in reference to his failed Army career) wants more than half a million people – who are known to be too ill to work – to be cut off from the benefit that supports them.

Let’s draw a line between this and Jeremy Hunt’s plan to criminalise medical professionals whose wilful, reckless or ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to patients’ needs causes avoidable death or serious harm.

Clearly, such an attitude to people with serious long-term conditions should be carried over to all government departments, and yet nobody is suggesting that the DWP (and everybody who works for it) should face the same penalties.

Why not?

By its own admission, choices by DWP decision-makers – acting on the orders of Iain Duncan Smith – have led to deaths. We no longer have accurate information on the number of these deaths because Smith himself has blocked their release and branded demands for them to be revealed as “vexatious”. No matter. We know they have led to deaths.

If doctors are to face up to five years in prison for such harm, then government ministers and those carrying out their orders should be subject to the same rules.

By his own government’s standards, Iain Duncan Smith should be in prison serving many thousands of sentences.

Consecutively.

Drug-induced? Conservative policy is to increase the national debt and make you pay

131121osborne

Isn’t it shameful that the Conservatives are attacking Labour because the Co-op Bank chief has been behaving like the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

The ex-chairman of the bank, Paul Flowers – who is a former Labour councillor, is being investigated by police after he was filmed appearing to buy drugs. How is that different from the above photograph of one G. Osborne (now Chancellor of the Exchequer), raving it up at a party with a lot of cocaine on the table (ringed in red)?

Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron made much of the Flowers investigation at Prime Minister’s Questions – even suggesting, after the unimpeachable Michael Meacher asked an important question about business investment, that the honourable gentleman might have “been on a night out on the town with Reverend Flowers” and the “mind-altering substances have taken effect”.

Apparently it is all right for Gideon to be a drug casualty because he is a Tory; only Labour supporters who take drugs can be bad in Cameron’s addled world.

No wonder Labour MPs chanted “Shame!” at Cameron as he slunk out of the Chamber.

His attitude seems wrong-headed because, as managed by Mr Osborne for the past three and a half years, the economy can only be regarded as improving if one has the aid of Mr Cameron’s “mind-altering substances”.

Economic figures released this week are being touted as good news, with tax revenues “boosted” by “a recovering economy and housing market”, according to the BBC.

Take a closer look at those figures and they fall down. Borrowing (excluding the cost of interventions like bank bailouts, so we’re already in the realm of made-up figures) fell by two one-hundred-and-thirds, from £8.24 billion in the same month last year to £8.08 billion in October. Less than two per cent and they’re calling it a “boost”. It might be wiped out again in November’s figures.

Also, it should be borne in mind that growth in the housing market is due to the bubble created by our formerly-substance-abusing Chancellor, while any other economic growth has nothing to do with him and, in any case, does not help the vast majority of the population.

Total public debt has risen again, to £1.207 trillion or 75.4 per cent of gross domestic product – the highest it has ever been – under the Conservatives.

The aim for the national deficit, we are told, is to keep borrowing for 2013-14 at £120 billion or below. In his ‘Emergency Budget’ of 2010, Osborne predicted that borrowing this year would be down to half that – at £60 billion, and estimates have been rising ever since.

The 2011 budget had the 2013-14 deficit at £70 billion; in 2012 it was expected to be £98 billion; and now – £120 billion. Perhaps his original estimate was a coke-fuelled fantasy?

Of course – as this blog repeated only days ago – the Conservative-led Coalition never intended to cut the national debt. This was just a claim ministers made while they changed the system to take as much money as possible from the poor while making it possible for the rich to remove their personal earnings and corporate profits from tax to the greatest extent possible.

Result: Increasing debt and lower-than-necessary tax returns, making it possible for the Tories to claim they must cut public services and the benefit system, while laughing all the way to the banks (the ones that were never penalised for burning all our money in the first place).

So much for “We’re all in it together” – unless that was another reference to “mind-altering substances”, and we didn’t understand it until now.

Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.

The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.

More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.

To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.

This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.

Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”

Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.

More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.

And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.

“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.

He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”

Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.

“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.

Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.

Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”

But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.

We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.

The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.

So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.