Monday, 6 July 2015

The Lib Dem Bourbons

At appalling letter has been written by a collection of massively failed former Lib Dem MPs backing Norman Lamb for Party Leader.
"All of us have been MPs and witnessed at first hand the personal qualities that are needed in a successful party leader.  (eh, we stuck with Nick Clegg, the most disastrous party leader of any party)

The choice we make as Liberal Democrats over the next few weeks is vitally important. It matters for reasons far beyond the future of our party. It can’t be just about making ourselves feel better; (translation - despite the utter failure of our ambition to recast the Liberal Democrats as a right-wing libertarian party  - we still can't acknowledge we were wrong and will belittle the people who pointed out our disastrous errors as only interested in making themselves feel better)

We must be far more ambitious than that. Norman Lamb has demonstrated effectively since 7 May that he shares that ambition. Norman has committed himself to leading a policy and political fightback, reaching out to those millions – particularly young people – who share our values and instincts, but are put off by closed party structures and tribal politics.  (yes, we persist in the absurd belief that people really do support us, they just don't realise it, whereas they DID support us until we reneged on the very things that attracted them to the Lib Dems)

He can set a new tone in our national politics. Norman recognises that we must do the hard work of rebuilding the crucial bonds of trust and hope that we need to play an effective national role. (the trust and hope that was destroyed by the likes the people signing this letter)

Sometimes that will require our leader to take an unpopular stand, or challenge our party to leave its comfort zone.  (what does that mean, it means embrace the lunatic fringe of the libertarian right - personal irresponsibility combined with crony capitalism)
And he understands the importance of campaigning with enthusiasm and integrity for the big causes that matter today. Supporters of human rights, political reform, social justice, UK membership of the EU and international action to stem climate change will all have a powerful champion in Norman
(remind me of the achievements in Government of Nick Clegg and his ministers on political reform ?  defeating UKIP ? )

Lamb. Norman’s record as a constituency MP is outstanding. As a minister he turned liberal policies into action. And he won respect and support for his campaigns on issues such as mental health. (he has an excellent record on mental health, why no mention of his other many high profile achievements if there are any? A list of one is not much of a list)

We are looking for a leader who will inspire us, grow the party and be a persuasive voice for liberalism. We have two great candidates, but have no hesitation in supporting Norman Lamb and urging others to do the same.

I have bolded the MPs who voted for tuition fees. Some of the others had already lost their seats !
Simon Wright went from 1st to 4th in Norwich South, David Laws in Yeovil turned a 13,000 Lib Dem majority into a 5,300 Conservative one, drooping 22% points of vote share back to where it was when Paddy Ashdown first stood in 1979 !  So if your looking for people who made the right call, then these aren't them.

Tom Brake MP (1997-), Paul Burstow (1997-2015), Ming Campbell (1987-2015), Julia Church (Goldsworthy) (2005-10), Ed Davey (1997-2015), Lynne Featherstone (2005-15), Don Foster (1992-2015), Sandra Gidley (2000-10), Stephen Gilbert (2010-15), Matthew Green (2001-5), Nick Harvey (1992-2015), David Heath (1997-2015), John Hemming (2005-15), Julian Huppert (2010-15), Susan Kramer (2005-10), David Laws (2001-15), Mike Moore (1997-2015), Tessa Munt ABSTAINED (2010-15), Bob Russell (1997-2015), Nicol Stephen (1991-92), Mike Thornton (2013-15), Paul Tyler (Feb 1974–Oct 1974 and 1992-2005), Shirley Williams (1981-83, and previously a Labour MP), Stephen Williams ABSTAINED (2005-15), Jenny Willott (2005-15), Simon Wright (2010-15)

Time for nonsense in the drugs debate

`As the debate about so called legal highs rubbles on comparison is often made with the harmful effect of alcohol.  I will declare an interest, I do drink alcohol, but in moderation and infrequently.  Most weeks I probably don't drink, and those when I do it will be a couple of pints or a few glasses of wine or spirits, on one or two days so well within the recommended daily limits.

One 'fact' regularly trotted out is that alcohol is more harmful than other legal and illegal drugs and that it causes 100,000 deaths a year in the UK alone. However, when you try and find the source of this statistic or what alcohol related deaths mean in practice the story that emerges is some what different.

Lets look at Alcohol Concern - they say:

In 2012 there were 8,367  alcohol-related deaths in the UK (In 2013 it was a similar figure 8,416)
Around 63%  (5271) of all alcohol-related deaths in 2012 were caused by alcoholic liver disease
230 people were killed of drink driving accidents in 2012 (out of  9,930 casualties, 1200 of whom suffered serious injury).

How much is drunk by people in a typical week ? When questioned by a survey in 2012:
39% of adults drank no alcohol in the last week
28% of adults drank within the recommended daily amounts
16% drank over the recommended daily amount, but under twice the recommended daily amount
17% of adults drank more than twice the recommended amounts

In rough terms each 2% = 1 million people.

19 Million people drank no alcohol
13.5 Million people drank within the recommended limits
and about 8 million drank over the recommended, limits with another 8 million drinking more than twice the recommended limits.

I have no desire to understate the harm caused by alcohol - alcoholism and alcohol dependency are unpleasant and at time horrific.  The adverse effects of misuse of alcohol can be seen at alcohol concern from crime to ill health to damage to families, friends and society.  Liver disease is a slow and horrible death.

But in terms of users, there are around 30 million weekly alcohol users and 8,367 alcohol related deaths a year.  For illegal drugs, there are around 1,350,000 weekly users and around 2,000 deaths a year.     On these figures 1 in 675 illegal drug users will die, compared to 1 in 3586 alcohol users. Illegal drugs being 5-6 times more dangerous.   But its worse, people don't die to liver disease overnight, it takes years, whereas the long term health effects of most illegal drugs are unknown or haven't filtered through into deaths, yet.
Also most people who take illegal drugs also abuse alcohol.   So when people say - alcohol is worse than illegal drugs - the question is worse for who exactly ?

There were 1,957 deaths related to misuse of illicit drugs in 2014
A large 31% of adults say they have taken at some time an illegal drug, that's 15 million people across the UK. However, far from being a 'drugs culture'  12 million of those people no longer take illegal drugs. Of the 3 million who say they still do take illegal drugs, over half of them, 1,650,000 say they take them less than once a month.

Just 690,000 people take illegal drugs daily, 450,000 take them weekly and 210,000 monthly.

So we are left with just over a million people who take illegal drugs on a daily or weekly basis.

61 per cent of respondents who used illegal drugs in the last year used alcohol at the same time the last time they used drugs. Seven per cent of respondents who used drugs in the last year said that the last time they used drugs, they used more than one drug at the same time.

While smoking the occasional cannabis joint may be relatively low risk for most people, is there really a positive side to crack cocaine, Ketamine or crystal meth in any circumstances ?

The average smoker spends £76.73 on tobacco and the average drinker spends £54.58 per month on alcohol. Drug users who spend money on drugs claim an  average expenditure increases of £74.36. In addition to the money they spend on drugs, active drug users also spend significantly more than the national average on alcohol and tobacco products.