Democracy 2015

Vibrant Debate at Drugs Policy Consultations

At the recent round of policy discussion meetings we had some vibrant debate and came up with a clear set of directions.
Andreas Whittam Smith writes
“What we can draw from our recent cafe style consultations is a strong feeling that the present forty-year old system is not fit for purpose. There was strong assent for two aspects of joined up thinking. The first was that drugs policy couldn’t be divorced from the root causes of social ills, poor housing and unemployment. The second urged us to consider the main addictive substances together – sugar, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
There was support for moving responsibility for drugs policy away from the Home Office to the Department for Health. Then more emphasis might be placed on medication and on education. Most people wanted the criminal sanctions gradually to be replaced by regulation.”
We are now kicking off the next stage of the work by forming a study group to propose a set of policy recommendations. Eight people have volunteered and are starting their work. If you’d like to join in this important exercise please send us an email.

Once the study group has concluded we will bring the proposals for your ratification.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this a success.

Economics and politics- how they intertwine.

Andreas Whittam Smith writes:


When people think about Britain’s economic performance, they often forget that the quality of our political process is just as much a factor in determining success or failure as any other.

One of the merits of the recent Growth Commission report - Investing for Prosperity: Skills, Infrastructure and innovation – is that it places as much focus on our political culture as on any other consideration.   Which is significant, because the Growth Commission is a prestigious body supported by the London School of Economics and its work is influential.   Politics should be analysed alongside investment, education, training and innovation.

This is what the report says about British politics.   “The adversarial nature of UK politics creates a tendency towards policy switches (and subsequent reinvention) as governments change. Sometimes this means rebranding and reorganisations. In some cases, there is genuine uncertainty about whether the policy framework that is in place will last. The pressure of bad publicity weighs heavily on political decisions and makes it harder for politicians to take unpopular decisions”

The Growth Commission goes on to add that “political debates often lack guidance from independent, evidence-based advice…civil servants’ incentives appear to be more focused on helping to deliver policies than on helping governments (or others) structure their thinking in the longer-term interests of society as a whole. 
Too often, the result is a costly cocktail of political procrastination, institutional churn and poor decision-making.’

The Commission’s conclusion, put briefly, is that a better political process would contribute to economic growth.    This is an important insight for Democracy 2015.   We are primarily concerned with the declining trust in Government and Parliament, seeing this as putting Britain on a downward path already trodden by Italy and Greece, in which a diminishing respect for the political process finally renders a country ungovernable.   That economic growth prospects are undermined at the same time strengthens the argument for acting now and doing something in time for the 2015 general election.