Last night the Lib Dem Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, resigned from his post. The reason for this, as cited by Mr Baker, was that, “working (under Theresa May) in the department was like ‘walking through mud’".
This comes less than a week after Mr Baker, along with Caroline Lucas MP, spearheaded the release of a Home Office commissioned report on international drug policies (Drugs: International Comparators) and a debate in the House of Commons.
Being the only Lib Dem in the Home Office might well be difficult, but arguably his most challenging time was spent championing a ‘rational and evidence-based’ approach to drug policies against an opposition of conservatism.
The report has generally been received as a game changer for UK Drug Policy, not least because it is the most significant piece of comparative research for forty years. But it seems that not everybody shares that view. Only 18 MPs turned up for the debate in the House of Commons last Thursday and the Prime Minister said that he was against decriminalisation, adding that there would be no change in policy (even before the debate had taken place).
In the wake of the report last week, changing the current Government’s stance on UK Drug Policy seems daunting if not nigh on impossible. Not only have we seen the strength of the political opposition that reformists face but the role of the media also plays a significant (and often negative) part. Public perception is informed greatly by press reporting, not just in drugs policy of course but in many other areas too, and this helps to increase the strength of opposition.
There is now no longer a voice inside the Home Office to speak up for a rational approach to the reform of UK Drug Policy, but there are a number of charities and other organisations fighting for the reform to go ahead. An academic and evidence-based approach is not accepted by everyone, but it is one that should be heard by everyone. Prime Ministers, however, will just say no.