By Matthew Barrett
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Nick Clegg has chosen today to launch an attempt to change Britain's drugs laws. The attempt has failed. David Cameron said, during a press conference in Brussels, that Mr Clegg is entitled to hold a view on the Lib Dems' plans for their next manifesto. That neatly bats away any notion that the Coalition will change current drugs laws. Mr Cameron said:
"I personally don't support a royal commission. In my view there's always a danger, as someone said, that they can take minutes and last for years. I am very happy to debate and discuss drug policy. I think the coalition government has taken a series of good steps. The government, I think, has got a good record on these things and there is some good evidence that drug use and drug abuse is falling."
Cameron is right not to follow Clegg's path.
Mr Clegg used an overly dramatic and inaccurate term in his interview with the Sun today. He said: "We are losing the war on drugs on an industrial scale." The real "war on drugs" primarily relates to actions carried out by the Mexican government against large armed drugs gangs. Some of the south western states of the US are also affected. Britain is not. If Mr Clegg wants to protest against the policies of the Mexican and American government, he is free to do so. But he should not pretend British drugs laws are anything to do with it. In reality, we gave up any pretense of a "war on drugs" in Britain decades ago.
Any Coalition attempt to change existing laws would undoubtedly be tainted by Mr Clegg's divisive and insulting outlook. Anyone who doesn't believe harmful drugs should be freely available would be called "prohibitionists" and treated like cavemen. It would cause divisions across all parties. Many Labour MPs representing tough inner-city areas scarred by drugs and the crimes they beget would be as unlikely to vote for drugs liberalisation as Tory MPs from the shires. This probably explains Ed Miliband's decision not to take a position. He said:
"We will look in detail at the home affairs committee report then come to a conclusion. What would be a problem would be to push into the far future any changes. We need to look now at whether drugs policy is working. I am not in favour of decriminalisation but we will look at the report."
Mr Cameron confirmed that he believed current laws are effective and are helping to reduce drug abuse. Mr Clegg's priorities for government already resemble the liberal elites' dream manifesto: gay marriage, Lords "reform", and voting system alterations. Changing drugs legislation practically completes the set. It would be – and would be seen to be – another distraction from the central economic mission and message of the Government. David Cameron is right to slap it away.