On Drugs: In Defence of Flowers and Ford

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Good on the citizens of Toronto and their at least partial rehabilitation of Rob Ford – disgraced (or is he…) mayor of the city who has been found to have taken crack cocaine. The most recent polling taken after his “outing”, as it were, has seen a 5% increase in his approval rating.

It makes a very instructive comparison with how the British public has dealt with similar revelations about the former head of Co-op Bank, Reverend Paul Flowers.

The reaction has been quite spectacular. After video evidence of him buying a variety of bespoke narcotics became public knowledge, he has been: denounced in the press; expelled from the Labour Party; suspended from his ministry; and yesterday, never one to miss a trick, the coalition decided this would be the best time to announce an inquiry into the floundering Co-op group.

When did we become such a pusillanimous, hysterical, staid bunch of milquetoast bed wetters.

It’s like we’ve gone back to the 50s, only a weird dystopian 50s where McCarthyism won out and a soulless, mass produced smut (some of which has the gall to masquerade as art, as even a cursory look at the world of fashion, music videos or the magazine “rack” – if you pardon the pun – down your local shop will tell you) pervades our culture; a 50s without the consolation of genuine community and consensus.

By any measure, these men are stonewall legends and EXACTLY the sort of men we need in public life – at least say the denizens of Toronto, 19% of which tell pollsters that they would vote Rob Ford as a future Prime Minister of Canada.

“Oh, wah wah wah. He took drugs. Wah wah”.

So what he lives life on his own terms – and quite frankly it is none of our business.

There has been much about Flower’s behaviour that has been disagreeable of late. His patronage of anti-drugs charity LifeLine looks to be totally hypocritical; under his leadership Co-op Bank overvalued their existing loan portfolio by £3.6 billion and so had to be bailed out by US hedge funds; and that’s not to touch on his scandalous expense claims which forced him to resign from the position in 2011. It has yet to be proven that this is an effect of his recreational use of drugs, of which know little about the extent and nature. It is just lazily assumed that two are related somehow. In a fit of crude reductionism borne out of a puritanical mind set, Deborah Orr in the Guardian imagines Flowers to have “destroyed the Co-op” single handedly.

In fact, for many these questions of utility are irrelevant: the real issue is that he has done drugs at all. Doing drugs is wrong and it just is, so the dictates of common sense state. This weird sense of moralityis best evinced by Peter Popham in the Independent who states that compared to the heinous “sin” of drug taking, “some of his offences were relatively trivial, like a drink-driving bust in 1990.” But what’s risking other people’s lives compared to snorting a few lines, eh?

It is an irony seldom pointed out though that most of the anti-drug set so eager to denounce users as “low lifes” tend to be far more mediocre. Yet no one pesters these hypocrites for their hopelessness – because so long as it hurts no one else it matters not a whit what someone chooses to do with their life. I thought we have reached a point in history where we try not to moralise about the lifestyle choices of others?

Maybe save your ire for, I don’t know: the shameless appropriation of public assets by a party far more in thrall to corporate lobbyists than its individual members if the Conservative Party Conference is anything to go by; the mass evasion of tax by multinational concerns and it’s entrenchment in law; the stripping away of the right for all to a decent education; one of the worst levels of social mobility in the OECD; and the spread of warrantless surveillance.

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