Saturday 16 August 2008
Richard Ingrams' Week: We can't go on blaming the system for drug problems
It is not clear what Mr Julian Critchley, who wrote in these pages in favour of legalising all hard drugs, did when he was the director of the grandly titled UK Anti-Drug Co-ordination Unit.
But it is clear from reading his piece that he considered it was a waste of time and therefore he resigned. Still, before deciding whether or not we agree with his views, it would be nice to know a little bit more about what exactly he was up to.
Because like most people who argue, as Mr Critchley does, he blames abstract forces, not individuals, for the alarming increase in drug addiction in Britain. He refers to such things as pointless "supply-side interventions" and what he calls a draconian legal policy, as though it were these vaguely defined impersonal factors that are responsible for the crisis.
Most people are as ill-equipped as I am to argue the toss. But we may have enough sense to work out that there can't be anything too draconian about a legal system if there are men selling cocaine quite openly on street corners in our major towns and cities.
But this is the tendency now with all discussions about society's ills: when things go wrong we blame systemic or institutional failure rather than any human shortcomings. Even when fraud has been committed, as in the recent TV quiz show scams, the company may be held to account and possibly fined. Seldom is an executive punished or even named.
So if hard drugs are widely and cheaply available in Britain, it is perhaps possible that it is individuals rather than the system who have failed us. And they might even include people like Mr Critchley.
What a load of old rubbish
One of my few remaining pleasures in life is to make a bonfire out of old newspapers and watch all the headlines of yesterday, all those colour supplements and inserts, go up in smoke.
It's not only a pleasing spectacle but also a helpful reminder of the transitory nature of journalism. Here today, reduced to ashes tomorrow. All journalists need to be reminded of how little attention the world pays to the stuff we write.
But with global warming in mind, is a big bonfire of the vanities justifiable? I sometimes wonder about this, but now a more serious objection has been made. What I have always presumed to be the case turns out to be a proven fact – namely that rubbish, including old newspapers, is now a valuable commodity. Local councils have discovered that they can make a small fortune from selling things such as recyclable plastic, thus proving the truth of the old saying that where there's muck there's brass.
The scandal is that, at the same time, these councils are threatening householders with all kinds of new regulations about rubbish disposal or even charging for its removal.
It is pointed out that local councils could do very well from selling half of the stuff they collect. But we ought to ask why should councils make money out of our rubbish so that they can pay out bigger bonuses to their executives.
If my old newspapers are as valuable as they say, why shouldn't the profit come to me? I am open to offers. But if they don't materialise then I am quite happy to carry on burning.
* Was Sir James Goldsmith the father of Princess Diana? I was familiar with the rumour but recently what we journalists call a normally reliable source told me that it was a distinct possibility. Goldsmith had certainly been intimate with Mrs Shand Kydd and the dates all fitted. So why not?
Last week for the first time Goldsmith's daughter Jemima, who bears a distinct likeness to her friend Diana, published for the first time some thoughts about her father, the late financier.
But we learned little that was new. Much of the article was taken up with the story of her grandfather, who had been a victim of anti-German feeling during the First World War. But to Goldsmith anoraks like myself it was all familiar stuff.
Jemima would like to think that her father, like her grandfather, was a victim – possibly of anti-Semitism. But it is a hard charge to make stick. Goldsmith was unpopular for the simple reason that he was not a very nice person.
When he died, The Guardian, perhaps rashly, invited me to write his obituary. I thought it only fair to the deceased that I should try to find something good to say about him. But it proved an impossible task.
In deference, however, to Goldsmith I made no mention of his sexual activities which were considerable and varied. Little is now gained from raking over such matters. But if they might have a bearing on the future of the Royal Family, then perhaps there should be a proper inquiry and possibly even DNA testing.
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