LETTER:Wondering out loud can cause reefer madness

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From Mr Robin Prior

Sir: How strong and robust is our political system when a member of the Shadow Cabinet cannot even ask a question, let alone give an opinion ("Short says sorry as Blair reads riot act", 31 October)?

Clare Short was wondering out loud, in the most tentative terms, as to whether the question of decriminalising cannabis should be looked at. Many judges, chief constables and other commentators have done likewise. She was not making any commitment, nor advocating policy. She was certainly not saying anything new. Obviously, the view taken by Mr Blair and his spin doctors is quite different. The rights and wrongs of the issue are clearly irrelevant to them. What they are concerned with is public opinion - looking good.

More alarming, perhaps, is the kind of explanation offered by various Labour MPs trying to smooth things over. "Clare is someone who, when asked a question, will give an honest answer," one MP said yesterday. What! Is dishonesty more likely to secure a post in the Shadow Cabinet then? Is openness a quality that is a liability to an MP these days?

I wonder what other subjects MPs are forbidden to talk about? Decriminalising prostitution? The long-term unemployed? The general failure of the criminal justice system? I know - what about: The Emperor's New Clothes?

Yours sincerely,

Robin Prior

London, E8

31 October

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