10/12/2012 03:17 GMT | Updated 30/01/2013 16:42 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Time To Decriminalise Dope?

The ten things you need to know on Monday 10th December 2012...


From the BBC:

"The government is being urged by MPs to closely consider a system of drugs de-criminalisation pioneered in Portugal.

"The Home Affairs Committee said it was impressed with the approach to cutting drug use where people found with small amounts are not always prosecuted.

"... The Home Office rejected its call for a Royal Commission on UK drugs policy, saying that was 'not necessary'.

"Official figures show that drug use in England and Wales is at its lowest rate under current measurements since 1996."

Will this select committee report help kickstart a much-needed debate about drug use and the manifest failure of the global 'war on drugs'? Judging from the headline to Melanie Phillips' column in today's Daily Mail - "When Russell Brand and Richard Branson are helping shape drug policy, something's gone horribly wrong" - I'm guessing it won't.

Then again, as the Mail itself reports, the report did get support from an unlikely source - Tory MP Michael Fabricant, who grabbed the headlines a fortnight ago with his call for a Tory-Ukip alliance:

"On Twitter, Mr Fabricant, who is a Tory party vice-chairman, wrote: ‘Have often said: Prohibition in US didn’t work. Created crime & black market. Home Affairs Committee is right to ask if drug prohibition works.

"‘If we spent the money on educating people that drugs are dangerous instead of attempting & failing to ban them, I suspect more effective.’"

Will Fabricant be slapped down again?


From the Guardian splash:

"Labour injected urgency in the drive to improve press standards today by publishing a six-clause draft bill that directs the lord chief justice to certify the effectiveness of independent regulation of the newspaper industry once every three years.

"The draft bill, given to the Guardian last night and being sent to the culture secretary Maria Miller today, has been discussed with the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, by Ed Miliband, as well as with senior Conservative MPs who support statutory underpinning of independent press regulation.

"... In a significant switch in its draft, Labour has abandoned support for Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator acting as the body to oversee the press regulator."

Labour's draft bill will be discussed at Thursday's cross-party talks, at which Miller is expected to unveil on her own 'spoiler' of a draft bill.

The Tories, of course, don't want to implement Leveson in full; but can they resist a new Labour-Lib Dem alliance on this issue?


From the Times:

"The head of British Airways has accused the Government of failing with its economic strategy and being 'fixated' with immigration.

"In a gloomy verdict on last week’s Autumn Statement, which extended austerity until 2018, Willie Walsh complained that the coalition Government had no growth strategy.

"The chief executive of BA’s parent, International Airlines Group, suggested that if the Chancellor were running a business, it would be destined for deep losses."



From the Telegraph:

"Italy risks punishment in the markets today, after its prime minister's surprise resignation signalled imminent elections and threats to its austerity efforts.

"Mario Monti, Italy's technocrat leader, announced that he would be leaving his post early, after his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi's party last week withdrew crucial support. Mr Berlusconi, a political rival, has accused Mr Monti of enacting austerity which leaves Italy facing a 'recessive spiral without end'."

Is Silvio "bunga-bunga" Berlusconi, who, lest we forget, is currently on trial for allegedly paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer, really on the verge of a political comeback? And, if so, could Europe's governing crisis get any worse?

As the Times leader puts it: "The last thing Italy needs is to vote back Berlusconi, whose record for economic management is as bad as his reputation as a party host."


From the Guardian:

"Sir John Major has publicly backed gay marriage in church in the latest high-profile attempt to press the government to go ahead with promised legislation.

"The former prime minister's statement is released on Monday through Freedom to Marry, a newly formed group of senior Conservatives in favour of churches having the option to offer gay marriage. Major said the move was a 'courageous and genuine attempt to offer security and comfort to people who – at present – may be together, yet feel apart' and urged ministers to 'move on' with the policy."


Watch this video of a baby elephant taking a bath. Awww!


From the FT splash:

"US and UK regulators will today unveil the first crossborder plans to deal with failing global banks, outlining proposals to force shareholders and creditors on both sides of the Atlantic to take losses and to ensure that sufficient capital exists in the banks' headquarters to protect taxpayers. Writing in the Financial Times, Martin Gruenberg, chairman of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Paul Tucker, deputy Bank of England governor, say this represents the first concrete steps to end the 'too big to fail' problem of international banks."

Fingers crossed, eh?


From the Guardian:

"President Mohamed Morsi's decision to rescind most of the controversial decree awarding himself untrammelled powers failed to stem the wave of protest against him in the run-up to a critical referendum on the shape of the new Egyptian state.

"The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) declared on Sunday night it would boycott the vote on the new constitution, arguing that it was impossible against a background of Muslim Brotherhood "intimidation". The referendum was "grossly irresponsible" and would cause "cause further division and polarisation", it claimed.

"... The opposition called for fresh protests on Tuesday, while insisting it still recognised Morsi as the elected president."


Will Dave come to regret his airbrushed 'I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS' election posters from 2010? Last week, we saw the statistics watchdog criticise government ministers for (falsely) claiming that there had been a real-terms increase in spending on the NHS in England and Wales.

Now, reports the Telegraph:

"Funding and staffing for specialist cancer treatment networks have been cut by up to 25 per cent despite Coalition promises, Labour will claim today.

Based on figures from NHS bodies, Labour said NHS Cancer Networks had less money and fewer staff than they did when the Coalition came to power."

Expect to hear much more of the Labour refrain - "You can't trust the Tories with the NHS" - over this winter period.


Nadine Dorries appeared on BBC1's Sunday Politics and decided to go toe to toe with Andrew Neil - and, basically, accuse him of sexism.

From the Huffington Post:

"Asked by interviewer Andrew Neil what size her fee would be when declared on the members' register, she responded: 'Do you know, Andrew, anything I earn from the programme - I started the first of my donations yesterday - will be declared in the register of members' interests, but let me ask you. You interview every day male MPs, and maybe on this programme today, who earn outside earnings, work as full-time barristers and have other interests. Have you ever asked them what they earn or is it just something you ask to women?'

"She went on: 'I've never heard you ask a male MP what fee he is being paid for work that he does.'

"Neil replied: 'Maybe you'll have to watch our programmes more often instead of being in the jungle.'"



From the Huffington Post:

"Tory minister and Yorkshireman Eric Pickles 'admitted to treason' on air Sunday - revealing that, for him, the only way is Essex.

"Speaking to Kirsty Young on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he said: 'I am afraid I am going to have to admit to treason on the air – I like Essex. Essex is my home and I hate going back to Yorkshire.'

"It's not the perma-tan or the false eyelashes that endear him to the county, but the countryside of his constituency of Brentwood and Ongar, where he has been an MP since 1992, which keeps him down south."


“Emphatically we should be looking at GM [foods]… I’m very clear it would be a good thing." - Environment secretary Owen Paterson waves a red rag at Britain's green groups, in an interview with today's Telegraph.


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 33

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 96.


@WilliamJHague At EU meetings today will call for support for Syrian opposition, firm stance on Israeli settlements and urgent efforts on the peace process

@OwenJones84 Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun failing to make clear the 1% welfare cap applies to tax credits classic example of how paper manipulates readers

@sullydish War on Pot is racist in enforcement, ridiculous in science, outrageous to personal liberty, and inimical to federalism


Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "Conservatives should embrace gay marriage."

Julian Huppert MP, writing in the Guardian, says: "The hypocrisy of the war on drugs must end... The time for hardline posturing is over."

Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ignore the doom merchants, Britain should get fracking."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol