Instant Opinion

‘Fiercer punishment is no solution to drug use’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Simon Jenkins for The Guardian

Britain’s record on drugs is stuck on a loop. ‘Crackdowns’ simply don’t work

on Johnson’s war

“The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 must be the worst law ever passed by a modern parliament,” writes Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. “Fifty years on, the act is variously credited with a soaring prison population, the devastation of working-class communities and creating hundreds of thousands of hardened addicts,” says Jenkins. The most obvious conclusion to reach from such a view “is that ever fiercer punishment is no deterrent and no solution. Yet no politician, certainly no prime minister, dares open their mouth on the subject without pledging tougher penalties,” he writes. A prime minister “aching for a headline” has proposed yet another war on drugs “in which a modest increase in ‘treatment and rehabilitation’ for those who ‘repent’ is accompanied by a blood-curdling crackdown,” argues Jenkins. “Drugs produce an irrational reaction in Britain’s political community,” he concludes. “After 50 years of costly failure, a reasonable politician might advocate at least an open mind. In most democracies that is happening. Not in Britain.”

2

Sherelle Jacobs for The Telegraph

Punishing the unvaccinated would be both immoral and unjustified

on compulsory jabs

“Sometimes, the most ostensibly compelling arguments are also the most flawed,” writes Sherelle Jacobs in The Telegraph. “Such is the case with the growing calls in the UK for punitive measures against the unvaccinated, as part of one last heave to escape the pandemic,” she continues. “That doesn’t mean, however, that it would be either morally right or clinically efficacious to follow the path that large parts of Europe are heading down,” argues Jacobs. “Above all, there is the question of what introducing draconian restrictions against the unjabbed would say about us,” she writes. “Is our attitude to human rights morally consistent? After all, freedom from torture cannot be overriden even in, say a terrorist emergency, reflecting our commitment to human dignity,” she continues. “Yet rights like freedom from medical coercion should have become contingent on the circumstances, in spite of our supposed belief in human autonomy.”

3

Jawad Iqbal for The Times

Facebook has failed to tackle the ethnic hatred in Myanmar

on combating hatred

“It is easy enough to identify the forces of evil in Myanmar. Step forward the generals who have strangled a fledgling democracy and deposed Aung San Suu Kyi, once lauded as a human rights icon,” writes Jawad Iqbal for The Times. “Even so, Myanmar’s hall of shame stretches beyond the military junta and includes other guilty parties – none more so than Facebook, which has allowed its platforms to be used to fuel the descent into hatred and violence,” he writes. “Facebook’s failure to combat the disinformation and lies on its platforms, much of it in violation of its community guidelines, is a case study in corporate evasiveness and wilful blindness,” Iqbal continues. “Facebook’s failings in Myanmar demonstrate once again that the tech giants are too cavalier to be allowed to regulate themselves. These companies pose a real danger to fundamental rights – not just in Myanmar, but everywhere.”

4

Sarah O’Connor for the Financial Times

What a lost decade of education spending means for the economy

on failures to invest

“Boris Johnson is fond of blaming businesses for the economy’s problems,” writes Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times. “He says they have failed to invest in their staff and insists Brexit will jolt the country out of its ‘broken model with low growth, low skills, and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration’.” O’Connor wants to know about the “homegrown workers who will be expected to power this transformation into a ‘high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy?” That is an area in which “his own government has also failed to invest”, she argues, pointing to an Institute for Fiscal Studies report released last week that said the most deprived fifth of secondary schools experienced a 14% real-terms fall in spending per pupil compared with a 9% drop for the least deprived schools. “As with other policy areas,” writes O’Connor, “the government has big ambitions but is only halfheartedly matching them with its wallet. A lost decade and a half for education spending is not the ideal launch point for a bold new economic strategy based on lower immigration, higher skills and ‘levelling up’ inequalities.”

5

Ed Dorrell for The Independent

What voters actually want levelling up to achieve is pretty simple

on nicer, cleaner places

“Just what is ‘levelling up’?” asks Ed Dorrell, director at Public First, a policy consultancy based in London. “Surely answering the ‘what’ question before the ‘how’ would be sensible for Gove et al,” Dorrell argues. “And the answer, according to a landmark poll carried out last month by Public First, isn’t, in fact, that complicated: the people of the ‘red wall’ want to live in nicer, cleaner, more peaceful places,” he writes. Red wall voters are “desperate to be proud of the places in which they live and for them to be less shabby and less run down”, Dorrell writes. “Surely a clean, bustling high street free of graffiti – with the threat of petit crime minimised – and a refurbished civic building or two is not too much to ask.”

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