Will Nick Clegg’s drug reforms have any influence on voters?

67 per cent of the public agree there needs to be reform when it comes to drug policy, but will it be enough to win back lost voters?

67 per cent of the public agree there needs to be reform when it comes to drug policy, but will it be enough to win back lost voters?

The Liberal Democrats are in dire straits. Plummeting support for the party continues to be highlighted in poll after poll, currently standing at 7 per cent according YouGov, but it is likely that that figure will continue to dip right up until election day next May.

In an attempt to claw back some share of the electorate, Nick Clegg announced on Monday that the party will look into decriminalising all drugs for personal use, allowing cannabis to be sold on the open market.

If it reaches the manifesto, it is no doubt a bold move that the party so evidently needs, but will it make a difference?

In April of this year the Tory thinktank Bright Blue also urged the prime minister to abandon the ‘futile’ war on drugs and make partial legalisation a cornerstone in next year’s election manifesto. The group suggested that a reform would appeal to young and ethnic-minority voters who are crucial to the party’s long-term survival.

And such opinion is not isolated in Westminster either, with 77 per cent of 150 MPs asked by a ComRes poll in 2012 agreeing that the UK’s current drug policy was ineffective.

However despite growing belief, most politicians are terrified of publicly expressing firm support for any move towards decriminalisation for fear of encountering the wrath of their party, and also the right-wing press. Norman Baker was immediately slapped down by the Tories the moment he suggested legalising cannabis for medical use last month.

This latest announcement is definitely daring then, however it does unfortunately wreak of panicked desperation. It is true that 67 per cent of the public agree that there needs to be reform when it comes to drug policy, but would it be enough to win back voters?

Of the sample electorate I asked, support for the policy was higher than not, especially amongst those aged 18-24, who according to DrugScope, make up a larger share of frequent drug users.

And yet despite that support, many I spoke to were completely disenchanted with the party and their passiveness since forming the Coalition, and would therefore not tolerate any possibility of putting an X next to their name at the ballot box.

There was also a dismissal of the move as purely foolish bravado, with one saying that “if they think they can snatch the young vote by saying, ‘we’ll legalise drugs’, ‘we’ll abolish tuition fees’, they must be deluded. They’ve presided over cuts that will seriously harm our society in the long run and I hope that young people see past these cosmetic offers and seek policies that place housing, healthcare and equality at the forefront rather than getting high”.

A ‘stunt’ is how another described it, which is curious because Norman Lamb is subsequently criminalising legal highs, which appears slightly contradictory when set against Nick Clegg’s calls. It suggests a disharmonious party who aren’t reading from the same page, which although not uncommon when it comes to this issue, does do nothing to discourage labels of a voter stunt by a party with little conviction to carry it through.

It’s therefore a rot that looks set to continue for the Liberal Democrats who are now plagued by a awe of deceit, meaning that any radical policy they do throw their full weight behind will be met with deep distrust. It’s become simply a no win situation for the party who now retreat forever further into the wilderness.

Although is damning the party short-sighted? Considering the continuing emergence of UKIP and the growing possibility of another hung parliament should Scotland vote for independence next week, will we be wishing for the Liberal Democrats come May?

Luke Nightingale is a freelance journalist and founding editor of The Looking Glass Liverpool. He also blogs

4 Responses to “Will Nick Clegg’s drug reforms have any influence on voters?”

  1. sarntcrip

    no after 2010 nobody believes a word he says

  2. Dave

    While the Liberal Democrats motives may be questionable (or not – they are liberals after all), they should be supported in advancing forwards this very important issue. I’m far more annoyed at Labour – what are they doing about drug policy? I’ll tell you: nothing. Absolutely sodding
    nothing. Their silence is deafening. This should be a big source of shame for the left, supposedly champions of social justice. They are the party that needs their ears bent over this issue above all others – even UKIP, or at least Nigel Farage, has demonstrated interest in drug reform. I don’t see serious change in drug policy happening in this country until Labour makes a move

  3. Steve

    Labour made their move in 2006 when Gordon Brown regraded cannabis to class B against the scientific advice. I was a Lifelong labour voter, bit never again

  4. Julian Pursell

    There is no doubt that drug laws contribute to the incidence of psychosis here in the UK.
    When cannabis was downgraded to class C, psychosis rates dropped in the UK. When Gordon Brown regraded cannabis back to class B, psychosis rates returned to pre-class C levels.
    In my mind, any party that clings to the drug war is running around with an axe randomly chopping at people, and is a much bigger threat to the UK’s inhabitants than any terrorist group.

    [Disclosure: Intending to vote Green]

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