The sacking of David Nutt has caused sensational headlines, media frenzy and middle class scoffing. Dr Nutt’s advice to the government, that cannabis was not as harmful as other Class B drugs and should be downgraded, is reasonable, but just because he says so does not mean the Government is duty bound to take his advice.
Liberal Democrat members, and voters, are generally people who have received a higher quality education, come from professional backgrounds and are generally, what Alan Johnson would call, middle class.
As such they speak, and think, like middle class people, and on drugs policy they tend to be, unsurprisingly liberal, seeking the decriminalisation of activities that they seem to be relatively harmless.
Importantly this is one they, themselves, have almost certainly indulged in.
All this seems very reasonable.
But, with respect to Liberal Democrats, Alan Johnson is not speaking for middle class people, or to the people who vote Liberal Democrat; he is speaking to his constituency.
Alan Johnson knows that drugs policy is a totemic issue, and one that people are more concerned about in less leafy suburbs. These are areas that see the detrimental social impacts of drugs, of whatever class, and lump them together as being a negative effect on their area.
These are areas in which Liberal Democrats are campaigning hard to unseat sitting Labour MPs, and are areas that are more receptive to a tough stance on drugs.
By his sacking of Dr Nutt he has, however unsubtly, raised awareness tha the Government is tougher than their Liberal Democrat, and modern Conservative, opponents.
The failure of the Conservatives to be quite as vocal as the Liberal Democrats on this subject might have something to do with this article, about David Cameron, in today’s Times.