Drugs, denials, and British politics

It’s always fun when you can wring a denial out of a politician, and the denials are rolling in: Unspecified people who do equally unspecified work at Chevening–an estate used by Britain’s secretary of state–reported finding “suspected class A drugs” after parties thrown by Liz Truss, the lettuce who became prime minister but was then secretary of state.

Lettuce? Well, yes. Her tenure as prime minister was so short that a lettuce publicly outlasted her. She’ll never live it down. 

What kind of class A drugs? Something that registered as cocaine when it was tested with a swab that changes color when it gets high. Or, more accurately, when it comes into contact with cocaine.

Irrelevant photo: This is from our recent cold snap.

Is cocaine legal in Britain? Nope. Possession carries a sentence of up to seven years or an unlimited fine or both, and in July the government launched (or anyway, announced; I can’t swear that they did any more than that) a crackdown on casual users. 

Casual users? Yes. Those are the kind of users who have passports, because it was going to confiscate them. That’s a more fitting punishment for a high-end user than jail time, which is a better fit for the low-end, no-passport, no-invite-to-Chevening kind of drug user.

An unspecified insider says cocaine’s used widely in Whitehall (“Whitehall” being shorthand for British government offices) and around Parliament. And you know how it is: These are important people. You can’t just toss them in jail when they do something illegal.

During the ten minutes when Truss was prime minister, one of her spokes-salads said cracking down on illegal drugs was a priority. 

Cleaners report finding white powder at no less a residence than 10 Downing Street after two of the parties that were held during lockdown back when Boris Johnson was prime minister. Johnson outlasted many lettuces as well as a head of broccoli, and although several barbers are rumored to have attempted damage control on his hair he outran them all. 

No one’s saying either Truss or Johnson put the powder up their own personal noses. In fact, Johnson’s said not to have been at either of the No. 10 parties that left powder behind. But it does raise questions about the culture around them and what’s tolerated at high levels and not at lower ones. 

So what about those denials? 

When the Guardian, which broke the story, asked for a comment, Truss’s spokes-salad said, “If there were evidence that this alleged activity had occurred during her use of Chevening, Ms Truss would have expected to have been informed and for the relevant authorities to have properly investigated the matter. As it is, the Guardian has produced no evidence to support these spurious claims.”

A spokescomb for Boris Johnson said, “Boris Johnson is surprised by these allegations since he has not previously been made aware of any suggestions of drug use in 10 Downing Street and as far as he is aware no such claims were made to Sue Gray or to any other investigators.

“It was a feature of Mr Johnson’s premiership that he strongly campaigned against drug use, especially middle-class drug use. His government made huge investments in tougher policing to help roll up county lines drugs gangs, which cause so much misery. He repeatedly called for harsher punishments for the use and distribution of class A drugs.”

A spokesdriver for No 10’s current U-turn expert said, “The Guardian has provided no evidence to support these claims. If there were substantive claims, we would expect these to be reported to the police.”

So there you go. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Larry the Cat refused to comment but is alleged to have a serious catnip habit. As for me, I don’t usually post in the middle of the week, but this was too much fun to ignore.

18 thoughts on “Drugs, denials, and British politics

  1. It ought to be surprising that white drugs have been found in such a location but really the only surprising aspect is that it has taken this long for news of such goings on to make it to the media and be reported. Those with legislative power do so like to bang on about wars on drugs and other “antisocial” behaviours and are keen on criminalizing not just those involved in manufacturing and distributing but also possessing and using and yet here they are doing yet more of the “do as we say and not as we do” hypocrisy that appears to be part of the job description.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember a period in New York when enforcement focused on the usually Black people selling coke on the street but not on the usually white and solvent people driving across the George Washington Bridge to buy it. The buyers were neatly defined as not the problem and the dealers were the threat to society.

      Where do I even start?

      So that politicians are among the users–no, I wouldn’t say I’m surprised either. If Truss was taking it–and I have no idea whether she was or wasn’t–it might explain the impulsiveness of her budget.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. The US has begun to realize that The War on Drugs was not ending so handily. There have been attempts to ease the sentences for minor possession (such as of marijuana) that seem more commensurate with reality. But I don’t know that we are “really” doing any better at it than you are Over There.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have any sense of how the two countries compare, drug-wise. It would be an interesting study–although I’m sure someone’s done one, or three, or seven. For whatever it’s worth, I don’t think Britain ever declared war on drugs, which shows some sort of wisdom, since wars on inanimate objects seldom end well.


    • Really? I’ve found their news coverage reliable but did a quick Google search on that and found The Factual, which claims to be, and as far as I can tell with a quick glance is, a neutral site evaluating news sources. They mention its “minimal sensationalism and consistently neutral tone — qualities uncommon to its tabloid format. The newspaper has dedicated journalists to cover specific issue areas, leading to high author expertise scores.”

      Where they’re less impressed is with its “inherent and intentional left-wing bias in coverage and sourcing, as well as its large proportion of inflammatory opinion editorials,” which meant they gave it a lower score. But agree or disagree with its slant, I don’t think you can fault its accuracy.


      Liked by 2 people

  3. You are by far the best and the most erudite commentator on British politics, Ellen. How best to cope with the fact we have gone in short measure from barely coherent, to farce, to a (possibly literal) drug addled nightmare of dancing clowns? Move aside Messrs Peston and Marr – they’re still trying to play it with a straight face. You always hit the right note for me. Thumbs up!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. No surprise at all. Cocaine seems to be widely used in business and politics. The more pressure and competition in a given field, the more the temptation to get a cognitive boost, however temporary and dangerous. As you say, it would fit with the impulsiveness of their decision-making, as well as the general attitude of invulnerable superiority. Oh, and +1 on your erudite reporting of the train wreck that is British politics! I’m still chuckling at “spokes-salad”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was hoping someone would mention the spokes-salad. The U-turn joke, sadly, didn’t work as well but I threw it in anyway.

      I expect you’re right about coke and risk and impulsiveness and all those other things you mentioned. It does all fit together–politics, financial wheeling and dealing, a bit of blow. Next thing you know, the economy’s tanked, but hey, didn’t we have a good time. Right up until the lettuce wilted.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Colleagues in commercial law were telling me that their clients were habitual cocaine users back in the eighties….having to break off discussions to top up.
    Dennis Skinner had a go at Cameron and Osbourne’s use of cocaine long ago….and, anecdotedly, a friend living in an area of London recently ‘gentrified’ after being a white lower middle class area, says that since the media mob moved in the place has been plagued by shooting, stabbings and random violence between the suppliers of dope to the privileged.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope they’re getting it from reliable sources. If it’s laced with fentanyl, they’ll start overdosing and dying soon. Not very reassuring to think people in charge of important things might be snorting. But then it’s been so long since I felt reassured that…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, tell me about it. It’s not reassuring, but then so little that’s happening lately is reassuring. I don’t think a chemical explanation covers everything–the underlying economic and social changes explain more–but they would explain a lot about the style of a few things, at least over here.


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