The so-called “war on drugs” is back in the news, but not for the kind of reasons that the Government will find comfortable: in an interview by Australian broadcaster ABC, former escort Natalie Rowe has claimed that the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, did take cocaine with her on the night that the photo published later by the Sunday Mirror was taken.
Whatever the fallout from the Rowe interview, one thing is certain: Osborne will not face any kind of criminal sanction, no matter how many witnesses come forward to confirm that he took a trip through the high snowfields of Colombia. But the Government of which he is a member will continue to maintain its supposedly tough stance towards currently illegal drugs.
And this means that a whole industry will continue to be run by, and for the benefit of, organised criminality. Drugs will continue to be routinely adulterated to pad them out and increase returns, and this in turn will continue to increase the harm done by those drugs to the millions – yes, millions – among the UK population who use them on a more or less occasional basis.
That this is not A Good Thing for the UK economy was brought into sharp focus at the weekend with an article telling how drug and alcohol problems are increasing significantly in the financial sector. The drinking culture has been well known for years – you don’t need to look far in the Square Mile or around Canary Wharf to find a thirtysomething with shaky hands and liver problems – but the drugs one is catching up, and fast.
The difference between provincial towns and cities and London’s financial districts appears to be that there are dozens of bars actually dealing drugs to an increasingly needy clientele, an example of the scale of the business being done. The fallout, in health problems, bad behaviour, and actual damage to businesses by workers under the influence, has to be paid for by the generally law abiding.
Osborne and his fellow jolly good chaps could have used this incident to open a grown up debate on drug policy. They have not, and will not: the status quo suits not only the Fourth Estate, but also anyone in a position of significant power. And those in the latter category include organised criminality. After all, they’re an interest group with a business model to protect, too.