When an MP is in a discussion and mentions a fact to back up their argument, it would be nice if you knew that you could trust that fact. Unfortunately that’s often not the case. To pick an example at random, here’s Nadine Dorries from last week’s Any Questions (the link will work for a few more days and Dorries starts this speech at about 41 mins):
The National Drugs Prevention Alliance once startled me when they told me that the cut of cannabis which teenagers are smoking now and using across the UK is actually fifty times more potent than it was even a year ago.
That sounded astonishing to me. In fact, it sounded extremely unlikely. So I decided to investigate a little further.
I found the NDPA’s web site and emailed them to ask for references to back up this claim. Very quickly, I got a reply from their Political Affairs Director, David Raynes. He advised me to listen to the edition of Any Answers which discussed the issues from that edition of Any Questions (again the link will only work for a few more days). At about 27 minutes in, David Raynes phones in to say this:
I asked to come on the programme, basically, to correct the figures that came from Nadine Dorries about cannabis. She was absolutely correct that it’s stronger than years ago, but we don’t agree exactly with her figures and it’s a long time since we gave her a briefing. Typically, modern cannabis is about three to four times stronger than the strongest cannabis of the sixties.
The NDPA is an organisation who campaign strongly for the continued criminalisation of drugs. They are a group who totally support Dorries’ stance on drugs. But even they couldn’t stomach the distortion of their message which she put forward and felt they had to speak up and distance themselves from her.
Of course people make mistakes in the heat of a discussion – and that becomes more likely if the discussion is live in a radio studio. But any reasonable person who realises that they have made a mistake like that would surely post a clarification and an apology on their blog. In Dorries’ case, I very much doubt that will happen.
Don’t you wish you could trust MPs?