MPs and Facts

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?


  1. Well done.

    Did they make any comment on the “One spliff and you’l never reach your full academic potential” claim?


  2. How about the claim she made that there are lots of other drugs put in street cannabis?

    Actually, David Raynes’s correction is still wrong. According to the Home Office study of 2008, street cannabis is 2 – 3 times stronger than street cananbis from some years ago, but the data that claim is based on is weak – and that’s being polite about it.

    The strongest cannabis from the 60’s – the likes of zero zero or thai sticks – was as powerful as anything sold today, if not more so.

  3. When I emailed David Raynes he said ‘she’d got it wrong’ and ‘we haven’t briefed her in many years’. I emailed Nadine Dorries and asked how she could quote NDPA figures on the relative potency of today’s cannabis with that of last year, if they haven’t briefed her in many years. I followed it up with a phone call and her office told me ‘she does not respond to non-constituents unless they’re being supportive’. I’m going to complain to the BBC- and urge everyone else to- before moving house. Mid-Beds here I come.

  4. @ Dave,

    This is exactly what fighting against Prohibition and the War on Drugs is all about. Is only by challenging their preconceptions, highlighting their misinformation and forcing them to face the facts that we’ll be able to move forwards the debate on liberalisation and regulation.

    Gart Valenc

  5. Maybe someone should ask her about this in the House, to see if she’ll go on record there with the same alleged facts. After all, isn’t misleading Parliament a serious offence?

    1. Dorries misled the House about abortion statistics and got away with it:

      Dorries misled the House about a religious ‘charity’ and got away with it:

      Dorries also misled the House about 7 years olds being shown how to put bananas on condoms, and so far she’s got away with that, too:

  6. “The strongest cannabis from the 60â€ēs – the likes of zero zero or thai sticks – was as powerful as anything sold today, if not more so.”

    I can vouch for that… God, how I miss the sixties! And the seventies produced so fantastic Columbian Gold. Then people started to learn how to grow in the eighties. Now, a few people can grow good grass and a lot of people grow middling stuff. Then there are the ones who use prohibition to buttress their business models and add glass, etc. to their stuff for sale. So, a good 90-99% of everything and anything bad about cannabis is directly attributable to prohibition. It probably does have an unpredictably tumultuous effect on the pubescent brain, but that’s less than ten percent of users and, again, it’s only in the hands of pubescent users as a result of prohibition. (A 13 year old’s money is just as good as an 18 year old’s.)

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