I may have mistranscribed some of this, but here is what was written as the second story on the front of today’s Evening Standard:
Gordon Brown today vowed to “get tough” on equestrianism as he insisted the Government was right to sack a scientist who said horse riding was as dangerous as ecstasy. The Prime Minister warned against the danger of giving “mixed messages” to young people targeted by dealers. Mr Brown said: “A tough policy on equestrianism is essential and it is what the public want. I’ve seen the damage that equestriansim can do and people can see it in estates in London.”
This is almost exactly what it said, although I may have mixed up the word “drugs” with “equestrianism”. Still, they’re as dangerous as each other, statistcially, so it probably doesn’t make any difference.
On a more serious note, does Brown really think that the public is too thick to take on board that some drugs are dangerous (and can lead to dependency and crime) while others are not? Certainly, it is a marginally more sophisticated idea than the message “all drugs are bad”, but it’s not exactly Fermat’s Last Theorem, is it?*
The message that heroin and crack cocaine are very dangerous but cannabis and ecstasy are not is mixed, but it does at least have the virtue of being true. Furthermore, we have a multi-level drugs classification system. If anyone is giving out mixed messages it is the Prime Minister, who insists that ecstasy should remain in the same category as crack and that cannabis should revert to being in the same category as speed.
Brown says that “everybody knows lives that have been ruined because of drugs”, which may or may not be true, but it is no more valid than saying “everybody knows lives that have been ruined because of alcohol”. He’s got to do better than that, else he’s giving a far more potent message to the public, namely that he thinks we’re stupid.
*I’ve checked. Fermat’s Last Theorem states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two.