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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Blunkett's big gamble
Some of grave concerns over the move

David Blunkett has not exactly had an easy run of things since he became home secretary.

Not warmly regarded by many of those who have dealings with him, even some of his more enlightened decisions have been over-shadowed by rows with the police and others.


There are as many horror stories about the Lambeth experiment as there are plaudits for the scheme

He will hope that his decision on cannabis is regarded in a rather better light.

He believes it is a sensible step forward which will be welcomed by Labour's friends.

The bad news for him is he's probably wrong.

And his announcement has already been tarnished by the condemnation of the change by former drugs czar Keith Hellawell.

Mr Blunkett will not lose much sleep over that, but he will if, as predicted by some, his plan is an unmitigated disaster.

Many people have grave concerns over the reclassification of cannabis. Others want Mr Blunkett to go further.

Plaudits

As ever with such a sensitive subject, Mr Blunkett really can't win.

The test, of course, will be the success or failure of the plan to extend the experimental 'softly softly' approach to cannabis in Lambeth to the rest of London.

There are as many horror stories about the Lambeth experiment as there are plaudits for the scheme.

As for the Tories, it is an issue upon which they believe they can gain ground on Labour.

Iain Duncan Smith seems convinced that the reclassifying of cannabis will not go down well with voters.

Back yards

And in particular, he thinks the idea will appal the middle Englanders whose support he so desperately needs.


The risk is that it muddles the Conservatives' attempt to seize the political centre ground

For them, it is one thing Brixton being used for the "softly, softly" experiment on drug law enforcement.

But it is another thing entirely if the same experiment is extended to their back yards.

Mr Duncan Smith has visited Lambeth to see the experiment for himself and is not impressed.

So the Tory leader has gone on the attack over Home Secretary David Blunkett's plans.

There is a chance, he clearly feels, to put clear blue water between his party and Labour on a clear cut issue which rouses a degree of passion on all sides.

Ambitions

The risk is that it muddles the Conservatives' attempt to seize the political centre ground.

But the main focus will be on Mr Blunkett, one of few ministers with realistic prime ministerial ambitions.

He is a home secretary who appears to puzzle the people on his own benches.

He has made decisions they wholeheartedly welcome, while on the other hand has appeared even tougher than Jack Straw and more prone to damaging rows with the police and the legal profession.

That will not worry him too much. But if this goes wrong, adversely affecting the lives of people up and down the land, he will have cause to always regret this decision perhaps more than any other.


Key stories

Lambeth scheme

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