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Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Martha Kearney's week
By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's The World at One

Latitude festival
Latitude aims for a more relaxing atmosphere than most festivals
I awoke early on Monday morning in a tent in the Suffolk countryside at the Latitude Festival (not exactly the full Glastonbury experience as it had a bed) with sounds of gentle snoring emerging from tents all around us.

The night before we'd seen Arcade Fire where in the crowd, not quite in the mosh pit, I noticed a familiar face looming above the crowd.

Good Lord, it was the Chief Whip Geoff Hoon and before you ask, he didn't have a spliff in his hand.

I did feel for the younger people at the festival though. Could this really be a cool event if it were attended by Cabinet ministers and Radio Four news presenters, come to that?

This is a lesson which could be applied to the revelations that at least eight members of the Cabinet smoked dope at university.

'Unfortunate impression'

What could be more off putting to a teenager than the idea that the straightest of politicians had partaken?

We discussed the issue on the programme on Thursday to the irritation of some listeners who felt that past drug use was totally irrelevant to public life.

Cannabis plant
Several Cabinet ministers, including the home secretary, said they have smoked cannabis
We did ask that question - whether drugs mattered any more and certainly Michael Simmonds of Populus and the Conservative MP Tim Yeo agreed they didn't, provided that the use was in the past; interestingly though Neil McKeganey, Professor of Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow said that the politicians' admissions gave an "unfortunate impression".

So was this affair driven by a political strategy? Gordon Brown's decision to have a review on the reclassification of cannabis came in answer to that time-honoured part of Parliamentary procedure - The Planted Question in PMQs (was it a cannabis sativa plant, I wonder?)

Perhaps when the prime minister comes to have a written constitution, The Planted Question will have due prominence.

Political motive

Many Conservatives believe that Gordon Brown deliberately resurrected the drugs issue in order to embarrass David Cameron who has come under repeated questioning about his own past.

Tim Yeo told us on WATO [the World at One] that he suspected a low motive as the Brown government was political in all it did.

I am not sure that even the shrewd long term strategist Gordon Brown would have anticipated quite so many of his colleagues emerging from the long grass.

Overall this has been a good week for Gordon Brown despite another faltering performance at Prime Minister's Questions.

The lack of charges in the cash-for-honours affair will make it easier for him to draw a line on what he regards as the "sleaze factor" of the Blair years.

The two by-election wins for Labour in Ealing Southall and Sedgefield - even with cut majorities - reinforce the idea of a Brown bounce.

So with all this talk of manifestos being written and campaigns being plotted is the Labour leader seriously thinking about a snap election in the autumn?

A Cabinet minister who knows his mind gave me a very good indication that there won't be one, adding that the mood at the moment was "quite unreal". No, he wasn't stoned.

Martha Kearney's week
14 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
Martha Kearney's week
06 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
Martha Kearney's week
01 Jun 07 |  UK Politics
Martha Kearney's week
25 May 07 |  UK Politics
Martha Kearney's week
18 May 07 |  UK Politics
Home secretary: I smoked cannabis
19 Jul 07 |  UK Politics


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