Opinion: Why we should praise Louise Mensch

So the press have dug around into Louise Mensch MP’s past and discovered, shock horror, that she ‘probably’ took some drugs at a nightclub when she was in her twenties. Why this is news is frankly beyond me but why this has come out now, is not. The press are doing their thing, taking on someone that has taken them on. The ‘probably’ is a bit of a give away. There are lots of ‘probablys’ floating around the News of the World scandal. True or not, a ‘probably’ can hurt.

In the case of Louise Mensch I doubt it will hurt that much for that long because she had the good sense to own up to it in a way that takes the sting out of it. Obama did the same when he was accused of taking drugs in his youth. Lots of people take drugs in their youth and some into their older youth so it’s not the vote loser that people may assume it is. Not that I’m going to necessarily talk about that. What I am interested in is the effect that this sort of press coverage has on people who might have been considering becoming an MP.

My friends tell me that no sane person wants to be an MP in this country and I have to say, there is some sense to that claim. The British public really doesn’t like its elected representatives. MPs are the second least trusted group of people in the country, just slightly more than journalists, which in this day and age is really saying something. (Not all journalists are bad, I know, I know). Who, in their right mind would want to play a role that is this hated?

Not only that, but when I ask women to come forward to stand as MPs lots of them say no and refer to the treatment that they might expect from the press, treatment a lot like Louise Mensch is experiencing today. They worry about their past and how that might impact on their families. It takes a brave woman to want to air her dirty laundry in public. We know that female politicians get treated differently from male politicians in scandals. Remember when Liz Truss, Tory hopeful was almost deselected from running for Parliament after having an affair? Some might think this was an appropriate response from the party but you only have to look at the fact it was a Tory MP she had the affair with, who quite happily kept his place. Is there a double standard? Yes indeed.

Good on Louise Mensch. She’s essentially saying, ‘Yes I’ve had a life. So what?’ I agree. Isn’t that what we want? To elect people to lead us who have lived? People that have had jobs outside of politics, who know what it is to battle with life, those that have experienced money worries, maybe even battled with addiction. People who know how relationships can go wrong and the work needed to keep them going. People that have allowed themselves to veer from the carefully crafted story of who and what a politician is, a story that can only end in disappointment for the voters because we are all human, full of fragilities and vulnerabilities. It’s a sham to pretend otherwise.

Let’s select and elect more human beings please. And let’s not sit quietly as the press dig around in peoples lives, bringing up stuff that frankly just doesn’t matter.

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37 Comments

  • She should/could have said “yes I took drugs in the past, and if the subject comes up in parliament I will use my experience AND common sense on the issue, not the cant , stupidity and outright hypocrisy that dominates this issue”

  • As Alex has pointed out, if she has “messed with her brain” can we now trust her judgement on this or any other issue?

  • Ian Stewart 30th Jul '11 - 7:04am

    Lee………for one I agree with you on both major points……yes, it’s good to hear of a human response rather than the stock answer…….and we do need our lawmakers and decision makers to have had a life so that the impact of their decisions can be better understood before they are taken.
    It did leave me wondering whether in a bygone age (like a month ago) she would have had to get a new mobile phone!

  • If somebody takes drugs, gets caught and gets a conviction then they would not become an MP. However, they can take drugs, not get convicted and become an MP, then they can say they oppose drugs and support users being criminalised so they can’t become MPs, as Mensch suggests.

    She’s not a hero, she’s a hypocrite of the sort that supports the ruining of the lives of others for things that they themselves have done – everything that is wrong with today’s political class.

  • Matthew Harris, it is not hypocritical to change your opinion on drugs. It is hypocritical to support policies that would prevent someone who is in a situation you were once in from having your success simply because they got caught and you didn’t.

    Being caught being noisy on a bus would not prevent you from becoming an MP, getting charged with drugs offences likely would.

  • Iain Sharpe 30th Jul '11 - 9:29pm

    @ g – Very well put. To maintain her integrity and intellectual consistency, shouldn’t she now go down to her local police station, confess to her crimes, and ask them to prosecute her? That is what she wants to happen to other people who commit the same offence.

    @ Matthews – in some way we have a bit of a duty to think of our own past indiscretions before sounding off about what should happen to those who did similar things. In Louise Mensch’s case, it’s a question of asking herself whether it would have helped her, or society, if she had been arrested and prosecuted at the time.

  • Iain Sharpe, to be fair to Mensch I’m wondering if her subsequent clarification of opinion on drugs wasn’t suggested by her party.

    As an aside, I’m a bit concerned about the number of MPs and parliamentary candidates, on all sides, who seem to have no experience of drugs, not so much the taking of, but simply being around people who have used drugs in a social context. It seems astonishing to me that such inexperience and naivety could be rewarded with a political career. Like having MPs with no understanding of what it is to live on benefits, be disabled, an ethnic minority or even state educated…

  • gramsci's eyes 31st Jul '11 - 3:26pm

    @:Mathew Harris “For example, an intelligent person can understand what it is like to subsist on benefits and be unemployed, even if they have never experienced it themselves.”

    As Einstein said, “all knowledge is experience, everything else is just information”.

    What any of your points have got to do with the drug debate (or much else) is beyond me.

    PS That’s why when I left my council estate I decided on Cambridge rather than the other place.

  • @Matthew Harris

    It’s quite clear you don’t understand g’s point. There is a clear difference from ‘playing up on a bus’ and having done something criminal and then supporting its criminalisation as an MP without having faced the appropriate punishment under law for undertaking that criminal act.

    If you have taken drugs and support their criminalisation as an intellectual standpoint, that is a condescending and usually patronising position to take, but it’s not hypocritical.

    What is hypocritical is supporting the continued illegality of an illegal action whilst having broken the law on this matter without having faced the music yourself. If you are prepared to support the criminalisation of something that you yourself have done, then you must also be prepared to support your own criminilastion. Or else you are a hypocrite.

    Additionally if you acted up on buses when you were 14, and then spend your time whining about 14 year olds acting up on buses, then you are a hypocrite. The fact that you did it a long time ago doesn’t make you less of a hypocrite.

    In that situation I think it’s fine to be against 14 year olds acting up on buses, but you lose the right to lecture them about it. Try doing something which doesn’t require leading by example and behaving responsibly (i.e. not an MP, I would hope).

  • “She’s essentially saying, ‘Yes I’ve had a life. So what?’ I agree. Isn’t that what we want? To elect people to lead us who have lived? ”

    Fine,but why should these people ‘who have had a life’ then get to criminalise people who ‘have lives’? In what way is that legitimate?

    The thing is, here you are apparently supporting people taking drugs as ‘having a life’. Well, personally I don’t think you need to do anything illegal to ‘have a life’ but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that you are glorifying the fact that our politicians take drugs whilst simultaneously supporting their right to tell us that we, the public, shouldn’t take drugs.

    I suppose it’s coz we’re all stoopid and didn’t go to Oxbridge, and therefore aren’t intelligent enough to make decisions about these matters for ourselves. Innit?

  • “If those same people now think that ecstasy should continue to be illegal, then that does not make them hypocrites – it makes them people who are able to reflect maturely on their own behaviour when they were very young people”

    It makes them hypocrites if they still refuse to face the legal penalty for that illegal action 20 years ago.

    If you have broken the law but not faced the law, then you don’t have the right to make the law.

  • I don’t care that Mensch took drugs or that she writes rubbish novels, what I’m wondering is why she was wasting an golden opportunity to question Murdoch about News Corp by throwing him bones about their competitors all being just as bad.

  • Matthew Harris,

    I am an RP-talking white male who grew up in a posh part of London and went to Oxford University

    As are most people in parliament, yet they are a minority in this country. Most of them believe that they speak for the common man or woman too.

    I hate to tell you this, but most of them are hopelessly out of touch and represent a sector of society which should have far less representation in any powerful body, elected or otherwise.

  • Rob,

    If you have broken the law but not faced the law, then you don’t have the right to make the law.

    and this was why Jack Straw had to take his own son to the police when he was caught offering drugs to a journalist. It might have not been the best thing to do as a parent, but as a lawmaker, and home secretary, it was the only thing he could do if he wished to maintain any authority.

  • Matthew Harris,

    I stand by my concern that there are far too many people of your background in parliament
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/increase-in-number-of-mps-from-private-schools-1970414.html

    I have no wish to see fewer university educated MPs, although an increased diversity of subject away from PPE and Law is desirable, as educational achievement is often a marker of (some) ability. I would like to see fewer people from a wealthy or privately educated background as money buys achievement beyond ability and people from this background are often woefully ignorant of how the other 97% live.

    .

  • Alex McFie

    Do you really want the UK to be like Poland, pursuing people even across borders for every piddling little offence however long ago it was?

    If it’s a piddling little offence then why does it exclude you from many jobs, including, it seems, becoming an MP? Surely your argument that it should have no long term consequences is therefore an argument for decriminalisation? Which is exactly the argument people are demanding that Mensch make instead of her hypocritical guff.

  • Alex MacFie,

    t does not seem to have excluded people from becoming an MP, as there have been MPs who have admitted to drug-taking in their youth.

    The argument is that there are no MPs with drugs convictions, only MPs lucky enough not to be caught. A conviction would result in parliament not being an available career option. hence the accusations of hypocrisy.

  • @Matthew Harris: Question: should Mrs Mensch be punished today for taking drugs ten years ago? Another question: should an “urban youth” be punished today, for taking drugs last week?

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