Sunday 21 November 2021

To Put It Right

Although he is wrong to place the blame solely on drugs, Peter Hitchens writes:

A mentally ill man blows himself up in a taxi. What do we do? We get into a frenzy about terrorism, media and Government alike. Armed men are deployed on the streets. MI5 is called in. Alerts are issued. This is so stupid. What terror organisation has even heard of Liverpool Women's Hospital, let alone wishes to blow it up?

Look around you. See how many other cases (often confined to local media) there are of mentally ill people, mostly serial marijuana users, doing appalling, irrational, violent things. I'd be amazed if the Liverpool bomber, sectioned under the Mental Health Act for waving a knife in the street, doesn't turn out to be a dope user if anyone bothers to look (they probably won't).

As the police long ago stopped enforcing the laws against this drug, it's getting harder to find out. And grasp that, yet again, the authorities have no idea what is going on and no idea how to fix it. This is because they are in the grip of a howlingly wrong 1960s dogma, this time the one that says cannabis is harmless, and prosecuting its users is so, so unfair.


I see the Transport Minister and e-scooter fan Grant Shapps has been dressing up as a character from Thomas The Tank Engine, waving a green flag and blowing a whistle. He was reopening a railway line in Devon, a line running across the top of Dartmoor, where a kindly driver once let me, aged 12, have a go at the controls of his train.

This tiny restoration of a small part of a lost line fills me with rage. It should never have been closed. It is not nearly enough. It was so beautiful I still sometimes dream of travelling on it again, 50 years after it was ripped up. It was a full-sized express main line between London and Plymouth, still badly needed every summer and every time the other route, along the sea, is washed away by storms at Dawlish.

The reinstatement of such lines, and there are so many of them, would do far more good to far more people than silly high-speed vanity projects such as HS2. We have let the car and the lorry rule this country far too long, spreading noise, ugliness and filth over town and country alike. The closure of railways in the 1960s was a terrible mistake and there has never been a better time to put it right.