Don’t get old…

training primary care NHS don't get old...

Micheal Gove is my local MP.

I watched him apologising to a packed audience, for his ‘misunderstandings’ of the rules on MP’s expenses. How he thought a new mattress for his child’s cot was germane to his role as a member of parliament and a legitimate expense.

He made his apologies to a packed audience, in a local church… brilliant theatre. What a performance. What an actor.

He promised he would live in the constituency. I don’t think he does. Put it this way, I’ve never seen him in Sainsbury’s. I see him on the telly running up the front-stairs of a house that I’m sure isn’t here.

As a former leader of the Council I was stirred off the sofa to protest Surrey Heath’s plan to turn our elder-care day centre, with bathing, chiropody, a range of services and a fully equipped kitchen, into a coffee-shop and an adjunct to the Civic Theatre.

I kicked up a fuss. Out of the blue Gove arranged a meeting with council officers. As the meeting kicked off he opened his man-bag, pulled out a pile of paper work and ploughed his way through it as I talked about the growing needs of elder care and the obvious folly of closing a day centre.

He said nothing, he was there in the flesh but not in spirit.

The council officers were well rehearsed and wouldn’t agree to an external review. Gove, who had made no contribution to the meeting, brought it to a close and sided with the council. That was that.

The centre is still largely idle.

Now it emerges Gove could become the PM and has taken drugs.

For me; Gove is bright but has an Edwardian feel. I get the impression he is yet to find himself. He plays a person called Micheal Gove, but isn’t.

There in the flesh but not in the spirit.

Clever but I guess, easily influenced. Why, else, would Gove, as a younger man, a journalist and fully aware of the law and implications, indulge in Class A drugs.

It’s easy to say no but not to the

blasé, elite if you are trying to impress them as a fellow louche.

He is not the only person unable to say no. Leadership hopefuls are queuing-up to fess-up.

Drugs reach into every part of our society. From the elegant dinner parties in stylish suburbs, to the street corners and alleys-ways of down-town. From the elegant, wealthy and loquacious to the pile of rags, sleeping in a shop door-way. From stylish, perfumed women to young girls traded for sex.

Drugs change lives. People who serve them with the brandy and coffee have as much blood on heir hands as the people who sell them with violence and threats. Drugs create gangs and destroy families.

If Gove has done anything, he’s made people like me write about drugs, addiction, crime, punishment and what to do.

We have dealt with this problem before. As a nation we faced the destruction of huge swathes of the working classes, addicted and destroyed.

The drug was first imported from the Netherlands 1690. It was gin.

It had a ruinous effect that the government’s confused and timid response did little to resolve. There was a massive rise in consumption. Middlesex magistrates pronounced gin as;

‘… the principal cause of all

vice & debauchery …’

Parliament struggled, passed five major Acts, 1729, 1736, and 1743. By 1743 the English were drinking 10 litres of gin, per person per year. Further legislation follow in 1747 and 1751.

The Gin Act of 1751 prohibited gin distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants, restricted retail licenses to substantial property holders, and charged high fees to those merchants eligible for retail licenses.

It was a struggle but it was legislation and licensing that resolved the problem and made the Negroni what it is today and the Aperol-Kombucha the perfect sun-downer.

I’ll leave you to deduce the lessons of the past and their relevance to today. Is there anything else we can learn?

One thing I have learned, if Gove becomes prime minister… don’t get old.

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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.