Category Archives: drugs

Potheads rule!

Todays news: several members of our government have admitted to smoking pot in their youth. The first was the minister responsible for enforcing the law, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

Nothing unusual there: ministers of past governments of both parties have made similar admissions. I don’t expect it has much effect on their ability (or otherwise) to govern.

But what seems rather telling is the rhetoric that goes with it: something like “25 years ago, every student tried it”. And they probably almost believe it, based on how their social circles behaved.

Well, 25 years ago, I was a student at Cambridge, and I certainly never touched it. I think I knew a few who did: at a guess maybe 1% of fellow students I knew. I guess that’s just the different kind of social circles we moved in. The potheads who went for immediate gratification and stuck up two fingers at society and law are the ones who, a generation on, rule us.

Maybe there are some archetypes at work here. Most of our rulers went to Oxford, and our Nobel Prize winners to Cambridge. That’s not just popular belief, it’s fact (at least if you allow “a lot more than anywhere else” for “most”). There were some fairly clear distinctions in the demographics of the two universities (as well as a fair bit of overlap, of course).

Cambridge as I knew it was certainly not like the meeja image of student life at the time. Student grants still existed but were declining, and we expected to live, Micawber-style[1], within our limited means. The only drug we overdosed on was coffee (we couldn’t afford to drink that much beer). We firmly divorced ourselves from the leftie nonsense that was student politics (including opting out of the NUS), and indeed elected a paid-up Young Conservative as our JCR president. We naturally assumed this was the reality of Thatcher’s Britain, and that the hippies were an earlier generation. But it seems the sixties were still alive in a timewarp amongst our then-future rulers. Maybe more amongst Oxford’s luvvies than Cambridge’s geeks.

[1] OK, as Mr Micawber said, not as he did.