Shropshire Star

Mark Andrews: Safe spaces for drug users, and why there is nothing clever about kowtowing to the Chinese

Justifying his embarrassing visit to China, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “It’s better to talk than fight”.

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British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

Now he may have a point in that it is wise keep diplomatic channels open, but reports that Mr Cleverly was also there to seek a trade deal do not auger well.

It is hard to think of a regime that poses a bigger threat to our civilisation than China. While Russia is the bungling mafia state with a jailbird military and spacecraft that smash into the moon, the Chinese government combines its wickedness with ruthless efficiency.

It has become a lazy trope to liken any perceived enemy to Nazi Germany. But when you see a military superpower rounding up a million people purely on the basis of their ethnicity or religion, sterilising them and putting them to work in forced labour camps, the differences do look somewhat blurred.

We should be seeking to do less business with China, not more. Instead of kowtowing to this vile regime, our government should be looking at how we can wean ourselves off cheap Chinese technology. We need a long-term plan to stop buying their computers, electric cars, solar panels and mobile phones which for all we know could be equipped with all sorts of spyware.

Maybe I'm underestimating Mr Cleverly. Perhaps his visit was part of an iron-fist-in-velvet glove masterplan, in which he smiles sweetly at China's foreign minister while quietly boosting our military and reducing the hold his country has over us. But somehow I doubt it.

It would take a brave politician to go into a general election telling people that the cost of consumer goods will need to increase, particularly in a cost-of-living crisis.

And an even braver one to tell teenagers to do without TikTok.

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The Home Affairs select committee has called for 'safe spaces', where druggies are free to shoot up in the presence of medical supervision.

How popular these spaces would actually be remains to be seen. Something tells me that the average junkie is going to have neither the inclination nor the self-discipline to walk down to the local clinic to get his fix of heroin under the watchful eye of Dr Finlay.

Ideas such as this are usually accompanied by somebody saying that the 'war on drugs' isn't working, and it's time for a fresh approach.

This would be entirely consistent with the policies of successive governments in this country, which gave up the 'war on burglary' and the 'war on shoplifting' many moons ago. Which, I think you will agree, has achieved spectacularly successful results.