Blair was frustrated with Mo Mowlam over attitude to drugs policy

Blair was frustrated with Mo Mowlam over attitude to drugs policy

December 30, 2022

Tony Blair was frustrated with Mo Mowlam over her attitude to drugs policy, papers show

  • Mowlam challenged the drugs tsar on his belief cannabis was a ‘gateway’ drug
  • She was chairman of the committee co-ordinating drugs policy in 2000
  • Files show she clashed with leading figures and the trigger was a suggestion that cannabis possession should not mean jail

Tony Blair became exasperated with Mo Mowlam over her determination to liberalise the drugs laws despite opposition. 

In 2000, she was made chairman of the committee co-ordinating drugs policy but the files show she clashed with leading figures. 

The trigger was a recommendation that cannabis possession should not mean jail.

Although the findings were rejected by the Government, Miss Mowlam challenged the drugs tsar on his belief it was a ‘gateway’ drug to more serious substances. 

Tony Blair (left) became exasperated with Mowlam (right) over her determination to liberalise the drugs laws despite opposition from other senior government figures

Liz Lloyd, a policy adviser, wrote to the prime minister that: ‘The committee structure simply cannot work when the chair [Mo] takes a diametrically opposed view to [Keith Hellawell] and uses that position to drive it through. 

‘It encourages other ministers also to go their own way.’ 

Sir Tony said: ‘Look: We can’t deal with this whilst Mo remains. She just does her own thing. But I back KH’s view.’ 

Miss Mowlam, who had survived a brain tumour, was one of the most colourful and well-liked figures in the Labour government following the Good Friday Agreement.

Although the findings were rejected by the Government, Miss Mowlam challenged the drugs tsar on his belief it was a ‘gateway’ drug to more serious substances 

However her popularity was resented by some around Sir Tony who believed her role in the Northern Ireland peace process had been overstated and she struggled to find a new role after he moved her to the Cabinet Office in 1999. 

In May 2000, Anji Hunter, one of Sir Tony’s closest aides, said they had been looking at a number of options, with the co-ordinating drugs role showing ‘the most promise’. 

Miss Mowlam meanwhile indicated she would like to get out on the road visiting drugs rehabilitation centres and holding party meetings. 

David Miliband, also working in No 10, suggested a ‘tell Mo tour’ progressing round the country ‘in an almost Gladstonian way’ – a reference to the 19th century Liberal prime minister. 

‘She would go round housing estates, community centres, local regeneration offices, public meetings, finding out what people really feel about our policies on the ground,’ Ms Hunter wrote. 

‘The officials that accompany her would make constructive suggestions to each department on issues raised at these meetings. The tour would be accompanied by the use of modern technology, ie a Mo Website with her spending an hour a day answering emails.’ 

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