The high-heeled, foul-mouthed Minister for Death
Published in: Daily Mail
Suddenly, a new ministerial shooting-star is born. Or should that be rather a new ministerial shooting-herself-in-the-foot-star, aka David Cameron’s latest self-imposed headache?
Until a few days ago, the most likely reaction to the name Anna Soubry would have been: ‘Who?’
Ms Soubry is the Tory MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire. Brought up in the county where her father ran petrol stations until he went bust, Ms Soubry, a former TV presenter and union shop steward, has been divorced twice and brought up her two daughters as a single mother.
In last week’s government reshuffle she was appointed a junior health minister, and is said to be tipped for the Cabinet.
Almost instantly, however, she started making waves. First it was noted that, as a prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate back in 2006, she had told a group of sixth-formers that she thought cannabis should be legalised because ‘certain types of cannabis were less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco’.
Even back then, this was an ignorant and irresponsible statement. There were already mountains of evidence of the devastating effects of cannabis on the brain, including provoking the onset of psychosis. Since then, a slew of further research has demonstrated the grave dangers of cannabis beyond any doubt.
If selecting a person with such callow and dangerous views to be a prospective Tory MP was enough to raise an eyebrow, appointing her as a health minister suggested that the Prime Minister hadn’t done his homework.
Maybe in order to find out whether her views on cannabis had now changed, the Times sought out Ms Soubry for an interview — and doubtless got more than it had expected.
With a knowing smirk at the camera, she came out with a stream of raunchy, swaggering attitudes and one provocative and outrageous statement after another — all liberally laced with distinctly laddish language.
So she was keen to tell us gleefully how she drank too much when celebrating her promotion, and how she likes gin, champagne and especially beer.
Presenting herself as an incorrigible rebel, she described sitting on the ‘naughty bench’ in the Commons, heckling the opposition and yet blowing kisses at the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls.
We also learned that she loves shoes and owns ‘beautiful ones covered in sequins’ and five-inch heeled boots. Well indeed — what else can one wear, after all, in Whitehall’s corridors of power?
But excuse me — this attention-seeking creature is a health minister? Maybe she mistook the Commons for the set of Absolutely Fabulous?
As for the foul language, this was apparently adopted as a defence mechanism for little middle-class Anna against the local oiks at school. Well, isn’t it about time that Ms Soubry, 55, finally grew up?
But wait — our besequinned, stilettoed, ex-cannabis advocating, foul-mouthed, flirty provocatrice is driven, she tells us, by a social conscience.
For she gave up the media to become a barrister — ‘a social worker with a wig on’ — defending the most disadvantaged.
Indeed, with her declared fury at communal powerlessness, her passion to ‘make stuff better for the poorest’ and her rage over the ‘s****y lives of the unemployed’, you are left wondering why on earth Ms Soubry didn’t join the Labour Party.
Despite her self-professed social conscience, however, Ms Soubry’s attitude towards ordinary people’s lives seems to verge on the positively contemptuous.
Thus she tells us she ‘had a local girl’ looking after her daughters so that she herself didn’t have to do ‘the cupcake b******s’.
So much for mothers who selflessly choose to look after their own children — only to be dismissed by this champion of the powerless as pathetic cake-bakers! And don’t you just wince at the metropolitan arrogance of that ‘local girl’?
Clearly, Ms Soubry resides on a higher plane of being where things like consistency or civility just don’t apply.
Professing herself a feminist, she is not above bitching about Louise Mensch, who is stepping down as an MP to join her husband in New York. Unlike her, Ms Soubry says, she would not ‘follow a husband around the world’ nor even take his name.
Surely Ms Soubry is being too modest? For not one but two husbands no longer even live with her at all.
As for her attitude to cannabis, she now says she is against legalisation. But her remarks hardly inspire confidence that she really does appreciate the dangers posed by the drug.
She says she has changed her mind because the ‘skunk’ type of cannabis is so dangerous, and adds that she would reclassify amphetamines upwards to Class A.
But other forms of cannabis also cause psychosis, damage to cognitive function, addiction and a host of other problems. Yet Ms Soubry makes no mention of these.
Indeed, she seems to be less concerned about the destructive effects of cannabis on the brains of young folk than she is about people being overweight. What kind of priorities are these?
But perhaps most startling of all was her opinion that the law against assisted suicide was ‘dishonest’ and needed to ‘evolve’ in order to allow people to take their own lives at home.
Good grief — suddenly the attention-seeking, foul-mouthed, high-heeled MP mutated into the Minister for Death.
Assisted suicide is deeply problematic because it opens up the near-certainty of abuse. That’s why Parliament has debated and dismissed it.
Of course people are terrified of being trapped inside a useless body or suffering from a dreadful terminal disease. But no one has the right to expect another person to help someone kill themself.
Suicide is not dying, and assisted suicide is not ‘helping someone to die’. It is assisting self-killing.
The current law is necessarily nuanced and humane. It makes assisted suicide illegal because of the overwhelming necessity to protect vulnerable people from being put under pressure to end their lives.
At the same time, as the Director of Public Prosecutions has made clear, the law is not used to criminalise those who through wholly compassionate and disinterested motives assist people to kill themselves.
Legalising assisted suicide would end such protection and turn doctors into death-dealers. Death can never be a therapeutic procedure. It can never be in society’s interests that medicine should be turned into a death service.
But in Ms Soubry’s experience, it’s the private hospitals that all but kill people, while the NHS can do no wrong.
Ah yes — on Planet Cameroon, where electoral calculation maintains the NHS as the nation’s sacred cow, it’s not death-dealing but private medicine that is the enemy of the people.
Who cares if Ms Soubry dismisses the risk of bullying the most vulnerable to death, as long as she delivers what she describes as the ‘scrummy-yummy stuff’ on the NHS and thus sorts Mr Cameron’s PR problem with his health service reforms?
Ambiguous about the devastating harm done by cannabis, unambiguous in her enthusiasm for booze, profane in language, cavalier with the facts, indifferent to the need to protect the most vulnerable from becoming victims of those desirous of their death — how on earth did this individual become a health minister, of all things? How indeed can she be a Conservative?
Well, to the modernising Cameroons for whom conservatism is a dirty word doubtless Ms Soubry is a triumphant example of precisely what they mean by ‘detoxifying the brand’.
But it might just be that she turns into an unguided ministerial missile and Mr Cameron’s latest nightmare.