A small drama, in three acts.
Act one: Lily Allen gives an interview to the devastatingly handsome Rob Fitzpatrick of The Word, which touches on the drugs:
The point is there's a lot of hypocrisy attached to drug culture – especially from the journalists who write about it as they're all drug addicts and alcoholics. The only story is that drugs are bad and they will kill you. You will become a prostitute or a rapist or a dealer. But that's not true. I know lots of people that take cocaine three nights a week and get up and go to work every day, no problem at all. But we never hear that side of the story. I have no statement to make, I just wish people wouldn't sensationalise this thing that just exists. Some people are bad at taking drugs. But some people are bad at driving and kill themselves and others that way. I don't take drugs. I used to. But I get very anxious around people who are on drugs, because it reminds me of being a kid. I can spot the signs of people being a bit gakked up very quickly. It terrifies me. That's why I took cocaine when I didn't even like it. I felt like a lonely child when everyone else was doing it and I wasn't.
(That, of course, was Allen, rather than Fitzpatrick talking.)
Fair enough, you might think. One of the problems in drugs education is that if you tell people something is bad and will kill you, whereas their experience is of lots of people of they know using that substance and not wrecking their lives, your message is immediately invalidated and ignored, drowning out the important stuff about staying safe. Naturally, you wouldn't expect The Sun to run 'journalists take cocaine; hold down day jobs' type stories, but Allen's point is a fair one, well made, and also delivered in a balanced way. If it wasn't for the UB40-in-a-boob-tube music, we might even find ourselves warming to her.
Act two: The response
Hang about: did Lily Allen just say that drugs are not, unquestionably, bad? In other words filling young girls' heads with smackheroin. Why not just put a crackpipe in your next download, Lily Allen? Or should I say LSD-y Allen? the Daily Mail swings into action:
'Drugs won't kill you', insists Lily Allen
Actually, she said drugs might not, or quite often won't kill you, didn't... oh, what's the point?
Doubtless, the Mail's Simon Cable can drum up some extremist drug-prevention group prepared to squark, can he?
David Raynes, head of the National Drugs Prevention Alliance, said: 'When someone like Lily Allen makes these remarks she is only harming young people who will at some point in their lives have to make a decision about taking drugs.
'We already have a major drug culture in the UK and she is affecting that.'
Yes - god forbid that someone should provide balanced information instead of simply trying to scare kids away from drugs.
Curiously, though, the NDPA's own website features pretty much the same information as Allen gave, only with numbers and buried in a piece. They copied a report from the Telegraph which featured a study suggesting 1.4 million take class A drugs, and that in 2005 there were 171 deaths attributed to cocaine. Although their expert says that would be under-reported, unless the NDPA believes that 1.4 million people are drugging themselves to death each year, they're running a piece which says 'a bloody huge number of people take illegal drugs; a very, very small number die.'
Could we also find an ill-considered interjection from a politician? Why, yes, here's Tory Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve:
Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve told the Daily Mail newspaper Allen had been “naïve to assume there isn't human misery and suffering” involved in drug transactions.
“There is no doubt that drugs fuel crime and wreck lives,” he added.
Let's hope if Grieve ever gets to become a proper grown-up minister, he'll prove a bit more adept at reading and understanding his briefs; that someone seems incapable of following an interview with Lily Allen aspires to high office is slightly alarming.
Act three: Contrition
Today comes the statement explaining what Lily Allen really meant to say, had she only run the quote past her record company and management team before saying it:
""At no point does she say that drugs are a good thing or that she condones drug use; in fact, she says that 'I can spot the signs (of people on drugs) and it terrifies me'.
"The song itself talks about a culture of both legally prescribed drugs like anti-depressants and also illegal drug use.
"Lily Allen would like to state unequivocally that she does not condone illegal drug use and has every sympathy with individuals and families whose lives have been blighted by drugs."
She's really, really like to state that unequivocally. But, for some reason, has asked me to issue a statement with it in instead, which instantly raises the question of why this has come out in the third person rather than her voice.
Of course, it's possible that EMI are delighted with all the drugs hoo-hah, as it might take attention away from the real revelations of the interview, in which Allen expresses dissatisfaction at Terra Firma's management of EMI:
I make no money from selling records – obviously – but they're still arsey about hair and makeup! They don't understand anything. They have all these annoying people running the company who have no idea what it's all about. I look at Universal and see they're doing it well. So that's what I think of them. It's an uphill battle. I wish I could get dropped. But it won't happen. But it's not EMI that are the arseholes – it's Terra Firma. The people who work with me from EMI are brilliant.
Of course, the edge of this is taken off slightly by her moaning that the new team put her up at two star hotels in Paris rather than the Ritz - "I might get raped and murdered" she wails. Which, come to think of it, might also make her complaints about press histrionics over drug use a little weakened, too - presumably staying in a hotel that doesn't fold the cubicle's toilet paper into a point is no more likely to put you at risk of violent crime than sneaking into the cubicle to do a line?