Wednesday, May 22, 2002

INSPECT A PALUMBO: As Iain Duncan Smith comes out against making that dangerous drug Ecstasy a slightly less-tightly controlled substance (the way he was talking on Today this morning, you'd have thought that simply declassifying the drug would have meant providing break-time doves for all children of school age), James Palumbo has popped up in the FT yammering on about how he got drugs out of the Ministry of Sound. Of course, this is all about making the soon to be plc'ed MOS seem a safer, straighter bet for city investors when the shares come to the market, but he's having a hard time trying to balance the tastes of his consumers with the demands of the City, resulting in some strange pronouncements: "I don't have strong moral objections [to drugs] like the high-pitched voice of a grandmother," he tells the FT. I really must try some of this high-pitched voice of a grandmother, it sounds great. No, seriously - what does he mean, exactly? That only old people object to drugs? Only grandparents have morals? "Actually, I'm quite a libertarian, I believe people should be allowed to do what they want, as long as they're not upsetting other people. I just cannot allow organised drug-dealing by scum doormen in my club, because it leads to extortion and threats and even sometimes to death." Maybe you'd be better off not employing scum doormen, then, James, rather than simply prohibiting them selling drugs?
"A lot of the deaths from Ecstasy, if you look at them, are because the place was overcrowded, there wasn't enough water, the club manager was taking £2,000 round the back of the club." There usually wasn't enough water, young James, because the management of the clubs were switching the taps off so they could flog drinks at the bar - which, apart from anything, is in breach of licensing regulations anyway, of course. Nothing to do with overcrowding.
"When I arrived here, the place was out of control, and I didn't understand what was going on, because our door-team was busy organising the drugs, and pretending everything was just fine. It took me six months to work out that this was what was happening up and down the country." It took you SIX MONTHS to work this out? Jesus Christ, man, just how stupid are you? Your average gently-monged clubber can usually spot the bloke selling E in about thirty-four seconds without the benefit of having access to CCTV footage, being their employer, and all the other benefits from owning the place.
"We might have been taking £30,000 in door and drink revenues on a Saturday night and they were selling 2,000 or 3,000 Ecstasy tablets at £15 each, so the drug take exceeded our take - and it's all cash, obviously" - of course, the shrewd pension funds will be looking to invest in the MoS door staff rather than the club itself, based on these figures. Quite why "it's all cash" is in any way relevant here, I'm not sure - is James suggesting that by refusing to take credit cards the drug dealers aren't playing the game? Maybe this is his plan - "Right, lads, we'll encourage the dealers to get hooked up to swipe card machines, and then we'll just wait until there's a paper trail to follow..." Of course, if you bought a dodgy pill your credit card company would then reimberse you under the 1974 Consumer Credit Act, so everyone would be a winner.
But it's no picinic taking on these people: "If you try to stop them, they'll follow you home and stick a knife into you, but in a lot of places, they'll kill you. So I grew up very fast." Because adults cannot be stabbed. That's neither a being killed stabbing, or one of those that happens in some places, where they puncture your lungs as a warning.
The interview in full - aw, you had to mention the limo loan to Mandelson, didn't you?

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