‘Do you have any spare diazepam?’ Labour MP admits texting vulnerable voter to ask him for prescription-only tranquilisers to help with panic attacks
A senior Labour MP has admitted illegally obtaining prescription-only tranquillisers from a vulnerable constituent.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Stephen Doughty, the party’s frontbench spokesman for Africa and International Development, sent a late-night text message asking Byron Long for tablets of diazepam, better known as Valium.
Mr Doughty – who is seen as a rising star in Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet – last night apologised for the lapse in 2019 which he said occurred after he suffered panic attacks ahead of a planned overseas flight.
The 41-year-old, who has spoken openly about his mental health issues, said he has periodically been prescribed medication, including diazepam, over the past 12 years to deal with panic attacks and anxiety disorder.
Diazepam is categorised as a Class C drug and possession of it without a prescription carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.
MP Stephen Doughty with vulnerable constituent Byron Long during one of their regular meetings at the Quantum Cafe in Cardiff
A spokesperson for the Cardiff South and Penarth MP said: ‘Stephen apologises unreservedly for any error he made in making this request, which was to a friend who he had shared many highly personal, trusted and mutually supportive conversations with about mental health over many years.’
In a text message to Mr Long at 11.08pm on July 19, 2019, Mr Doughty invited his constituent to his flat.
‘Cuppa tomorrow morning at mine? You want to meet Charlotte [his cat]? 930am? X’.
Mr Long replied: ‘Love too see you 9.30 xx’
Diazepam: Killer pill that costs just pennies
Immortalised in The Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit Mother’s Little Helper, diazepam is a prescription-only drug given in tablet form to patients who suffer from anxiety, insomnia or muscle spasms.
Better known as Valium, it is highly addictive so doctors rarely give it to patients for long periods.
Without a prescription, it is designated a Class C drug with a maximum punishment of two years in prison for possession.
It has become an increasingly popular street drug with illegal versions flooding into Britain and being sold for just pennies per pill.
Drug poisoning deaths due to diazepam have shot up from 160 in 2009 to 243 in 2019, while figures show its use has increased during the pandemic.
Four years ago, TV star Ant McPartlin went into rehab for addiction to sedatives including diazepam.
Actor Heath Ledger and pop star Michael Jackson also battled addiction to drugs including diazepam.
The MP texted back: ‘Great 🙂 look forward to introduce her finally x ps do you have any spare diazepam by any chance? I haven’t been able to get to GP and need some for flying next week! X.’
Mr Long replied: ‘Of course 7 ok 5 mg.’
Mr Doughty responded: ‘That would be brill but only if they are spares!!’
Mr Long texted back: ‘Spare x.’
Father-of-two Mr Long, who has suffered from anxiety, depression and PTSD since 2010, claims that he passed as many as 140 diazepam pills to the MP during up to 20 meetings at a coffee shop in Cardiff between 2017 and 2019.
He claims a pattern developed that would see Mr Doughty invite him to the Quantum Café in Cardiff where, as they sat together on a leather sofa and sipped coffee, he would slip diazepam pills to Mr Doughty. He says he did so because he believed it would ingratiate him with the MP, who would then be more willing to help with his various housing problems.
The MP last night flatly denied those claims and said he had provided extensive help to his constituent without condition.
Mr Doughty’s spokesman said: ‘Stephen categorically denies having obtained 140 diazepam tablets from Mr Long… his regular meetings with Byron consisted of tea, coffee, cake and chat between two friends.’
Mr Long met the MP in 2013 when he approached Mr Doughty for help over the Bedroom Tax and his housing benefit. Impressed by the MP, he joined the Labour Party and threw himself into campaigning. He was named ‘champion campaigner’ by Welsh Assembly member Vaughan Gething in 2016.
From 2017, he and Mr Doughty struck up a close friendship: the MP would send him pictures of his cat and give him gifts. ‘At the start, it felt really special getting so much attention from Stephen,’ said Mr Long. ‘There aren’t many constituents who would get as much attention from their local MP.
Stephen Doughty, the party’s frontbench spokesman for Africa and International Development, is seen as a rising star in Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet
‘I really felt as if he sympathised and wanted to help me. We always talked a lot about the local party and he seemed to value my opinion. He seemed to trust me and confided in me really personal things about his life.’
By 2019, however, Mr Long says he began to doubt the level of help with his housing issues that Mr Doughty was actually providing.
He submitted a ‘Subject Access Request’ to Mr Doughty’s office to obtain all the correspondence relating to his case and was disappointed by the reply. ‘I just feel really disappointed and let down – and worst of all I am still trapped in this block of flats,’ he said.
Mr Doughty’s spokesman last night insisted that the MP and his team ‘have spent a considerable amount of time assisting him, as they would do any other constituent, to the best of their abilities’.
Mr Long, 62, who has not seen the MP since 2019, said: ‘I feel completely let down. All those years, I thought I was helping Stephen and Stephen was helping me. Now I know it was all lies.’
Mr Doughty was elected to Westminster in 2012 and has been the shadow international aid spokesman since April last year. In 2017, as his friendship with Mr Long was deepening, he praised local police for cracking down on drug deals in Butetown – ironically the area of Cardiff where they would meet for coffee.
At the time Mr Doughty encouraged people to raise the alarm about drug misuse. ‘If anybody is aware or suspects any activity relating to drugs, however small, I urge you to call the police,’ he said.
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