Monday 2 November 2009

The row rolls on

John Spellar MP has "weighed in" to the row over the scientists that have quit as Government advisers.

He says on his website:

“Alan Johnson is right and there is an important democratic principle at stake. Advisers and officials can give their views and ignore public opinion, but Ministers and MPs are answerable to the voters. Outside advice is useful, but ultimately we have to answer to the public and I think the public are clear in their opposition to a free for all on drugs. If someone has a different view they should put themselves up for election.”

If it is Spellar’s view that people with opinions varying from Government line should “put themselves up for election” then why bother having advisers at all?

What people are taking away from this, and what the Government is doing little to disprove, is that ministers only appoint advisers so they can appear to make decisions based on expert advice, when actually they are making them based on something else.

What is that something else? Spellar tells us when he makes the rather clumsy admission that “ministers are answerable to the voters”. In other words, it is not wise in an electoral sense to go against the public mood on an issue as volatile as this.

I’m not an advocate of some of the things these advisors have said about drugs, but you can’t simply ignore the fact that they are saying them.

Even worse, Spellar seeks to discredit them by misrepresenting their views. He implies these former Government expert advisers are calling for a "free for all on drugs". Childish hyperbole.

The Government has to face up to these people’s views if they have been appointed to give them.

They would be much wiser to tackle them in an open debate rather than throwing toys out of the pram like Alan Johnson did on Sky yesterday.


Anonymous said...

Professor Nutt is an academic. He lectures to students. He was lecturing when he made these points. Is mr Johnson suggesting that he should only lecture on government approved science? Isn't that what used to happen in Romania and Albania, and still does in North Korea?

increasinglymiffed said...

It strikes me, that if the experts who advise are expected to remain silent if the government sets policy at variance with their advice, the public are most likely to assume that their silence means they agree with the government's decisions.

That ain't right, surely?

Tarquin said...

"and I think the public are clear in their "opposition to a free for all on drugs. If someone has a different view they should put themselves up for election.”

Well, aside from the lying about free-for-alls, we did - they're called lib dems

And I wasn't aware the election was fought on drug policy

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