Monday, 2 November 2009

Dr Nutt

I've always found it a quirk of the British political system that a Government has to pick its ministers for Government posts from the members that have been elected. What we end up with is the man controlling the Health Department for example, with no background in Health and was previously a lawyer.
Obviously the Prime Minister cannot find a perfect fit for each position from among his elected members so to this end, the Government bring in 'experts' to give advice to the Minister and to help steer policy and to stop any monumental mistakes.
The problem is that experts, with all their experience and background, sometimes say things that the Ministers don't want to hear and why Dr David Nutt today finds himself sacked as the Governments chief drug adviser.
The Scientist made the judgement in a research paper that "Alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth. Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively."
As the Government are in the middle of an attempt to reclassify cannabis, LSD and ecstasy as Class B drugs, and as they make billions from the alcohol and tobacco industry, Dr Nutt's comments were always going to be deemed less than helpful.
Experts do sometimes get it wrong as was shown with last weeks 'we are coming out of recession, oops, no we're not' debacle by the economy experts but I'd still take the view of an expert over that of a minister every time.
What Dr Nutt was actually saying was that although cannabis, LSD and ecstasy are undoubtedly dangerous drugs, there are actually some legal ones that are even more dangerous and damaging that need to be addressed as well.
We can disagree with him but personally i would assume that he knows more about it than the man who sacked him, Home Secretary Alan Johnson, whose background is in banking.
He was sacked, and was not the first expert to have been, for telling the truth as he saw it and means that the government is prepared to dismiss expert advice on the drug issue.
These scientists and scholars are not politicians and not supposed to tow the government line but the ministers should not take on independent advisers and then whinge and remove them when the advice comes back and it isn't what they want to hear.

2 comments:

Cheezy said...

Ha. Another case of the government finding that reality (i.e. some illegal drugs, if used correctly, really aren't all that bad for you) doesn't always fit hand-in-glove with the sort of mindless Daily-Mailish populism that they imagine will win them votes in Middle England. Nutt was right to resign rather than be a tool of these, erm, tools.

Lucy said...

We saw with Iraq that anyone who doesn't toe the Government line is banished. I am still not convinved about the suicide of Dr Kelly.