Friday, October 30, 2009


Considering the Evidence Means You Must Consider Your Position

A Government position is newly vacant this evening: and for the first time, it’s explicit that only liars* need apply. For Labour Government Ministers, of course, the requirement to lie is only implicit.

This case is very simple. Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Professor David Nutt told the truth, and was exasperated with Labour Government Ministers lying about their findings. The last Home Secretary said the carefully considered scientific evidence didn’t matter: cannabis was more harmful than tobacco and alcohol because, er, she said so, fingers in ears, lalala I am not listening to you.

Yesterday, Professor Nutt made it clear that she had not told the truth (and who’d have thought, when Jacqui Spliff was such a model of probity she, er, had to resign for being a crook and made the most grudging unpology about it?).

Today Alan Johnson, the current Home Secretary, sacked him (and who’d have thought that Alan Johnson would make a nakedly lying political point when he knows the evidence is completely against him?).

So, it’s official: under Labour, telling the truth is now a sackable offence.

It’s the obvious joke, but you know who the nuts are here.

Obsessive Ideology Over Evidence and Bossing Everyone About – the Labour Way

The evidence has piled up by the decade and the sackload. Cannabis does some harm; it does nothing like the harm it’s made out to; it does nothing like the harm legal drugs tobacco and alcohol do. But this Labour Government can’t even keep to the – brace yourself – lone liberal twitch by David Blunkett. They’re so desperate to sound ‘tough’ that their policies bear no relation at all to reality. Again and again. When Professor Nutt said that you’re more likely to die horse-riding than taking cannabis or ecstasy, to wails of horror from Labour hypocrites, he was simply looking at the facts of risk. Yet even that’s not really comparing like with like: unlike Professor Nutt, I support legalisation, which would enable proper quality checks (as well as destroying the criminal trade) – no-one gets on a horse, trots half-way along the path, then finds the ‘horse’ collapsing under them because they suddenly discover the beast is in fact half-gerbil.

One of my key memories about the harm caused by illegal drugs came about a decade ago. I left home one afternoon just after hysterical national news headlines about a single tragic death allegedly caused by ecstasy (whether the drug itself, or the impurities allowed in because it’s illegal and can’t be regulated)… And arrived at my Grandad’s a couple of hours later, to see a minor headline in his local paper that another single tragic death had come about because of an allergy to nuts (not to be confused with the Labour Government’s allergy to the truth, of which an inability to tolerate Nutts is merely a symptom). Guess which substance causes far, far more deaths, to an almost complete lack of media interest? Yep – the one you buy safely in the shops, not dangerously on street corners. Another win for prohibition.

On Radio 4’s PM programme tonight, Professor Nutt has just said that:
“This is about the difference between evidence and policy… Everything I’ve done has been evidence-based.
“…Gordon Brown made a series of irrational statements that cannabis is lethal, which of course it isn’t.”
Asked about the Labour Government refusing to take his former committee’s advice on cannabis and ecstasy, because they weren’t interested in any evidence, just in making a political point that he described as Luddism, the interviewer mouthed the meaningless tabloid platitude that these were the “controversial” drugs:
“They’re only controversial if you want them to be controversial – the Government’s views have, they’ve said, had nothing to do with science… I am not prepared to mislead the public about the harm caused by drugs.”
Good for him, and good luck to whoever next gets the job – it had better pay well, because by definition they’ll have to kiss their scientific reputation goodbye to take their position as official Labour Government Liar.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to calm down by eating a large amount of chocolate cake. Bad news: it doesn’t have any dope in it. Good news: it does have lots of chocolate in it. That was once banned as a dangerous, addictive drug by a nutty Westminster Government bent on scarifiying the populace too, you know.

If No-one Agrees With Alan Johnson, Will He Have To Sack the Whole Country?**

I’ve added rather more updates than usual below, as a lot of people seem to have something to say (none of them ‘The Home Secretary was right’). Even ultra-loyalist former Labour minister Lord Falconer said Mr Johnson was wrong on Any Questions.

Starting half an hour later: posts already popping up worth reading from Dr Mark Pack and Duncan Stott (who ironically shares a name with a drug enforcement officer from Doctor Who).

And yay for Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary Chris Huhne in the 7 O’Clock headlines for calling the sacking “disgraceful”:
“What is the point of having independent scientific advice if you’re going to sack the person who’s giving it to you? You may as well have a committee of tabloid newspaper editors advising you on drugs policy.”
Incredibly, the Tories have gone along word for word with the Labour Government.

Continuing the next morning, Mr Mark Reckons has kindly linked to me in a thoughtful post which also has an interesting set of comments. He’s also called attention to the Tories’ ludicrous knee-jerk photocopy of Labour authoritarianism in a far more memorable way than I did above.

Liberal Vision has also linked to me, encapsulating the spirit of my post in a far more memorable headline. Again, I’m just not tabloidy enough. One of the British Medical Journal’s bloggers doesn’t link to me, but finishes on a particularly appropriate request from his friend Kate. You might also glance at Darrell, Jonathan and Jennie.

*Or pot-heads, ironically, as only someone with a distinctly loose grip on reality would believe in the Government’s policy.

**Fortunately for Mr Johnson, he does turn out to have the support of: the Conservative Party; spin-poisoner columnist Amanda Platell; and the Daily Mail, the paper that spits on much-loved dead people and refuses to apologise. And, er, that’s it.

Unfortunately, these are the handful of hate-filled obsessive ideologues who are running the country, whatever the sensible majority of us think.

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who ironically shares a name with a drug enforcement officer from Doctor Who

Do I? That's news to me! Which episode?
Hello Duncan

I know I’m three days late replying to your comment, but I’ve not been well (what’s that? A month and three days? Corks!). Sorry about that, and I’m very, very slowly catching up with messages of all sorts.

Just in case you’ve neither lost interest nor Googled the answer, while I’m afraid he only shares your “Stott” and not the full Duncan, you’ll find intelligence Major Stott returning from the dead in the 1979 story Nightmare of Eden, a tale of drug-smuggling, zoology and package holidays in space with Tom Baker’s Doctor, Romana and K9, all script-edited by Douglas Adams. Sadly, it’s not out yet on DVD (all the remainder are due within the next 3-4 years, but that makes me seem speedy), though you might be able to track down an old VHS or find illicit material online.
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