Friday, November 06, 2009

Speaking truth unto power.

Never an easy thing to do for sure, but lately it would seem it has become near impossible. For residents of these fair isles the story of poor Professor Nutt will likely be familiar, but for the rest of you Auntie will fill in the blanks.

It seems the Prof. has been a bit fed up with his political masters apparently failing to hear anything he has had to say on his specific area of expertise, so he has made one public comment too many for them and has been given the push. Now I agree that advisors must advise but politicains must finally decide. That's what a representative democracy is all about, but when political and evidential approaches to an area of public policy diverge as radically as they now appear to in the "difficult" area of drugs there comes a point where the advisors become superfluous and we end up with an approach based on "public opinion". It seems Mr Mackie really is setting HMG's current drugs policy and reasoned advice is deemed unnecessary and inadvisable.

In the long run this damages the credibility of the policy as presently voiced, and calls the judgement of our political representatives into question. If the policy is determined not on the evidence of actual risk, but on some otehr grounds, those grounds need to be far better and more clearly articulated to have credence. If the present classification system is more moralistic than scientific then so be it, but at least let's acknowledge that and move on.

I'm told the Grauniad has suggested that we have moved from "evidence led policy" to "policy led evidence" in this area, and this seems to have been an increasing trend across government for at least two decades, and not just here in Dear Old Blighty or on this lone issue. So perhaps it's time we dropped the figleaf the "advisory" committees lend to policy formulation and let the whole shooting match be determined by focus group and the "Court of Public Opinion".

After all things worked so much better when we had hanging, flogging and transportation to fall back on.

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