Monday, 2 November 2009

A political purge

So Prof Nutt has been 'asked to resign' and two colleagues (Dr Les King and Marion Walker) inhaled deeply and have walked out in sympathy.

It was inevitable (as I mentioned earlier), and it only highlights the shambles of the policy-making process of this Labour government.

Alan Johnson accused his scientific advisor of stepping outside his area of competence and interfering in the political debate. He is clearly in meltdown phase as this was to effectively admit that he stepped outside of his area of competence and is willing to interfered in the scientific debate.

But before anyone shrugs their shoulders and says this is just tit-for-tat mudslinging, it must be pointed out that while the role of 'Chief Scientific Advisor' required high academic qualifications, the job of Home Secretary simply requires membership of the order of the Brown-nose!

As a matter of fact Johnson stated he lost confidence in Prof Nutt's ability to give impartial advice, which rather belies the evidence that Mr Johnson simply disagreed with the advice.

So, as Alan Smithson notes, this is the end of any ambitions Johnson had of becoming PM. Mark Reckons agrees - and that interview merely provides the icing on the cake.

But I'd go further and say that the episode actually signals the end of Johnson's career as a frontline politician (which appears to be a position supported by the British Medical Journal). Maybe the former postie could sort out the counterproductive militancy behind the CWU strike instead... don't hold your breath!

The policy of reclassifying cannabis was not, however, one determined by the Home Secretary - it was a top-down doctrine imposed by Gordon Brown himself.

So, yes, Johnson needs to go because he has shown professional incompetence, but he also needs to go because he has shown political incompetence for allowing himself to be set up as a patsy by his boss, who regarded him as a threat.

But neither does Brown emerge unscathed by the affair.

The internal manoeuvering at the heart of the Labour party is clearly to the detriment of law-making, and for this Brown is to blame and should be held accountable.

Meanwhile the Crust of the Grouch explains how Labour has got itself into this mess because they are afraid of losing power.

Policy based on electoral calculations exemplifies the depths of cynicism Labour has now sunk to.

It is just one more example of how Labour started digging itself into a hole when it failed to take advantage of the landslide majorities it gained in Blair's first two terms: Labour's problems stem directly from their failure to deliver the promised reforms which would give a more proportionally representative democratic system.

But the final word has to go to Chris Huhne, who is straightforward and scathing. He says,
"If ministers care so little for independent scientific advice, they should save public money by sacking the entire group of experts and instead appointing a committee of tabloid editors."
In other words he is saying the sacking of the scientific advisors over political differences is tantamount to the government admitting they have already abdicated their responsibilities and handed over the reigns of control to a shadowy cabal.


Iain Brassington said...

Just for the sake of clarification - I didn't say that this signalled the end of Johnson's political career: all I did was relay a comment made by a friend of mine that seemed like a witty response.

Nor does what I say represent the views of the BMJ or BMA: there're no real controls or guidelines that determine what I blog.

Having said that - and speaking in my private capacity - Johnson really is a clown. It's a shame: he's a smart guy, but this move is STOOOPID.

Oranjepan said...

Thanks for the clarification, Iain.

I agree Johnson has qualities, but I also think he's been over-promoted, which possibly also indicates the paucity of high-level talent in the Labour party as a whole.