Rally to support Prof. Nutt tomorrow


3:54 pm - November 6th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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A rally is being held for Professor David Nutt tomorrow. Called by the group Students for Sensible Drugs Policy UK, they say it is being held in support of evidence based drugs policy.

They say in an email:

We are calling on members of the academic community, parents, young people, students and concerned members of the public to join us at 1pm on Saturday the 7th of November outside Downing Street.

We will be there to show our support for Professor Nutt and to call on the government to back evidence based drugs policy by respecting and upholding the independence of the ACMD.

This protest is not about the legalisation of drugs: It is very important that all protestors attending stick to the message. This is about the government listening to their own advisers.

There is also a petition at: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Back-Prof-Nutt/

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Guy Aitchison

The one good thing about Nutt’s sacking is that it has provoked some serious public debate about our ridiculous drugs laws and the public it seems are much more clued up and sensible than the politicians.

I note that this isn’t a rally for legalisation. But isn’t it about time we had a serious campaign in that direction? It’ll need political leadership of course which has been lacking. Where are the Lib Dems? Isn’t legalisation exactly the kind of thing a self-styled “radical” party of liberals should be championing?

Follow me on twitter!

I do not support this hysterical outburst from Prof Nutt. (Aptly named) He has lost the plot. When we, as a democracy can support a person who has no political locus other than to advise, as if that person were a voted in member of the government, there is something seriously amiss with general perceptions. I refuse to be part of a grossly distorted manipulation.

My own views on the subject of substances, their abuse and misuse, is very separate from the views I have regarding the unbalanced outbursts from Professor Nutt.

Regarding the “hysterical outburst” by Professor Nutt, his offence to the Home Office and to Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, was in delivering an academic lecture in July to an academic audience at King’s College, London, in his capacity, not as a part-time, unpaid chairman of a statutory advisory committee on drugs, but as a professor of pharmacology at Imperial College, London.

If that is unacceptable conduct for a government adviser, then any academic adviser to governments must abide by the stricture and accordingly refrain from making any critical comments about government policy to academic audiences at any time regardless of the evidence.

It should not come as a great surprise if many academics consider that official muzzling as an unacceptable intrusion into their professional research so as to prevent them from going wherever the relevant evidence takes them.

Thank you for your reply Bob B. The Professor stepped over the line of what was expected of advisors. Your comments contain a spurious concern for academic freedoms, in my opinion, in the advisory forum in which this man sat . If the Professor wants to be a campaigner then he should be in another forum not the one he accepted.

“If the Professor wants to be a campaigner then he should be in another forum not the one he accepted.”

Professor Nutt was delivering an academic lecture in July to an academic audience, in his capacity as a professor of pharmacology, on the relative risks from drug abuse – including tobacco and alcohol – by publicising data already in the public domain. What other conclusions could he have come to, given the published evidence? Sacking the professor isn’t going to change the evidence. All the sacking has done is to make the Home Secretary look foolish and intellectually incapable of debating the official policy on drugs.

The fact is that the number of deaths in Britain a year attributed to alcohol abuse – approaching 9,000 – is about three times the number of annual traffic accident fatalities.

By comparison, the number of deaths a year attributed to cannabis and ecstacy use runs only to several dozens. The obvious question is why isn’t the government doing more to curb the hugely damaging and costly consequences of alcohol abuse?

Could the answer relate to the buoyancy of tax revenues or to the lobbying power of the brewers and distillers?

“Total recorded alcohol consumption in the UK is estimated to have doubled between 1960 and 2002. . . The researchers . . found steady increases in death rates in Scotland, England and Wales during the 1970s. This accelerated in the 1980s, and again from the nineties onwards. In contrast, death rates for both men and women in other European countries declined by 20% to 30% from the early 1970s. Between the periods 1987-1991, and 1997-2001, male deaths from cirrhosis in Scotland more than doubled, and in England and Wales they rose by over two-thirds.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4581530.stm

Scotland is in the grip of a health crisis after research revealed that more than half of men and 30% of women drink to excess.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/feb/22/scotland-alcohol-crisis

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the shape of the Earth. In July 2007, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster announced that we would seek the advice of the Advisory Council on the Shape of Earth, as we are obliged to do by statute, on the shape of the Earth. I am grateful to the council for its work, and I have placed a copy of its report in the Library of the House. In reaching my decision, I have also taken into account the views of others, particularly those responsible for enforcing the law, and the public—58 per cent. of whom, according to a survey carried out for the council, believe the Earth to be flat…

I have given the council’s report careful consideration. Of its 21 recommendations, I accept all bar those relating to shape. I have decided to reaffirm the shape of the Earth, subject to parliamentary approval, as flat. My decision takes into account issues such as public perception and the needs and consequences for navigational priorities. …

You are totally missing the point. Any advisor on an advisory committee is just and only that. If the boundaries are crossed then;
1. the selection of the appointee was not well assessed for the purpose.
2. the person appointed was not appropriate to the advisory task.

There have been many and varied scientific committees for decades, with a range of experts who have not behaved like frustrated children. They have understood their role.

As I said, if the professor wanted to campaign, even under the guise of academic freedoms, then he should have aligned himself with different fora.

lu.caz, did you hear or read the lecture?

Though yours is a different topic Jimmy, you could well be correct.

ukLiberty. I I have nothing further to add.

lu.caz, either you did or you didn’t.

The lecture was uncontroversial at the time – as is evident by the lack of fuss between then and now.

What about the lecture “stepped over the line of what was expected of advisors”? Did he breach the code of practice and if so how?

The LibDems have intervened in this debate in a major way:

“Lib Dem science spokesman Dr Evan Harris has written to the home secretary demanding an apology for alleged ‘slurs’ against Prof Nutt.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8349300.stm

The account of the facts by Dr Evan Harris about Professor Nutt’s supposed campaign is illuminating. The Home Office advertised his forthcoming lecture on its website.

Dr Harris says, “Lord Drayson, the science minister, has now publicly criticised the home secretary for not consulting him over the matter and signalled that the government would endorse a code of practice for ministers under which Prof Nutt would still be in his position.”

It’s beginning to look more and more as though Alan Johnson will have to resign to restore the credibility of the office of Home Secretary.

I’d just like to point people to Tim Worstall’s devastating demolition of Robin Murray’s argument in the comments to this apparently dishonest Guardian article.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/29/cannabis-schizophrenia-classification

Professor Nutt should have been advised privately that it is not his job to be determining policy – – but by sacking the adviser the Home Secretary made a mountain out of a mole hill.

By the way, President Clinton fired his Surgeon general for talking about masturbation and smoking pot —

Advisers Advise and Ministers decide — often ministers might get conflicting advise and often there are other issues that are in play which the adviser many not be aware of.

Either way, going to this march or supporting this march is basically saying one is against democracy. I wonder if the students thought this through

It’s not against democracy to ask politicians to respect the independence of advisors and listen to what they say, rather than discrediting and removing them because they don’t agree.

There’s a great article on Ministry of Truth:

http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2009/11/10/johnsons-flavour-of-the-month-leaves-bad-taste/

Shamit,

Professor Nutt should have been advised privately that it is not his job to be determining policy –

Which part of Nutt’s lecture – uncontroversial at the time – determined policy?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Jerry Taylor

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  7. Denny

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  8. Scott DeathBoy

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  15. Liberal Conspiracy

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  16. Jerry Taylor

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  17. Jerry Taylor

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  19. sunny hundal

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  20. Helen L

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  21. Tim Ireland

    RT @libcon: Rally to support Prof. Nutt tomorrow http://bit.ly/1MALp8

  22. Denny

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  23. Denny

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  24. Scott DeathBoy

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  25. Scott DeathBoy

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  26. ‘What do we want?’ ‘An all-night garage!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Er… wow! My hands are transparent…’ | And another thing...

    […] wow! My hands are transparent…’ Friday, November 6th, 2009 LIBERAL Conspiracy reports optimistically that Students for Sensible Drugs Policy UK (aka “students”) will hold a demonstration […]

  27. Leon Green

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  28. Blue Bajja

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