Nutt’s ego

At the time of Professor David Nutt’s sacking from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, I noted that Alan Johnson was plainly wrong. I’ve actually come to disagree with my previous view on this: advisers advise, politicians decide. The topic, though it will matter to whoever it matters to, doesn’t alter this.

It was announced yesterday that Professor Nutt is setting up his own drugs committee. Welcoming the new body, Nutt said:

This is the strongest grouping of scientists looking at drugs that we’ve ever had in this country. It is a truly independent committee. The model is used in other countries – the Dutch have a similar system. It’s something many of us have wanted for a long time.

What this committee will do is provide to you the truth about drugs, unfettered by any political influence. This is a really interesting model: bottom-up science, saying we’d like to work as a scientific community to produce quality, independent, politically free, uninfluenced science. I would hope other scientific advisory groups in the Government would end up being like us.

Many questions arise from this: prior to his sacking, did the Council of which Nutt was the chair not advise the truth? Was it not already the strongest grouping of scientists looking at drugs? Since the committee will be independent of government, how does it expect its recommendations to be taken on board? Was it ever a question of the findings of a committee not being considered ‘uninfluenced’, but instead the decisions taken on the basis of that evidence, which by their very nature (because of their implications) are political?

What we’re seeing here is not the rational debate that Nutt professes to see at the heart of policy, but instead the ego of a man who thinks his voice deserves to be heard over and above that of people who are elected to take decisions based on the evidence he used to provide.


Published by


Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.