Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cynical discrediting of David Nutt

Further to my last post, it's now suddenly clear why Jacqui Smith felt quite so free to make some rather caustic remarks about the UK government's chief drugs adviser on Thursday night - he was about to be sacked by Alan Johnson. Smith's main complaint about David Nutt appeared to be that he had once said ecstasy was less dangerous than horse-riding. But the first thought that occurred to me was that if he did say that, wasn't it probably because there is hard statistical evidence to prove it?

Smith's insinuation was plain enough - that Nutt is a man who trivialises and belittles the pain and anguish of those who have lost a loved one to ecstasy. But surely it was precisely because he didn't mean that at all that he so readily apologised for his comment. It had simply been a clumsy way of illustrating the point that the perceptions of comparative risks and the reality are often some distance apart. I suspect Smith understood that perfectly well, and it was therefore more than a little cynical of her to pretend otherwise as a convenient way of discrediting a dangerously authoritative critic of her conduct as a minister.

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