Tag Archives: ben goldacre

Michael Gove: The Case for the Defence. And also the Case for the Prosecution.

Michael GoveUnlike most Lib Dems, I am not a Gove-hater. But nor do I share the adulation those one on the Right bestow upon him. The man we must now call the former Education secretary was more complex than his critics allowed and more flawed than his fans admitted.

No-one should doubt Michael Gove’s passion for schools reform, nor his sincerity. For him it is much more than political: it is also personal. Two men have shaped much of the education agenda in the last 15 years: Gove and Labour’s Andrew Adonis, …

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The Independent View: A chance for Liberal Democrat activists to speak up for free speech

There is a new threat to the Defamation Bill.

No sooner had the proposed law been liberated, after being taken hostage by Leveson negotiations, than Conservative MPs have begun messing with crucial free speech provisions.

Former libel lawyer Sir Edward Garnier MP has tabled an amendment seeking to remove a crucial clause from the Defamation Bill. The clause places some limits on corporations’ use of the libel laws. It does not bar them from suing entirely – just asks that they show financial loss before they do so. It’s an objective and measurable …

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The welfare debate and the age of the trollemic

I decided to invent a new word yesterday:

It’s the welfare debate that’s prompted it, but it could be any other topic on a given week.

daily mail philpott front pageYesterday saw the Daily Mail publish a typically sensationalist front page blaming the welfare state for the tragedy of six children being killed by their parents. On Monday the Mirror shouted ‘Shameful’, with a cartoon showing Thatcher, Cameron, Osorne and Clegg banging in the final nail of a coffin marked ‘RIP Welfare’.

Each is exaggerating to make their own point. Both are gross over-statements: trollemics.

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Opinion: AllTrials.net – a crucial campaign on data transparency that will save lives

Medicines save and improve lives, can also cause great harm if inappropriately deployed. To decide which drugs are safe, and which might work in which circumstances, regulators, doctors and scientists need access to all the results from all trials conducted on all drugs that are in use – but this data is all-too-often missing as a result of commercial practices that put millions of lives at risk. A new campaign seeks to bring this largely hidden scandal in medical science, revealed in Dr. Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Pharma, to an end – and with it the needless harm …

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Opinion: Why is the BBC so bad at putting links in science stories?

The BBC’s failure to link properly to the original sources of its stories, especially those relating to developments in science and healthcare, may be just be a personal bugbear, and you may well be blissfully unaware of or affected by it, but do indulge me as I think this matters!

For some time now the likes of medic and writer Ben Goldacre have expressed real concern at the underwhelming way the BBC uses hyperlinks on its website. Specifically, when the BBC website carries a story based on papers published in academic journals, clicking their ‘related internet links’ sends the …

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Bits of election fun you may have missed

The best leaflet correction so far; you’ve got to love the biro work.

Phil Willis shows his moves (but just skip over 1 min 48 sec, ok?).

Ben Goldacre edges close to saying “Vote Lib Dem” here and here.

Esther Rantzen takes to removing Liberal Democrat posters in Luton South.

Not heard the David Cameron song? Hear it here. (Hat tip: Jonathan Calder)

And the prize for the worst campaign interview goes to UKIP leader, Lord Pearson (clip via Left Foot Forward):

Posted in General Election | Also tagged , , , , and | 4 Comments

The Saturday Debate: what’s wrong with treatments that act like placebos?

Here’s your starter for ten as we continue our new Saturday slot posing a view for debate:

In the lively discussion about homeopathy and placebos following an earlier op-ed piece several people made comments about treatments which rely purely on the placebo effect such as: “If a placebo works and is safe and cheap, why on earth should we stop funding it?”

The more general issue of placebos was raised by Lynne Featherstone in an op-ed back in early 2008:

The placebo effect is seen when people are given treatment, such as pills, where the psychological impact of thinking that the

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

Evidence-based policy – MPs call for an end to homeopathy on the NHS

It isn’t often that Members of Parliament are praised, vilified as they are over their expenses, point-scoring and deference to vested interests. Yet this week has seen a moment of real clarity in Westminster, a true demonstration of how our elected leaders can exercise critical thinking and formulate policy based on objective, rational evidence – and all this over some tiny sugar pills.

Monday saw the publication of Evidence Check: Homeopathy, a report by the House of Commons Science and Technology committee (full report available as a PDF here). This report followed months of taking …

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LDV readers vote Peter Tatchell your Liberal Voice of the Year

Congratulations to Peter Tatchell, who has won Liberal Democrat Voice’s third annual Liberal Voice of the Year award – an award which publicly acknowledges the campaigning work of non-Liberal Democrats in promoting liberal values. Peter gained a plurality of votes, with 27%; the runner-up was author and journalist Ben Goldacre, with 20%.

Over 700 votes were cast, and the results were as follows:

Posted in LDV Awards | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

LDV’s Liberal Voice poll: a two-horse race* between Tatchell and Goldacre?

Five days ago, LDV launched our search for our annual Liberal Voice of the Year, open only to non-Lib Dems, with you, our dear readers, forming the electorate. Voting will close this Sunday, 17th January. Here’s how the votes currently stack up:

  • 11% (69) – Guy Herbert, general secretary of NO2ID, for his campaigning work against the database state;
  • 30% (180) – Peter Tatchell, for his tireless and fearless international human rights campaigning;
  • 13% (79) – Joanna Lumley, for her campaigning for justice on behalf of Gurkha veterans;
  • 2% (13) – Rory Stewart, for his straight-talking common sense on

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NEW POLL: Who is your Liberal Voice of the Year?

Ten days ago, in the dying days of the last decade, LDV launched our search for the Liberal Voice of 2009, to find the non-Lib Dem individual or group which has had the biggest impact on liberalism in this country in the past 12 months.

Our thanks to all who put forward nominations, all of which were considered carefully by the LDV editorial collective, which has agreed to short-list the following (in no particular order):

  • Guy Herbert, general secretary of NO2ID, for his campaigning work against the database state;
  • Peter Tatchell, for his tireless and fearless international human

Posted in LDV Awards and Voice polls | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , and | 24 Comments

Conference fringe: Defending free speech – keep libel laws out of science

With a harsh economic recession continuing to bite, with Westminster politics remaining in the doldrums and with a global climate change summit fast approaching, legal action taken against a science writer may be far down your priority list as party conference season approaches. And yet, the British Chiropractic Association’s attempts to silence Simon Singh’s critical comments reveal fundamental flaws in Britain’s libel law, and threaten to undermine the freedom of expression that insulates us from the very worst consequences of public and private sector failures.

It is in this context that I invite all Lib Dem Voice readers to attend a fringe event I’ve organised at this year’s conference. The event is entitled Defending free speech – keep libel laws out of science, and will take place in the Marriott Highcliff Hotel’s Blandford Syndicate room 3 at 13.00.

We will hear an illustrious panel of speakers discussing how legal threats are being used to suppress scientific debate, and how Britain’s libel laws must be reformed:

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“Some of the Greens’ proposals are staggeringly extreme”

That’s the verdict of Mark Henderson in The Times, after taking a look at their attitude towards science:

Two examples stand out. It wants to ban all experiments on embryos, including those designed to improve fertility treatment as well as embryonic stem cell work. And its policies on alternative medicine are the height of naivety. The Greens’ spokesman told Robbins and Swain:

“We want the gradual inclusion of complementary therapies within NHS provision so that patients have access to all available and appropriate treatments. Complementary therapies can often prevent the situation worsening and thus save resources.”

There was no mention at all of

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Lamb criticises “MMR scaremongering”

Norman Lamb has tabled Early Day Motion 754, “MMR vaccine and the media“.

This follows a public dispute between award-winning blogger Ben Goldacre and radio station LBC over a broadcast by Jeni Barnett that Goldacre describes as a “44 minute tirade against MMR”.

According the party’s press release, Norman said:

“Suggesting that the MMR vaccine is dangerous in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary is massively irresponsible and could put children’s lives at risk.

“This kind of scaremongering has had a serious impact on public health in the last decade.

“Cases of measles have risen dramatically in the

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How accurate are YouGov polls?

It’s a well-established pattern during this Parliament that YouGov generally gives lower ratings to the Liberal Democrats than other pollsters, and this appears to be due to YouGov finding female voters to be more Conservative than other polling companies. Whilst YouGov did well in last year’s London Mayor elections, its record in other elections is more mixed. Most notably, its exist poll at the last European elections got the Conservative and UKIP vote shares badly wrong.

Interesting then to see Ben Goldacre’s column in yesterday’s Guardian which, on the way to rubbishing the PR of an insurance company, took to …

Posted in Polls | Also tagged | 5 Comments

And the winners are…

Tonight has been the Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year awards, with the prizes going to:


Best new Liberal Democrat blog: The People’s Republic of Mortimer (Alix Mortimer)


Best use of blogging or social networking by a Liberal Democrat: Baroness Ros Scott’s campaign for party president


The Tim Garden Award (for the best blog by a Liberal Democrat holding public office): Peter Black AM


Best non-Liberal Democrat politics blog (LDV readers poll): Bad Science (Ben Goldacre)


Best posting on a Liberal Democrat blog: My inner disgusted colonel (The People’s …

Posted in Best of the blogs | Also tagged | 3 Comments

The dilemma of the placebo

A bomb is about to go off, blowing up hundreds of innocent people. One terrorist knows the location. You’ve got them in custody. Do you torture them to find out where it is?

Thus runs the common moral dilemma beloved of Hollywood movies and TV shows, frequently these days it seems staring Kiefer Sutherland. Are you a mealy mouthed liberal or are you willing to take the tough action necessary to fight terrorism?

Real life isn’t that straightforward – it doesn’t present such clear-cut scenarios, and anyway evidence from torture isn’t reliable: could you really be sure the terrorist told you the truth rather than a fib to waste your time? And the tough-guy macho act in real life all too often results in the innocent being harassed, tortured or killed as you charge off in the wrong direction based on incomplete or misleading information (remember Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction that were supposedly just waiting to be found by US and UK troops?).

However, a case a constituent raised with me recently got me thinking about the placebo effect – and the genuine dilemma it presents, particular for those – like myself – of a liberal mindset who believe in giving people as much information and power over their own lives as possible.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 17 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User Avatartheakes 1st Aug - 12:39pm
    Judging from this weeks local election results so far, the end is nigh. They are too awful to print out. Will we ever learn.
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 1st Aug - 12:28pm
    Even more unfortunately (and has been pointed out ad nauseam before, which is why I knew exactly what Stuart was referring to), it doesn't say...
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 1st Aug - 12:27pm
    We know that the coalition demands on teachers to improve education standards has meant a sharp decline in teachers' support for the Lib Dem party....
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 1st Aug - 12:16pm
    Stuart, Your problem is that you've cited a statement by Clegg in 2010, when Clegg could reasonably guess that his favourite partner, the Tories, would...
  • User AvatarJames Baker 1st Aug - 12:00pm
    @Peter I would agree if the independent hadn't been elected on a mandate of opposing the controversial road scheme, and there wasn't also a petition...
  • User AvatarStuart 1st Aug - 11:51am
    @Malcolm Todd http://www.libdemvoice.org/liblink-nick-clegg-the-liberal-democrats-are-not-for-sale-17434.html