Tag Archives: jacqui smith

Opinion: The Nutt affair – or, the thin line between evidence and policy

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am a scientist, who is also interested in governance and politics, so the following post may come across as somewhat heated. Apologies, but I do feel that the recent furore over Prof. David Nutt’s sacking as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) goes right to the heart of why I took up both science and politics as profession and interest respectively.

We begin with Prof. Nutt’s most recent criticism of the government’s drugs policy, which attracted headlines for claiming that alcohol, despite being legal and freely available, was more harmful than the Class A narcotic ecstasy (MDMA). At first sight this may seem like an outlandish statement to make, but the evidence, collated by Prof. Nutt, suggests otherwise; granted, the recent publication from Nutt’s The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) at King’s College London wasn’t peer-reviewed, but the methodologies used to calculate his ‘harm index’ were so, and published in one of the most respected medical journals, The Lancet in 2007 (the full article is behind a paywall, contact me if you want the pdf…). Just to repeat this – using what seems to me to be a robust method, taking into account everything from physical harm to the user to social harms at large, ecstasy does indeed seem to be less dangerous than alcohol, and it’s using this tried and tested method of enquiry that Nutt used to conclude that cannabis should remain a class C drug.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 9 Comments

Government afraid of technology offers to protect the public

The Government has launched a consultation on their plans to keep a record of all our “communications data” – that is, the time and recipient of each email, text message or phone call we make, the websites we visit and the place from which we do this.

Although the Government has climbed down from its plans to establish a central database of all communications data, it proposes to make communications service providers hold it instead, for a whole year. Then “public authorities” and “investigators” would be given access to it for their purposes.

The title of the consultation document itself is an irony-free piece of doublethink: “Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment.” In this the author has tried to establish a false common enemy. It implies that it’s us and the Government against Technology, against Change itself. “We’ll protect you,” can then run the argument.

For all the mentions of balance in the document (7 of them, in fact) it’s hard to present a balanced choice once the frame has been set.

No wonder they want to tip the balance: the Government is worried that the pace of technological change is running away from them faster than their salami-slicing tactics of hoarding up every last piece of data about us can keep up. Methods of communication are improving and increasing so mass surveillance is getting cumbersome and expensive.

Note the use of words like “degrade” in the foreword, which make date stamps on our text messages sound like some kind of weapons-grade data plutonium in the war against the bogeyman:

Posted in Big mad database and News | 2 Comments

All North West terror suspects released without charge

All 12 men who were arrested two weeks ago in terror raids in the north west of England are to be released without charge.

However, nine of the men are to be deported for breaching the terms of their entry into the UK. Greater Manchester Police have released them into the custody (oxymoron, surely?) of the UK Border Agency.

The police raids, which were hastily brought forward and led to the resignation of Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick are now under renewed scrutiny.

Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary said,

“This is yet another embarrassment for Jacqui Smith coming hot on the

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Huhne attacks RIPA snoopers’ charter: “the Government’s surveillance society has got out of hand”

Today’s Times reports:

Councils are to have their powers to snoop on the public severely curtailed. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will signal government plans today to reverse the expansion of the surveillance society amid growing alarm at the extent of official spying.

And not before time, for as the paper reports elsewhere:

A survey by the Liberal Democrats found that 182 of the 475 local authorities in England and Wales had authorised the use of Ripa powers on 10,288 occasions in the past five years.

It found that 1,615 council staff have the power to authorise their use

Posted in Big mad database, LDV campaigns and News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Porn on expenses – nothing to hide, Jacqui Smith?

There’s something oddly, uh, gratifying about today’s revelation that the nation has been paying for Jacqui Smith’s husband to watch porn.

In case you’ve been busy with F1, the boat race, large amounts of roast food and sundry other matters, here’s the story from the Beeb:

The Home Secretary’s husband has said sorry for embarrassing his wife after two adult films were viewed at their home, then claimed for on expenses.

Richard Timney, who is also Jacqui Smith’s parliamentary aide, said he understood why people might be angry.

Ms Smith said she “mistakenly”

Posted in News | Also tagged | 32 Comments

Should we be worried that MI5 think John Reid is still Home Secretary?

Take a look here. Let’s hope they’ve noticed a few other things have changed. Like we’re not at war with Germany. And we no longer rule India.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Good news! It only takes three hours to learn how to fight the war on terror

And you get a cup of tea thrown in too. Or coffee.

You may have heard Gordon Brown boasting that,

Tens of thousands of men and women throughout Britain – from security guards to store managers – have now been trained and equipped to deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business in crowded places such as stations, airports, shopping centres and sports grounds.

Good news hey? Even if some of their time may have been spent on learning that people who prefer tofu to meat are indulging in just the same sort of …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 8 Comments
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