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

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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

CommentIsLinked@LDV: Norman Baker – It might be legal, but it’s not right

Over at the Mirror, crusading Lib Dem MP Norman Baker writes (briefly) about the damage that the ‘drip, drip, drip of stories about MPs’ expenses’ is doing to Parliament. Here’s an excerpt (actually, it’s pretty much the whole piece):

We can’t continue to have revelations that the public find so shocking. Jacqui Smith’s homes are a prime example. It’s not acceptable that she can claim her main home is her sister’s spare room. Saying it is within the rules is not good enough. House of Commons officials must be able to veto MPs’ declarations. They need to ask questions like where

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

Pressure grows on Jacqui Smith over expense claims

The former chairman of the Standards Committee, Sir Alistair Graham, has acquired rather a habit of speaking out bluntly to put pressure on MPs over their standards and he’s done it again on Newsnight:

“It must not look as if you’re manipulating expenses for your own financial gain.”

If it is found Ms Smith resides in her London home more nights a week than her Redditch home, he said: “She’ll be in the clear in the sense of the rules, but in the sense of her political career – she won’t be.” (PoliticsHome)

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged | 5 Comments

At the third time of asking, Jacqui Smith gets investigated

Paul Waugh has the story:

Jacqui Smith’s expenses claims are set to receive fresh scrutiny today. I’ve learned that she has now been written to by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards John Lyon in the light of fresh allegations made this weekend by her neighbours in south-east London.

Having turned down two previous requests to investigate the affair, Mr Lyon has asked the Home Sec to  provide additional information on how often she stays at her sister’s home in Nunhead.

Dominic and Jessica Taplin  this weekend told the Mail on Sunday that Ms Smith was rarely in her London home more than three nights

Posted in News | Also tagged | 1 Comment

Ecstasy – a very political drug

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recommended that ecstasy be downgraded to Class B. The Council’s chair, Professor David Nutt, likened the levels of harm caused by ecstasy to those caused by horse-riding. Apparently, horse-riding causes about 10 deaths per year and the use of ecstasy in isolation causes between 10 and 17.

So have the government accepted the evidence of their own advisory body this time, having recently rejected their advice by upgrading cannabis from C to B? What do you think? The Guardian has more:

The credibility of the

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

Evan sticks up for drug adviser in ecstasy row

As the Guardian reports:

The government’s drugs adviser last night apologised for saying that the risk in taking ecstasy was no worse than in riding a horse. Home secretary Jacqui Smith had yesterday carpeted Dr David Nutt over comments that emerged 48 hours before his committee was expected to recommend downgrading the drug. …

Smith’s attack on Nutt, the new chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, comes when this week it will publish a report expected to recommend downgrading ecstasy from class A to class B. Smith has made clear she will veto the council’s view as

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

CC all your email to Jacqui Smith Day

The Government have plans to start a massive database recording every phone call you make, every email you send, and every text you remove the vowels from.  They have named this bizarre plan the Interception Modernisation Programme, which hardly sounds reassuring, and is still more concerning as the acronym IMP.

But just as the plan to exempt MPs from the FOI bill spurred an impressive new generation of campaigning via Twitter, the big mad database plan has prompted some novel forms of protest.

“CC your email to Jacqui Smith Day” is a group and a fan page on Facebook that …

Posted in Big mad database and Online politics | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments



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