Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Politicised science: ministerial mantra is hollow on Coronavirus threat

Six versions of this letter have been sent to The Guardian, which, in its wisdom, has declined to publish it.

I am sure millions across the nation concur with Professor Devi Sridhar’s exasperation over the ministerial mantra that government policies are based on “the science.”(Hannah Devlin, Analysis, 24 April)
 Earlier, your correspondent, Carol Ferguson, (letters, 16 April) asked plaintively: why has the government got this (its response strategy to  the Coronacrisis) so wrong?

The answer is partly given on the facing page by Professor Helen Ward (“We scientists said lock down. No one listened”).

She also pointed out that ministers constantly repeat the mantra “we are following the science” as if the interpretation of scientific data is uncontested. Thankfully it is not.
What Prime Minister Johnson clearly did was follow the non-scientific ideological advice of his chief Policy advisor, Dominic Cummings-  trained at Oxford University as a medievalist - to create conditions for Herd Immunity, despite the fact that the WHO had its own opposite mantra “ test, test, test!”.

Most other governments followed WHO advice.

For as yet unexplained reasons, the chief medical advisor and chief scientific advisor, Johnson’s wingmen at the Downing Street lecterns  in media briefings, agreed with a medieval historian rather than the global experts at the WHO, which incidentally is significantly funded by U.K. taxpayers.

Your series of stories over the weekend on Dom Cummings presence at several key  meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) (“Revealed: Cummings is on secret scientific advisory group for Covid-19,” April 25;www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/24/revealed-dominic-cummings-on-secret-scientific-advisory-group-for-covid-19; and Attendees of Sage meetings worried by presence of Cummings, “on line April 26) further reinforce suspicions over Cummings’ influential  role.

Your correspondents Dr Richard Milne, Dr Mike Gill, Gary Bennett, and Willy McCourt rightly raise the concerns that Cummings presence in SAGE it itself an interference.. He intimidates people with his ever scowling visage.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili (“Our politicians must learn the value of doubt,” 22 April) is right to stress admitting mistakes in science is a “strength, not a weakness.”

The inescapable conclusion is the Johnson-led government has been following “politicised science.”

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