The unfolding story of Alan Johnson’s Nutt sacking deserves a little more attention.

In the first place, you should go and check out Hansard to see just how pathetic our elected representatives are when it comes to understanding what science and evidence are. Particular gems include the Tory backbencher merrily parping Churchill’s quote that scientists should be “on tap and not on top”, and the confusion of Johnson himself when asked to explain why he had sacked the independent adviser for being too independent. He apparently ‘does not agree’ with Nutt on the harm cannabis use represents. Johnson doesn’t explain how his few months as Home Secretary have apparently gifted him with insights into the effects of drug use, which have eluded internationally respected authorities who have devoted their lives to the study of this important issue in society. His response to Chris Huhne is as foolish as it is insulting, describing the Lib Dem’s question as ‘piety and pomposity in equal measure’.

Sorry Home Secretary, but I don’t think that Mr Huhne is the pompous one here. And when it comes to piety, I reckon politicians crawling up the backside of the Daily Mail shouldn’t er… throw stones. You know what I mean.

At this point I should pause to say I hold no particularly strong opinions on drugs. I could even make a rational case for the government’s policy based on other factors including the wider cost of illegal drug use to society. But by sacking Nutt, Johnson showed his utter lack of respect for science, and in his response to criticism displayed a defensive anti-intellectualism which would fit right in to the US House of Representatives*.

(By the way, all you Tories out there shouldn’t take this as support for DC and his mates. They’re cravenly supporting the government, knowing where their support lies on this issue)

In response, the great and the good (or something like that) of British science have got together to draft a set of guidelines for future scientific advisers which would, crucially, give advisory committees their own press office for the first time, the better to fight the battle in the column inches. The Science minister Lord Drayson has broadly supported it. Drayson has also defended Nutt in a fashion which is to his credit, and which has drawn predictable scorn from the thought police on the other side (by the way, if you follow that link, check out the priceless typo about Alan Johnson’s ‘irresponsibilities’).

The thing about science, and evidence, is that it cleaves to no party and no ideology. Anthropogenic climate change is, or is not, real regardless of how you vote. A ballot for the Green party does not say anything about the veracity of the science or the evidence. Likewise a vote for the ‘tough on drugs’ Labour and Tory parties will not make drug use any more or less dangerous. It is evidence that matters, carefully collected and interpreted by experts. Experts who may come to different conclusions, but based on the same evidence.

So is adding more spin to the mix the right answer? Sure, giving scientists their own press office might sound like a good idea, but it could easily end up as a means of spinning whatever an advisory committee is saying, to ensure it supports government policy. Based on the evidence before me, I find it hard to imagine any other outcome.

*yes, that bad. Imagine.