02 November 2009

Alan Johnson should have handled this better

Alan Johnson’s argument is right:

You cannot have a chief adviser at the same time stepping into the public field and campaigning against government decisions.

Leaving that aside, there a few concerns that have to be addressed.

AJ did not come over well in his interview with Adam Boulton.  The body language was poor and did he really need to get so angry.  On this occasion, AJ’s confident easy going self-deprecating style was absent.

Next, why did Johnson not confer with Lord Drayson, the Science and Innovation Minister, responsible for co-ordinating scientific advice across Whitehall before Nutt was sacked?  That appears to have been ill-judged and smacks of a decision taken with undue haste.

Then, why was Nutt sacked by sending him a letter by e-mail?  It would have been wiser for Johnson to call him in for a little chat and then send the letter.

Sir Liam Donaldson was right when he said:

These things are best sorted out behind the scenes so that the Government and their advisers can go to the public with a united front.

Indeed so, but this didn't happen.  Johnson is now involved in a controversy that should have been avoided and better managed, so the sacking of Nutt did not lead to further resignations.

The Home Secretary may have acted decisively and shown firm leadership.  However, the fallout could well damage Johnson politically unless Nutt’s sacking can be closed off quickly, without further developments.

For obvious reasons this is critical time for Alan Johnson.  He should be smiling, nodding and doing very little.

This ‘little local difficultly’ should have been handled more competently, and in a way that didn't allow it to dominate the weekend and the Monday morning news agenda.

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  1. Aye, yer man was poor yesterday and I hear on radio this morning it's still rumbling on.

    It was the sacking by email which prompted me to do a wee post yesterday. Disgraceful really.

  2. Special advisers, in particular scientific expert groups, provide the solid, well-researched data upon which policy may be based securely. Successive Home Secretaries have rejected drugs advice in favour of politically expedient decisions, as is their right. But then to accuse the advisers of playing that same game in reverse is hypocrisy of the highest order.