Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Gover view of eperts

Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a man for whom I have enormous respect, seems to have developed in the heat of the referendum debate a rather strange, and very inconsistently applied, view about the value of expert advice.

Do experts always get it right? Absolutely not.

Can there be times when the wisdom of ordinary people is wiser than that of experts?  Yes.

Does that make it a good idea to throw out of the window the entire concept of experts, of studying a subject in a thorough and disciplined manner so you can give learned advice about it?

Of course not, and such an approach seems to me totally contrary to the thing I most liked about Michael Gove while he was Secretary of State for Education - his focus on academic rigour.

Michael Deacon, the parliamentary sketchwriter of the Daily Telegraph, has some fun with this at

Here are some extracts:

"On Friday night, during an interview on Sky News about the EU, Faisal Islam challenged the Justice Secretary to name a single independent economic authority that thought Brexit was a good idea. Mr Gove’s response was defiant.
“I’m glad these organisations aren’t on my side,” he said. “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”
Mr Islam spluttered incredulously. People in this country, he repeated, “have had enough of experts?”
Mr Gove stood his ground. Yes, he said, people in this country had had enough of experts “saying that they know what is best”. Mr Gove had “faith in the British people”. The so-called experts, clearly, did not.
On Monday morning – less than three days later – Mr Gove was giving a speech at a warehouse in Stratford-upon-Avon, explaining that to stay in the EU would threaten national security. How did he know? Simple. The experts had told him so.
“Three key experts,” said Mr Gove gravely, had argued that “the borderless Schengen area facilitates terrorism”. Meanwhile, Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, had “pointed out that European judges threaten our security on three fronts”. Some “distinguished veterans”, furthermore, had predicted that Britain would be safer outside the EU.
A Remain campaigner, I suppose, would argue that other distinguished veterans have predicted that Britain would be less safe outside the EU. That Remain campaigner, however, would be missing the point – which is that there are two kinds of expert. Experts who can be used to back up the views of Mr Gove; and experts who cannot.
Experts who can be used to back up the views of Mr Gove are good experts. When they offer an opinion, it is automatically authoritative, honest, and motivated by a patriotic love of our country. These experts – who really do know what is best for us – deserve our attention and respect.
Experts who can’t be used to back up the views of Mr Gove, however, are bad experts. When they offer an opinion, it is automatically unreliable, probably biased, and almost certainly motivated by an elitist disdain for the ordinary working people of Britain. These experts – who have the temerity to act as if they know what is best for us – deserve our suspicion and contempt.
It’s really quite simple. So next time you see an expert commenting on the EU referendum, and are unsure how seriously to take their analysis, check with Mr Gove. He’ll set you straight. He is, after all, an expert on experts.


Jim said...

To me the standard of both of the interviews was poor, but in case any one missed them you can see the interviews in full online

Prime Minister one is here

Gove one is here

Jim said...

Also, I have to eat some humble pie here.

I have spoken to many people via social media, and I would say about 90% of people whom I once referred to as "drooling kippers" have stood down, and said "they will accept the Flexcit answer"

I did however ask the question in a rather unique way, basically i told them firing 3 rounds a minute is leaving the political EU.
Standing is having to accept that we will keep freedom of movement in the EEA at the very least for the short term"

then used this as my great speach