What was the point of Dominic Cummings attending SAGE (the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies) meetings if not to influence them?
And, considering his right-wing, eugenicist, economy-first, “if a few pensioners die, too bad” views, is it any wonder Boris Johnson is facing cross-party demands for Cummings to be barred from any further meetings?
Former Brexit secretary, David Davis, is among those calling for Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner, an adviser who ran the Tories’ private election computer model, to be prevented from attending future meetings.
He voiced the concerns of many when he said Cummings’s presence could alter the advice offered in meetings.
And he added: “We should publish the membership of Sage, remove any non-scientist members, publish their advice in full, and publish dissenting opinions with the advice.”
Other people who attend SAGE meetings have also said the Downing Street advisor’s presence made them uneasy.
According to another Guardian report, one said they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.
A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input.
Tends to indicate that Cummings is affecting what’s said at these meetings, doesn’t it?
And how can we trust the “science” that the Tories say they’re following if it come from him?
Downing Street has been (rather desperately) trying to claim that political “advisors” don’t make any difference, but then why would these two SAGE attendees say the following?
“When a very senior civil servant or a very well-connected person interrupts, then I don’t think anyone in the room feels the power to stop it. When you get to discussing where advice might be going, there have been occasions where they have been involved, and a couple of times I’ve thought: that’s not what we are supposed to be doing.”
“He was not just an observer, he’s listed as an active participant… He was engaging in conversation and not sitting silently.”
Another Downing Street claim was that it is “entirely right” for its political advisers to attend meetings of the group, implying – one may expect – that they have been at SAGE meetings from the start.
Sage was first convened to advise on swine flu in 2009, and there had been almost 50 meetings between then and the start of the coronavirus crisis.
And guess what? “There is no evidence in the publicly available minutes of those meetings of any Downing Street officials or political advisers attending.”
Coming back to Cummings’s remarks about pensioner deaths, it should be clear that neither SAGE nor the “science” the Tories say they’re following will have any credibility until that committee is given back to the scientists.
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