The media appearances just keep rolling in for so-called “Professor Lockdown” Neil Ferguson. In the last month, he has appeared on ITV’s Peston, BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme twice and has even briefed the German media. Over the same period, his colleagues on SAGE – The Scientific Advisory Group for Endless Emergencies – have given interview after interview to media outlets including Sky News, the i newspaper, LBC, Times Radio, The Times, ITV, Byline Times, BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Britain. It’s a wonder they get any work done at all.
The contrast between the degree to which SAGE participants are willing to speak to the media and the actual functioning of the committee is stark. Look at the SAGE minutes and there is no genuine transparency. A list of attendees is fastened to a list of bullet points which reflect the issues discussed. We are left in the dark about who said what, if there were votes on various courses of action and what arguments were put for or against the presentation of the data.
“Trusted” media contacts whisper about heated debates in the committees. And yet, the minutes reflect a “consensus” view. The scientists have effectively applied Walter Bagehot’s nostrum on the Monarchy “we must not let in daylight upon magic” to the Covid-19 problem. The real debate is parked off stage while leading lights use various television shows to advance social and political positions motivated around “The Science” as decided by Professor X or Y.
Is this a sensible way for a democracy to conduct its affairs?