Sunday 27 November 2016


Here's a post that might sound like 'stating the blindingly obvious' (or wrong-headed), but still...

(In for a penny, in for a pound, but no euros please.)

The Govester

I enjoyed Emily ('Lady Nugee') and Michael ('Gove') on the sofa at the end of The Andrew Marr ShowIt was surprisingly agreeable.

But during that chat, and the preceding formal interview with the Govester (as Boris used to call him), a thought crossed my mind (yes, just one!): 

Michael Gove was being polite and self-deprecating about the way that 'experts' quote ("People in this country have had enough of experts") has been used against him.

It has been used, even more egregiously, against Brexit supporters in general, who have been painted (in some quarters) as 'post-truth', expert-hating 'know-nothings' as a result of it.

Mr Gove called what he'd said "notorious", and admitted that he didn't phrase it very well. But he also claimed that he'd been cut off, taken out of context and then edited.

Like you, no doubt, I've heard this quote being cited in the papers, online and - above all - on the BBC, countless, countless times.

"People in this country have had enough of experts". That's the quote in question, and I've just accepted that that's precisely what he said because 'everybody' says that's what he said and, to be honest, I couldn't remember the original interview. 

As a huge fan of experts who has spent years engaging in happy disagreement with my 84-year-old dad on the topic of experts ('experts' being a dirty word with him), I have to say that I've never been entirely comfortable with what Michael Gove 'said' there.

I kind-of knew what he meant and specifically who he was talking (the anti-Brexit organisations like the IMF, OECD, IFS. NIESR, etc) - as did you, I don't doubt for a second - but, still, felt he'd gone too far in apparently dismissing all experts.

If you look back, however, - say to the FT's initial reporting of the story - and compare it to transcripts of what he actually said, you'll see that, yes, his quote has been edited (deliberately, I'd say) to make it sound worse than it actually was.

It's now become one of those media-backed myths that has taken over the world -  especially with BBC pushing it so relentlessly (as on Newsnight with Nick Watt and James O'Brien this past week). 

In context, as he said today, it's clear exactly who he was talking about (as he told Andrew Marr, "economists, pollsters, social scientists" from the IMF, IFS, OECD, NIESR, etc):
Michael Gove: The people who are arguing that we should get out are concerned to ensure that the working people of this country at last get a fair deal.  I think the people of this country have had enough of experts with organisations from acronyms saying that...
Faisal Islam: The people of this country have had enough of experts, what do you mean by that?
Michael Gove: ...from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong because these people …
Faisal Islam: The people of this country have had enough of experts?
Michael GoveBecause these people are the same ones who have got consistently wrong...
Faisal Islam:This is [inaudible] politics this isn’t it?  This is Oxbridge Trump.
There's been a lot of 'post-truth' MSM/BBC reporting about that over the months, hasn't there? 'Everyone' (in the media) knew what he meant - despite how Faisal Islam immediately spun it - yet 'everyone' (in the media) persisted in spinning it Faisal's way rather than making it crystal clear to their audiences that Mr. Gove only had certain types of expert (the economists, pollsters and social scientists from the 'organisations with acronyms') in mind.

An impression, a smear, was thus left hanging in the air. And that impression has been exploited, again and again, ever since.


The independent, respected IFS readying itself for battle against Brexit

And talking of experts....

In Our Time continues to provide experts I, personally, can never get enough of with a huge public platform.

This week three such experts - Nora Berend, Martin Palmer and Aleks Pluskowski - talked with great fluency and depth about the Baltic Crusades (from 1147) against the pagans in north-east Europe, and very interesting it was too. 


  1. I always assumed Gove meant "experts", with audible scare quotes. "Experts" like Stephanie "Two Eds" Flanders, who never saw a bailout or massive borrowing scheme she didn't like, or Robert Peston, who championed Gordon Brown's similar schemes until it became inconvenient, or Paul Krugman or Danny Blanchflower.

    I'd be happy to have any of them explain to me the inner workings of financial institutions and the mechanisms of international and domestic finance. But I do not want to hear their recommendations of what's best for us because I know they will base it on their ideology. Those are the kind of "experts" to which Gove was referring, and of which so many of us are heartily sick.

    The term has been cheapened over the years, and the BBC isn't entirely free of blame for it.

  2. Well, I think we have had enough of "experts" if by experts we mean those experts who tell us a 25 year old man is a 15 year old child, or who dismiss as irrelevant the official HM Government leaflet sent to every household telling us the Government would implement what we decided in the EU Referendum, or who claim mass immigration is boosting our economy when year after year the record of low productivity is there for all to see and real wages are stagnant or falling or who claim the mass of migrants entering mainland Europe are Syrian.

    It's those sorts of "experts" who are wrong and refuse to admit it we are tired of. I don't think we ever had had enough of experts who know how to build bridges, fit boilers or make cars.


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