Even Newer Muckspreader 25 September


Ever more curious becomes the story of the science leg of the three 'pseudo-inquiries' set up by the Beloved Leader to help cover up the unprecedented shambles he has made of the FMD catastrophe (still ongoing). This is the one handed over to the Royal Society, chaired by Sir Brian Follett , Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), to look into future handling of animal disease epidemics. Operative word there of course is 'future', because the last thing the Beloved Leader wants is anyone looking too closely into the handling of one past epidemic in particular, i.e. FMD 2001. This is because the biggest cock-up of all was giving control of the crisis to Professor Roy Anderson's famous computer, which led to the killing of some 3 million healthy animals under the 'contiguous cull', with the result that five months later the killing is still going on, while the disease has become endemic.

Even the man responsible for appointing Prof Anderson FRS as mastermind of the government's FMD strategy, the Chief Scientist Prof.David King FRS, is said now to be having private second thoughts about whether this was entirely wise. Neither of them of course, King the 'surface chemist' or Anderson the computer modeller, had any veterinary experience. But King was beguiled by the way Anderson's skills were talked up by their mutual friend Sir John Krebs FRS, head of the Food Standards Agency. And it was Krebs who organised Anderson's hotline to all the Maffia data, enabling Anderson's computer to make such a convincing case that it would run the FMD crisis a great deal more efficiently than Nick Brown's Maffia (admittedly not all that difficult). So, if one of the first things any independent inquiry into the handling of the FMD crisis would want to investigate was the shambles perpetrated by one leading FRS at the instigation of two others, who better to enquire into it all than the RS itself, under the benign gaze of yet another FRS, Sir Brian Follett? But Sir Brian's qualifications to carry out a fearlessly independent investigation do not stop there. If Prof.Anderson's patron, Prof.King, was appointed as Chief Scientist on the advice of his predecessor Prof. Sir Robert May, currently president of the RS, it turns out that May and Anderson were also old friends and colleagues, having co-authored two books together. Sir Robert is RS professor at the Oxford zoology department, where he was Anderson's boss, and where their other old friend Prof. Krebs still works. And guess who is another visiting professor at the Oxford zoology department but the very man who, as pure chance would have it, has now been entrusted with the RS's fearless investigation, Sir Brian Follett.

Even here the wondrous chain of coincidences does not cease. Because we can now see who is to assist Sir Brian in his fearless task, as members of his 15-strong committee. One is Dr Angela Maclean, who just happens to work at the Oxford zoology department. Another is Professor Patrick Bateson FRS, a colleague of Anderson, King, Follett and Krebs as the RS's biological secretary; and yet another Ms Suzi Leather, who just happens to be a close colleague of Prof.Krebs as his 'deputy chair' at the Foods Standards Agency. Perhaps the one thing on which Ladbroke's would be unwise to lay any odds at all in these uncertain times is the possibility that Sir Brian's committee might come up with any criticism of the part played in cocking up the FMD epidemic by Profs. Anderson and King. FRS, of course.