Thursday 16 June 2016

Gerard Hastings in the spotlight

The Times continues to dig into the motley crew who drew up the new alcohol guidelines. Today, it's 'Mad' Gerard Hastings in the spotlight...

Safe-drinking adviser had temperance link

An academic who played a key role in drawing up the controversial new safe drinking limits did not declare his links to a group funded by the temperance movement.

...Professor Hastings of Stirling University completed a register of interests form for the Department of Health but did not reveal that he held a paid position as an expert advisor to the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS).

The institute, a registered charity that says it promotes scientific understanding of alcohol consumption and its consequences receives most of its income from the Alliance House Foundation which states its aim as spreading 'the principle of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks.'

None of this will be news to those of you who read my article about the CMO's meetings in February, but this is The Times we're talking about so Hastings had to respond - and what a poor response it was...

"I didn't declare the IAS link and probably should have done; mea culpa. I just assumed this was all in the public domain as it's been on the IAS website since 2011."

Hmm. That's not how it works, is it Gerard? I think you know that.

He said that he could not answer any questions on the links between IAS and the temperance movement because "I know nothing about it".
What does he know about? That's a serious question. Hastings' link to the temperance lobby and his failure to understand how a declaration of interests works are amusing pieces of trivia, but the real question is why this man was on the committee in the first place.

Hastings' alleged field of expertise is marketing. He hates advertising and fundamentally misunderstands how it works, but even if he had some genuine expertise on the subject it would not qualify him to assess epidemiological evidence or do anything else useful at the Chief Medical Officer's meetings.

Being a fanatical anti-capitalist, Hastings hates the alcohol industry (see some of his mental slides below) but that is hardly a qualification for sitting on a scientific committee. It should, in fact, be a disqualification.

The same could be said of Katherine Brown, director of the sneakily named Institute of Alcohol Studies whose 'studies' have never portrayed alcohol in a positive - or even neutral - light in the thirty years since they stopped being the UK Temperance Alliance.

The Times is right to keep picking at this scab. It seems that Sally Davies invited several people onto the committee for no other reason than that they hate alcohol and/or the alcohol industry. It's no wonder that a Mickey Mouse committee came up with a Mickey Mouse report.

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