Have we had enough of experts?
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
It may seem at times that in today’s British political environment, all noise is drowned by the ubiquity of Brexit. People are understandably frustrated that it still dominates the headlines three years since that fateful vote in June 2016. But perhaps there were points raised during the debate that are applicable outside of the Brexit bubble? In an interview during the referendum campaign, Michael Gove commented that “people in this country have had enough of experts”, a statement as polemical as the referendum itself. The country, it seemed, agreed with Mr Gove, shunning those Boris Johnson has dubbed “the doomsters and the gloomsters” in favour of a vote for Brexit. But is this really true? Have people in this country actually had enough of experts?
Recently, former chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation, Lindsay Waddell, wrote about the over bureaucratisation of land management, which hampers the efforts of those that actually know what they are doing. Gamekeepers are, undoubtedly, experts in land management, but, as Waddell points out, rank-and-file officials from government bodies such as Natural England are increasingly taking responsibility away from them – and doing so with little-to-no working knowledge surrounding land management. “When a senior member of Natural England asks a grouse keeper how many birds he releases and it’s not 1st April, you have to worry”, Waddell writes, bemoaning a conversation conveyed to him between one such official and a gamekeeper.
Waddell points to the General Licensing debacle that happened back in April to further underscore his point. Following a legal challenge from Wild Justice, a company set up by BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham, Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, Natural England revoked the General Licences that permitted the control of pigeons, crows, magpies, rooks, jackdaws, jays and a number of other species overnight. This, Waddell argues, was another instance of a government body not truly knowing the consequences of their actions.
We don’t believe this country has had enough of experts. Britain’s natural environment has evolved over centuries, shaped by gamekeepers and landowners alike, who invest their time and money to maintain the beautiful landscapes we enjoy up and down the country, from Exmoor in the south to northernmost moors of Scotland, and everywhere in-between. These experts endeavour to preserve the natural order, allowing wildlife to flourish where it otherwise wouldn’t. We need to allow them to do their jobs. Lindsay Waddell was right when he asked: if public officials “don’t understand the reason for carrying out certain management activities, what hope do we have?”.