Monday 11 May 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
The physicist Richard Feynman said, “I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain… In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”
Given that Feynman was one of the greatest minds the world has ever known, his thoughts should at least give any of us pause for consideration. Even in a court of law judges and jurors are expected to work to the notion of reasonable doubt as a standard of proof that must be surpassed to convict an accused in a criminal proceeding. Doubt and uncertainty are a mark of our humanity and also a mark of necessary humility in this strange and brief journey of life. Absolute certainty is a hideous thing and downright dangerous.
Michael Gove famously said to a head teachers’ conference in Birmingham regarding the culture of fear in the education system over which he resided and was responsible for, “If Ofsted is a cause of fear then I’m grateful for your candour, but I’m afraid we are going have to part company” Gove’s statement was extraordinary, made to a conference of people at the head of their profession given that he has no training in education and is merely a government minister whose job it is to listen to experts and pay close attention and give consideration to their views.
It is with profound concern, then, that I read today that Gove is to succeed Chris Grayling as the justice secretary. Grayling managed to get the legal profession on the streets to protest his dismantling of our legal aid system, no mean feat, yet I dread to think what Gove is going to achieve.
One of his first tasks will, it seems, be to oversee the scrapping of the Human Rights Act and to replace it with a British Bill of Rights. Given that he is no more qualified to oversee justice than the was education and that he is seemingly free of the inconvenient but necessary virtue of uncertainty, I seriously wonder what sort of pigs breakfast is going to be foisted upon us.