Ken Clarke can take solace from Shechtman’s Nobel example

Image: Rex Features

There is a good lesson for employees in the travails of Ken Clarke this week. The lesson is that being right can be worth very little if your employers don’t agree with you.

Following Theresa May’s speech at the Tory party conference, Ken Clarke reacted to the Home Secretary’s tale of a judge refusing to deport an immigrant because he owned a cat by pointing out that a judge had not refused to deport an immigrant because he owned a cat (Ken Clarke accuses Theresa May of ‘laughable and child-like’ claims). Clarke felt that saying that a judge had refused to deport somebody because he owned a cat was “laughable” and “child-like”, in the light of it not having happened.

Despite generally being regarded as right, it looks like Ken might be facing the chop in the next cabinet reshuffle (Kenneth Clarke prepares for ‘enforced retirement’ following cat spat with May). If Ken does get chased out, perhaps he could take solace from the story of Daniel Shechtman, who this week received the Nobel prize for his discovery of quasicrystals (Israeli Scientist Wins Nobel Prize for Chemistry).

Daniel Shechtman discovered the non-repeating solid structures while working at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa where his finding was met with what can most kindly be described as cynicism. The head of his research group told him to read a textbook on first hearing of his discovery and later asked him to leave because he was causing the group to be ridiculed. Rather more intimidating was the opposition to the idea from chemistry giant Linus Pauling who went to the grave adamant that there was a simple explanation for Shechtman’s discovery.

But Shechtman has had the last laugh, both by still being alive and by winning the Nobel prize (though he needs to add a Nobel Peace Prize to equal Pauling’s Nobel haul).

So, in summary, publicly disagreeing with your employer when you are right will result in one of two outcomes – you will be sacked or you will win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. On the extensive evidence Guru has amassed, these two outcomes are equally likely.

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