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November 09, 2012

How not to read George Osborne's big speech on science

Usually when there's a big speech on science from a minister, I sit down and read it carefully and tease out the issues it raises. But today I made the mistake of actually going to listen to the Chancellor give his first speech on science. This made a powerful impression on me and threatens to overwhelm my usual textual caution. So I thought I'd post a quick reflection now and then come back to the full speech in a day or two.

The most revealing part of the morning was the Q&A at the end, because here we got a vivid impression of the man himself and how he sees science and technology fitting into his economic responsibilities. I was struck by how engaged he is. He has clearly been thinking about the issues and - at the right level of granularity - has no hesitation in throwing the government's weight behind something that seems important.

There are a thousand details to be worked out in terms of exactly how the government uses its muscle. There was nothing in the speech, for example, to rival the comprehensive vision set out by Vince Cable in his February leaked letter. But the basic principle is there. And that, for a Conservative Chancellor, is news.

Hats off to David Willetts, I say. His intellectual spadework is I think paying off. 


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