Science clearly plays a key role in modern society. It was one of the few areas spared drastic cuts in George Osbourne’s spending review, after having provoked hundreds of scientists to take to the streets the week previously under the slogan “Science is Vital”. But there’s something more to the current debate than the traditional support for scientific R&D. Indeed, it would have been embarrassing for a government of any colour to cut back the science budget given the increasing importance that politicians claim to place on science in their decision making – so called “Evidence-Based Policy”.
But not when he said that the vast majority of Britons have “never had it so good” which has grain of truth, but was a foolish thing for anyone connected with government to say.
Norman Geras has a profile of me on his otherwise consistently brilliant normblog, to which, in the interests of self-promotion, I feel bound to draw your attention.
(The picture is of William “The Refrigerator” Perry, one of my sporting heroes.)
Terrific long article about policy-making on Afghanistan in next month’s Prospect, by Matt Cavanagh, who was special adviser to Des Browne, Defence Secretary, 2006-7, and to Gordon Brown 2007-10. It is subscription only, so pay up. It takes the form of a book review of Obama’s Wars, by Bob Woodward, but offers a comparative analysis of policy-making in the US and the UK.
Ask most adults if they think that being able to speak another language is a good thing and they will invariably answer ‘Yes’ and then add, ‘ but I was useless at it at school’. Ask them why it’s a good thing, and they start to flounder. Vague answers about how the economy needs people who speak other languages is the most common response, followed by how useful it is to be able to “get by” on holiday abroad.
It hardly counts, because it is Alex Singleton, but he asks number 436 in my series of Questions to Which the Answer is No.
It is striking how late in the day the right have started to wake up to Ireland’s structural economic problems. Until very recently Ireland was the neoliberal right’s poster child.
Today human beings are constantly denigrated. Prominent philosophers, scientists, social scientists, novelists and aristocrats have gone so far as to call for the mass culling – or even elimination – of humans. Orange-prize winning author Lionel Shriver recently wrote ‘if we [were to] disappear, another form of life will take our place – creatures beautiful, not so self-destructive, or simply weird. That’s cheerful news, really’. Sadly, this notion of the human race as a problem is increasingly mainstream.
James Forsyth has a good article in the forthcoming Spectator on Labour’s low profile. Of course, some of it is to do with the accident of timing of Ed Miliband’s paternity leave, and witticisms such as Daniel Finkelstein’s “When does he start in the new job?” on Newsnight the other night are to be deplored.
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