The Today programme shows its economic illiteracy again

Today was vintage “Today”. We had the plug for Vince Cable’s idiotic idea that we should nationalise Northern Rock, with no alternative comment or criticism. No-one has explained how taking over responsibility for all ??100 billion of the Rock’s liabilities would be better for taxpayers than merely lending them less than a third of that sum against security from their assets.

Then we had an interview with some inarticulate government Minister about forthcoming cuts in physics departments in Universities. Aggressive repititon of the same question – would the Minister cough up an extra ??80 million which someone had said they would like – wrecked any chance of the rest of us understanding the issues or the problem. His repitiatious statement that the cash available had increased did not advance our understanding much either. Neither questioner Sarah nor interviewee Minister had anything to say about where all the money that had been approved was going, and why the “cuts” all have to fall on physics teaching. It is pathetic that public debate is reduced to a slanging match or a dialogue of the deaf, with one side saying the money has gone up and the other saying it’s not enough. There is never analysis of how much is spent, how it is spent and how efficient and effective the recipient is. Politics should be about priorities, not about sandbagging the taxpayer at every available opportunity.

It was yet again a very expensive Today programme for taxpayers- after wanting to take on ??100 billion of Rock risk saving some physics for ??80 million was a bargain! Will they never give voice to those of us who want to save the taxpayers money and run puiblic services better?


  1. James Keates
    December 11, 2007

    Hi John, I didn't see the Today show in question, but the problem with the physics funding is a lack of joined-up-government in the recent CSR. There was an above inflation increase in funding, but spending commitments also increased, for example a decision to charge VAT on the Diamond synchrotron facility added around

  2. Tony Makara
    December 11, 2007

    Whenever I see many of the government's backbenchers and spokesmen I wonder how on earth they have risen to such a level. Often they are bumbling, lack a knowledge of the subject matter at hand and seem to be parroting 'facts' off by rote. What is even more bizarre is how TV and radio presenters can't seem to pin these characters down with tough questioning. I am just an ordinary member of the public yet I don't think, but know, I could give the government spokesmen a much more difficult examination than most TV and radio interviewers. A rigorous interview is important in holding a politician to account, they get away with too much, as you say John, we never get proper analysis, rigorous interviewing or a sensible debate.

  3. old school
    December 12, 2007

    no mention of david cameron's interview on mortgages which completely contradicts your competitiveness review recommendations though john?

  4. a_young_scientist
    December 18, 2007

    It is also worth pointing out the cuts in funding will lead to a subsantial number of world class scientists being forced to move overseas to find work or change career if they wish to live in the uk. In either case their talent and expertise is lost to the UK science effort.

    It is now estimated at least 25% of research grants in particle physics and astronomy will be lost.

    Of course there is a goverment enquiry in late January, but by the time this reports back it may well be too late to save peoples careers and uk involvement in large international projects (which we have already announced we will withdraw from).

    Lets not forget in future as a result other countries will question whether the uk should be involved in such international projects, given they seem quite happy to commit to being involved and then withdrawing all their expertise (which is needed).

    So all in all it looks pretty bad for uk physics. As a young scientist myself even if my job survives I will question whether I am willing to continue working in the uk in such a climate, or whether I would rather move overseas to work in a country more committed to funding science consistently.

Comments are closed.