Sunday, 10 October 2010

Science is Vital, unlike Tory MPs

The Science is Vital campaign is a response to the drastic and devastating cuts to science funding proposed by the government in an attempt to alleviate the UK’s financial, shall we say, ‘difficulties’.

I would hope that to most sensible folks, questioning the importance of funding scientific endeavour at all would sound unnecessary. Such is the time we live in, and the government that we have, however, that the question is being asked in all seriousness. Thankfully, it seems that scientists have united under the Science Is Vital campaign to provide an emphatic answer. And why is science vital? Science is Vital provide a neat answer: “Investing in research enriches society and helps drive the economy. It led to our pre-eminent position in the 20th century, and will be vital in meeting the challenges of the 21st – whether they be in energy, medicine, infrastructure, computing, or simply humanity’s primal desire for discovery.”

There are three ways to support the campaign:

1. Sign the petition
2. Write to your MP
3. Lobby Parliament. Science is Vital and the Campaign for Science and Engineering are taking the matter directly to Parliament on the 12th of October, from 3:30 – 4:30pm, in Committee Room 10. If you can be there, and especially if you’ve written to your MP to ask that he/she attend, register here.

There was also a rally held alongside Her Majesty’s Treasury yesterday afternoon. Thanks to the awesome folks at the Pod Delusion, those, like me, that couldn’t make it can listen to the speeches from fantastic pro-science luminaries like Dr Evan Harris, Imran Khan, Simon Singh, Dr Petra Boynton and Colin Blakemore. There are also literally hundreds of photos uploaded from the event. The easiest way to keep up-to-date with all the rally’s goings on and the campaign in general is the Twitter hashtag #scienceisvital.

I sent my Science is Vital protest letter to Tony Baldry, the Conservative local MP for North Oxfordshire, and received my reply yesterday. The cover letter is pictured on the below.

Also attached by way of response was a four-page transcript of Mr Baldry’s recent speech to Bodicote House. You can read the whole speech here. I wasn’t expecting much by way of a direct reply to my letter or the Science is Vital campaign, but Mr Baldy was true to form. As a Conservative MP, there’s plenty in the speech blaming the previous Labour government, supporting the ‘Big Society’ and it also included this choice little quote, which summarises the Tory ideology that will almost certainly stunt scientific progress, and only benefit the wealthy, for some time to come (those of a socialist disposition might want to make sure there are no kids in the room when you read it):

There is no particular merit or value in having to increases taxes or council taxes and taking money away from people which otherwise they should choose to spend as they would wish”.

One thing I can agree with Mr Baldry on is the opening line to his speech, that “rhetoric cannot overcome reality” (which is ironic, as that’s basically the job description for many a politician!). This is science’s trump card: science is vital and we’ve got evidence on our side, not just political ideology and rhetoric to prove it.


  1. Ah the delightful Tony Baldry QC MP. His Wikipedia entry is an interesting read. So is this piece by David Allen Green.

    As someone posted on a blog somewhere when Baldry's name came up: "Welcome to your new governing party."

  2. I agree with reducing the deficit but if Mr Baldry knew anything about economics then he'd come to his senses and realise investment in Science actually creates wealth and is an area where the UK is competitive.

  3. Thanks for the comments! Tony Baldry must be an interesting bloke if he's managed to attract the attention of Evan Harris!

    Aside from the less than satisfactory reply to my letter, I'm annoyed at him being a Tory, claiming £147,144 in expenses (2007-8) (although he is not contesting having to pay back £12,197.36), he's now the Church of England's representative in the House of Commons ( he's all for faith schools (! What a guy!