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Dyson turns on Cameron – and it could cost Dave the next election

Before the election, David Cameron decided to burnish the Conservatives hi-tech credentials by getting James Dyson to draft some proposals to strengthen government support for innovation in the UK. That decision is now coming back to haunt the Prime Minister. Because the engineer-entrepreneur is clearly disenchanted with the way policy is going now that the Conservatives are in power.

In an article today, the author of “Ingenious Britain” criticises Camerons “unbalanced” flirtation with Shoreditchs silicon roundabout, complains about “incoherent” technology strategy and brands the governments approach to growth as “short-term”.

It is clear from this that the days when Dyson was the intellectual force behind Conservative thinking on innovation are over. Hes no longer an insider. Hes an outsider, and one whos clearly unhappy about the trajectory the government is on.

Dyson says, “The governments plans to develop a silicon roundabout in Shoreditch, east London, are seductive for the likes of Google and Facebook, but should not be at the expense of real industry that encourages R&D – research and development – and tangible products. Such a policy lacks balance.”

He goes on, “Last week the outgoing CBI director-general Richard Lambert pointed to the incoherent strategy. We need a government with a strong vision for the future; with policies that arent eclipsed by the current financial black hole; and an agenda for growth that isnt short-sighted, but based on exports.”

None of this will come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog. See from the autumn How to read David Camerons Tech City speech in Shoreditch or Why Cameron lacks credibility on growth.

Nonetheless, this emerging criticism from the heights of industry does come at a very bad time for the government. It wants to present its Budget in March as one for growth. The 0.5 per cent fall in output in the last quarter has made that an absolute political necessity. But first the CBI and now its own hi-tech guru are saying its plans for the symbolically crucial hi-tech arena dont add up.

These criticisms will be brought to a head by the crunch decisions that are coming on the budget of the Technology Strategy Board. If ministers press ahead with plans to make cuts in its core activity, then they may end up torpedoing their own economic and political narrative for the rest of this parliament.

Are the stakes really that high? Perhaps a better question is whether the government wants to take that risk. Its time, Vince, to throw a tantrum. Undo your departments CSR settlement. Demand more money. Dont let Nick sleepwalk into another calamity like student fees.