Go back

Why is Vince Cable relying on an out of touch David Sainsbury?

You cant really blame him. It’s not his job any more. But looking to David Sainsbury for any kind of insight into the new governments policies on science seems a pointless exercise given his performance at the British Science Festival last week.

First, Sainsbury effectively avoided policy issues in his speech and didnt mention the word “cuts”. Was that diplomacy or a sensible man who knows he no longer has a proper grip on the issues?

Second, Sainsbury seemed unaware that David Willetts exists, let alone that he had said anything about research policy. In the Q&A that followed the speech, he said all we have to go on is Vince Cables recent speech (which is in any case his third touching on this topic by my reckoning).

Third, although aware that Cable had upset some scientists, Sainsbury kept talking about a television interview rather than the radio interview that actually offended.

Fourth, when pressed in the Q&A, Sainsbury said Cable had said lots of good things but then added, “My view is you have to actually wait and see in terms of what comes out of the spending review.”

Theres really no reason we should expect anything more from Sainsbury. Hes done his stint. But that does make the fact that Cable seems to be citing him as a supporter of the governments policy (if true) seem a bit desperate. As weve seen, its not the policy approach being advocated by Cable and Willetts thats in question; its the political will to see that policy through to its logical conclusion, as in France, Germany and the US. Thats a question for the spending review and George Osborne. And its on precisely this point, the nub of it all, that Sainsbury is witholding support.

PS In contrast to earlier reports that BIS on the verge of settling in the CSR, Michael Crick is now reporting that its all up in the air until after the Browne review reports, which seems much more sensible.

PPS Thanks to Alice Bell for nudge on this.