‘Levelling up’ 🤝 'science superpower'

These two policy goals naturally chime together, which shouldn't be forgotten in tomorrow's Budget. Without Dominic Cummings, No10 shouldn't resile from a bold R&D spending strategy.

M'latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/d35851…
@FinancialTimes “Go and do something that will actually get you a job,” my school tutor advised me before university. I duly went off to gain a BSc in Computer Science,

Although I displayed limited scientific aptitude, CompSci was one of the best decisions of my life.

Our leaders have strained relations with science. Wilson embraced “the white heat” of change, but failed to see it through. Thatcher sounded the alarm on climate change but didn't act. Now Boris Johnson now wants to follow the success of the AZ vaccine.

Johnson pledged to raise R&D spending to £24bn pa. But it's unlikely to come in the Budget: scepticism is rife in Whitehall about the benefits of such high levels of spending.

But science is one clear area where Brexit Britain can punch above its weight.

For his faults, Dominic Cummings put data and (computer) science at the heart of No10. As with much about his critique of the British state, he was right on the need for change. But he's become the worst possible messenger for a very important message.

.@GeorgeFreemanMP is right that R&D strategy shouldn't just be focused on the golden triangle:

"We can drive clusters around the whole country: from hydrogen in Teeside to satellites in Cornwall, to robotics in Warwick and plant genetics in Norfolk.”


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More from @SebastianEPayne

22 Sep
I'm perplexed as to why so many in Westminster (especially in Labour) think Boris Johnson will call an early election.

#1: The Tories' polling lead is quite soft, as seen in the dip over the NI tax rises. It would be very May '17/Trudeau to go to the polls in such circumstances
#2: Things are about to get dicey for Johnson. A difficult winter for the NHS lies ahead with flu and Covid. Plus energy quandaries. Plus inflation and cost of living.

In the words one of former Tory cabinet ministers, "this is about as good as its gets for Boris"
#3: Johnson has done very little on Levelling Up, in part due to the pandemic. The formation of @luhcgovuk last week is an attempt to resolve.

As the PM told me in #brokenheartlands, he needs as much time as possible to fulfil pledges to 2019 first time Tory voters.
Read 10 tweets
21 Sep
🗳 Levelling Up shouldn’t just be about rebalancing England’s economy, it’s about the big democratic deficit too.

So Boris Johnson should replace the House of Lords with a chamber of mayors and reps from devolved parliaments.

@FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/269eb4…
@FinancialTimes The departure of @DanJarvisMP from South Yorkshire shows why mayors need and deserve a national platform. Our most compelling politicians are now found outside on Westminster, yet they lack influence in power and policy.

Robert Jenrick pledged more devolution and mayors to fulfill Levelling Up, all eyes are on whether Michael Gove will do the same.

One MP who knows him well thinks so. "Michael is a big believer in localism, even when it’s uncomfortable for Whitehall"

Read 4 tweets
8 Sep
NEW: Ministers and officials are braced for ‘catastrophic’ end to Universal Credit uplift next month.

Government’s internal analysis suggests homelessness and poverty will rise and food bank use will soar. But insiders say no U-turn.

ft.com/content/ea096a… via @financialtimes
One well-placed Whitehall official on ending the £20 a week uplift:

“The internal modelling of ending the UC uplift is catastrophic. Homelessness and poverty are likely to rise, and food banks usage will soar. It could be the real disaster of the autumn”

One minister agrees: “There’s no doubt that this is going to have a serious impact on thousands of people and colleagues are really worried, I think it will definitely eclipse social care as a political problem. It’s not just red wall MPs.”

Read 6 tweets
7 Sep
🦠 Britain’s approach to the pandemic has become see no Covid, hear no Covid, speak no Covid.

Boris Johnson hopes to avoid further measures with vaccine passports but can he win the argument with the Tory party and beyond?

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/f82929…
@FinancialTimes Whitehall is focused on how to get through the winter, but there's "almost zero chance" of October lockdown.

If the situation worsens, Johnson would first try everything else: mandatory masks, then social distancing, then limits on indoor gatherings.

Vaccine passports are the govt's most immediate tool, deemed discriminatory by some, common sense by others. They clash with conceived notions most Britons hold about their relationship with the state, but Johnson is still pushing ahead regardless.

Read 5 tweets
5 Sep
Will Boris Johnson reshuffle his Cabinet this week? Opinion among ministers and Conservative party is split tonight.

One senior No10 official says they are not “expecting” a reshuffle in the coming days, which is not a full denial. It might or might not happen 🧐
Some Cabinet ministers think the talk of a rapid reshuffle is an “old trick to keep people in line on this tax stuff” - the impending plans for social care reform.

One senior minister: “Trying to do this before the spending review would be very difficult in practice”
But another member of the government said they think it could happen very soon because Johnson wants a refresh before the Tories meet in Manchester. “If not now it won’t happen before conference….so I think it could be on.”
Read 6 tweets
1 Sep
💥 EXCLUSIVE; The UK has drawn up contingency plans to move Trident from Scotland to US or France in the event of an independence vote. Another option is to seek an independent British territory within indy Scotland.

Scoop with @helenwarrell @MureDickie on.ft.com/3DCdrOK
Several senior Whitehall officials told the FT the UK would face very difficult options on its nuclear subs in the event of Scotland breaking away from the UK.

Option one is to move Trident to HMNB Devonport, which @RUSI_org estimates would cost £3-4bn.

But Devonport is located next to one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. And officials fear that the structure of the continental shelf means the Vanguard submarines wouldn't be able to dive as quickly, making them more susceptible to tracking.

Read 8 tweets

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