On Saturday I surprised myself by attending an interview with Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, by Anthony Minghella at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I'm glad I went. Ostensibly, it was an interview about the Chancellor's book (a collection of his speeches over the last decade), but clearly a Prime Minister-in-waiting had to be prepared for the scope of questions to broaden beyond "Who are your favourite authors?".
What it made me realise is that I need to find more opportunities to delve beneath the media politics which come and find you, and upon which we are superficially informed about policy and manifestos. I need to find platforms where politicians are able to expand on their vision. Gordon Brown is an extremely intelligent man with a deep sense of history from which his vision of Britain is born. Party politics aside, prior to Saturday I'd have voted Cameron if I was asked to choose a Prime Minister tomorrow. However, I couldn't imagine, even with an Eton education, David Cameron being able to hold a candle to the depth of Gordon Brown's knowledge of the world and humanity. The snappy style of modern politics doesn't give you a chance to see how the minds of politicians understand and unravel incredibly complex issues. Sound bites don't cut it.
However, much as I applaud Gordon Brown's vision of a Great Britain competing in the global economy with high value science, engineering and technology, I can't reconcile this against the culture of celebrity New Labour has presided over. There have been too many closures of University science departments. Despite this loss of educational capacity, demand is even lower. According to an article in The Guardian., "Engineering and technology has seen the second slowest growth in student numbers, stagnating at around a 4% rise over the 10 years from 1995 to 2005 - and well below the average growth of 56%".
No doubt the reasons are based in deep and complex cultural characteristics beyond the limitations of quick fix mechanisms from Westminster. I fear that David Cameron doesn't have the ability to get to the bottom of these issues. I think Gordon Brown does. Whether the wheels of their parties will allow either man to do anything about it is another matter.
Tags: technology, politics, education, engineering, science, university, Gordon Brown, Cheltenham Literature Festival