Those who know me are well aware that I have no interest in football. It’s not that I have any great aversion to the game, it’s just a personal thing. I just don’t find it entertaining and, to be completely honest, I don’t see the point. My personal feelings aside however, there is one aspect of football where I think the government could learn a thing or two. It would be unthinkable to appoint a football manager without some experience of the game. Manchester City and United, Leicester City, Arsenal and West Ham, the top premier clubs, are all managed by ex-players.
Then how is it appropriate that the UK’s Minister of State for Universities and Science has no experience or education in science? Jo Johnson (bother of Boris Jonson, London’s Mayor) was educated at Eton and studied modern history at Oxford with a background in banking and journalism. How you may ask, does this qualify him to be in charge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the UK? But there’s nothing unusual in this. The previous Minister, Greg Clark was an economist and the one before that, David Willetts studied politics and economics.
Perhaps the difference is that although there are a plethora of ex-football players aspiring to be managers, there are only 26 out of the 650 MPs across all parties that have science degrees (that’s just 4%).
This is particularly disturbing to a scientists at a time when STEM is a relatively easy target for the government’s intended across-the-board 40% funding cuts. The old adage that governments are obsessed with the cost of everything but know the value of nothing comes to mind as STEM is incredible value for money. The Large Hadron Collider, for example cost every UK citizen just £1.65 each in 2015
I wonder if an arts educated Minister of State for Universities and Science can really appreciate the technological, economic and societal benefits that such fundamental research can bring?