...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 4035: Bojo May Be Bonkers But At Least He Thinks Big


Obviously, Great Britain needs an airport in the Thames Estuary like a hole in the wind farm, but you can't deny that it is a BIG IDEA. Stupid, yes, but BIG.

In its way, this is of a piece with the bicycle hire scheme and the new Routemaster buses. Mr Bojo may be CLOWN PRINCE of LONDON, but he's not interested in MANAGERIALISM. He wants to DO things, CREATE things. In the HORRID modern parlance, he's got his eye on the "LEGACY".

And this may be the key to his SUCCESS. Well, that and the "loveable" bumbling buffoon persona!

(Something he has in common with his arch-enemy Mr Livingstone: they're both very clever men who know that people don't VOTE for very clever men, so both have successfully concocted "personalities" to hide how much of a smarty-pants they are.)

The arguments for a new airport for London appear to be of the "you've got to build bypasses" variety that gets Arthur Dent's house knocked down in "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy". And, in case you missed the point, then gets the EARTH demolished too.

(One of the OVERLOOKED arguments in favour of the new High Speed rail link being extended to Manchester and Leeds is that it would REDUCE the numbers of environmentally catastrophic short-haul flights around the UK, easing pressure at Heathrow as a lucky consequence.)

But in the middle of all this on-going global economic gloom, a "GRAND PUBLIC WORK", something magnificent and mad and ever-so-slightly-Victorian has the ability to GRAB the public imagination in exactly the way that a shiny new written constitution DIDN'T!

And we need something like that, something so that people will say "oh, THAT'S what the Lib Dems are about".

Would a new Federal Parliament (subject to Mr Salmon losing his referendum) be too much of an indulgence? Yes, I suspect it would… but we could hold a competition for which city would host it. Mr Graham Norton could host "How Do You Solve a Problem Like West Lothian?"

Or perhaps a more local approach, with a free gift to every council for a bit of CIVIC PRIDE, whether it's putting LOOS in all the high streets or refurbishing all the Victorian Spa Baths so everyone has a swimming pool or just BULLDOZING those IDENTIKIT high streets and rebuilding something with character.

Personally, of course, I'm in favour of a BRITISH SPACE PROGRAMME. We're so very keen to encourage our young people into SCIENCE and ENGINEERING and Mr Professor Brian Cox and his Wonders of the Universe and Stargazing Live, space is as popular as it's ever been. A Space Programme would be encouragement and training all in one, with new technology being developed with who-knows-what side benefits.

Plus, I'm sure that the prospect of sending Mr Professor Brian into space so he can "ooh" and "ahh" from orbit is one that would appeal to millions.


Unknown said...

You were doing very well until you suggested sending the Blessed Brian into space:-).

Seriously, can't we sort out housing & poverty before we start tanking billions into space. Surely scientists don't need big rockets to have big ideas.

Cancer can be cured from earth & pool of potentiall Nobel Prize Winners would increase if we made sure people were warm, sheltered & well fed as they grew up?

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Auntie Caron,

I'm going to defend building rocket ships on two grounds.

The first is that "let's cure cancer first" is also an argument for abolishing enterprise zones, the Scottish Parliament and the BBC. There are lots of things that we don't NEED to do, that nevertheless we do do because they are GOOD things. To say we can do NOTHING good until we have cured cancer or homelessness or poverty is to sacrifice BETTER on the altar of BEST. And I'm afraid it's an "appeal to emotion" fallacy of the "won't somebody think of the fluffy kittens" variety to suggest that we cannot do both. Plus you know, the government (this one and the last one) sinks billions into curing poverty and it will not go away, while research into a cure for cancer – or to be fair, the SOME sorts of cancer – gets an awful lot of money already too.

The second argument, though, is the spin-off benefits. Any large scale science project develops all sorts of interesting and useful bits of technology along the way just because it needs them to keep going along. MRI and PET scanners, for example – big in the diagnosis and investigation of cancer, you will agree – are actually spin-off technologies from building the Large Hadron Collider. Of course, the Apollo Programme gave us the MICROWAVE. But you can't win 'em all. My point is, we could spend a hundred years looking for the cure for cancer and never find it, or we could stumble across it by trying to do something magnificent. I vote for the latter.

It's not like Mr Professor Brian would WANT to be blasted into space! And I'd certainly TRY to get him back again!

Unknown said...

Personally I would say that, for example, curing cancer, is much less important than a proper space programme. Because, if like me, you're in it for the species, then it makes far more sense to do something that will ensure humanity doesn't have all its eggs in one basket than pretty much anything else.

Unknown said...

I get what you mean, but, seriously, how would you feel if your daddies decided to use their limited income to build themselves a TARDIS rather than elephant food?

Yes, I know you are a soft toy and technically don't need food, but apart from that the point is valid:-).

I just think that there are problems which require our attention before we start building spaceships. I would not like to see vast amounts of money being spent on space development while the Government was going on about deficit reduction to be honest. Would there really be as many benefits from a space programme as from the accountability and good work of a Scottish Parliament or the educational and communications benefits from the BBC.

And you certainly need the BBC now that it's showing Borgen.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Auntie Caron,

That's a FALSE DICHOTOMY – Daddies money does NOT just get spent on FOOD at the moment, and the Government money does NOT just get spent on housing poverty and cancer, does it? For example, it seems we've got several billion squids to invest in High Speed 2, and we look likely to be able to scrape together a few more billion squids to loan to the IMF.

No, I'm not saying spend that money on rockets instead, but when the economy takes a turn for the good, do you not think that Master Gideon has his eye on spending some extra revenue on a tax cut? Do you insist on any extra money going into the NHS on top of all the extra extra money we're already pouring down that bottomless well of need? Or might we take a slice for something that would excite and engage a generation?

But the REAL difference here is that spending money on Space NOW is a way of creating NEW streams of jobs and income for the FUTURE.

Suppose you had said in the early Seventies, let's not waste millions exploring the NORTH SEA, at least not until we have dealt with poverty and homelessness. Where would Scotland's economy be if we HADN'T gone out there and found OIL? How much homelessness and poverty have we cured with the revenues from that oil?

Let me rephrase your question: how would I feel if Daddy spent ALL of his money on FOOD and did not buy a RAIL CARD? Then he would not be able to go to work and would not get any MORE money.

GROWTH is the answer to POVERTY. And GROWTH means finding new resources or developing new technologies or employing new people. And Space does all three.

Curing poverty is what to do with money when you've got it. Space is how to GET it.