Our demented Chancellor says he wants “to keep the UK at the forefront of disruptive technologies like biotech, robotic systems and driverless vehicles”.
At the forefront. Ha Ha. Traipsing along behind the Yanks and most of the Continentals is nearer the truth.
And then the specifics. Oh dear, how shaming: £16 million for a National 5G Innovation Network to trial new 5G technology to help “make the UK a world leader in 5G technology.” I ask you. £20 billion would hardly do the job. It makes me cringe.
So I sit there cringeing, nodding, smiling and saying ‘Here Here’ and slide off for a very large one in the Smoking Room when it’s all over to dull the shame.
“Why,” I ask my Permanent Secretary next morning, ” does the UK always underestimate the cost of technology?”
“Because, Secretary of State, technology is not seen as quite the thing – unlike – say – banking which is seen as a prestigious activity. So HMG will spend £20 billion bailing out a bank without turning a hair, but tech has to make do with rather less.”
“Tens of millions for tech and tens of billions for banks,” I muse.
“Indeed so, Secretary of State.”
“As a Secretary of State can’t I change that?”
“With the deepest respect, Secretary of State, regrettably not – that attitude is deeply engrained in the Tory Party’s DNA and your party’s majority in Parliament is not so large that you can ignore it.”
“Precisely, Secretary of State.”