If you vote for science, which party do you choose?

I think its gotta be Labour….

The general buzz (twitter, blogs, newspapers, etc) is that the Lib Dems are the best on science, so if you want to save science – Vote Lib Dem! But it depends on which bit of science policy you look at and what you think about the economy..

The guardian does a nice comparison on science policy between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems from the great and the good of British science journalism – Brian Cox, Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh, to name a few.

Comparing the three articles in the Guardian…

On several issues all three parties say about the same thing – they are all vague about the science budget, given the economy this is not surprising, they don’t want to commit – and as Cox says “this is frustrating but fair enough”. They all want libel law reform on scientific intercourse and they all support animal testing – except for cosmetics on bunnies and fur coats (well maybe the Tories still want fur coats).

On homeopathy, the Tories and Lib Dems say NO – but Labour says, disappointingly, let someone else sort it out, maybe a result of being the last responder and wanting to keep the homeopathic vote? Is there a homeopathic vote?

On drug policy and public health issues, the Lib Dems really are the most progressive and reassuringly believe in actual scientific investigation to inform this policy, which is laudable and a breath of fresh air compared to the other two parties.

This all looks good for the Lib Dems

Labour does seem to be the best on climate change and has the most ‘credible’, ‘coherent’ and ‘reasonable plans’ for tackling climate change.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, or rather I do, but can only cheer for it. I live in the UK but am foreign and can’t vote – but if I could it would be a hard hard decision to decide between Labour and the Lib Dems.

But on balance I’d vote Labour. Why? Two reasons:

It is pretty unlikely that the Lib Dems are going to achieve even any semblance of power from this election. Barring some unforeseen miracle, the Lib Dems won’t secure enough seats to form a government by their lonesome BUT they will more than likely be the second party in any coalition government.

In this more likely case, as the junior partner in government, many of the Liberal Democrat policies will probably get largely ignored, with only the biggest things on their agenda (like electoral reform) being pushed forward. Science policies would have a high chance of being thrown out the window – while I am sure MPs like Dr. Evan Harris (Lib Dem) would lobby against this, how much influence would he be likely to have in Tory/Lib Dem government? The Tories aren’t historically all that open minded….

But in the words of Bill Clinton “its the economy stupid”.
If the UK economy doesn’t recover, then there really ISN’T going to be an increase in science policy budget at any time in the near future and in fact if there is a bigger recession this will probably lead to a decrease in funding. The economy is a central issue in this election, fix the economy – then lobby to fix science policy or all of those ideas about it will just be that ideas…

and Labour seems to me to have the winning economic policy.

N.B.: For my American friends, in case you don’t know, there is a General Election tomorrow in Great Britain where the new leader of government will be chosen. The contenders? Tories (Conservatives), Labour and Liberal Democrats – the problem is that in order to form a government the winner has to obtain a certain majority (not simple) and if no party achieves this (which is likely in this election) than the party with the simple majority goes to one of the other parties to form a coalition in order to form a government. And unlike US government, the government in charge makes ALL of the decisions (albeit with some influence from the other parties, if they can muster a big enough voice).

About Sylvia McLain

Girl, Interrupting aka Dr. Sylvia McLain used to be an academic, but now is trying to figure out what's next. She is also a proto-science writer, armchair philosopher, amateur plumber and wanna-be film-critic. You can follow her on Twitter @DrSylviaMcLain and Instagram @sylviaellenmclain
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6 Responses to If you vote for science, which party do you choose?

  1. West Hills neighbour says:

    THAT is a GREAT POST!! I appreciate it immensely. Not that I can vote either, but it’s like watching a football match……I want to root for the best team!! I too, have been torn. My interests lie with the children, schools, etc. I feel Labour best represents us, as well. Nice to hear your input and the environmental/science aspect of it all.

  2. Jason says:

    A very fair and forthright analysis, and I agree totally with all your points.

    Interestingly I just checked the date on your post as I wanted to make sure I was responding to “current” thought, as at one point it looked as though the Lib Dems might actually have been a credible third party (just after the first “leaders debate” was shown on TV), but as I should have anticipated that perception didn’t last long!

    I am astounded that none of our political parties have truly embraced the understanding that Science & Technology combined with Education will shape and define our economy and prosperity in the future.

    In my *mumble* years, I’ve seen a huge decline in manufacturing and revenue generating industry in the UK, and not much else grow to supplant it. If we’d had the proper levels of investment in these “high tech” industries over the years, our University Graduates would have decent jobs to go to, we’d be leading Europe if not the world in innovating new products and I believe our economy wouldn’t be in quite such a mess right now.

    Sorry, I suspect I’m preaching to the converted, so I’ll put my soapbox away now!

  3. Nancy Hine says:

    I can’t agree that labour are the best chance for the economy. They got us into this mess in the first place by running a deficit in boom times (when you should be putting money aside for a rainy day) and failing to control the banks. I’m not saying the other parties would necessarily have done better, we will never know, but I think it is time to give someone else a chance. If labour get in again they will be too complacent and continue with the same failing policies. In general its not good for any one party to be in power for too long and we (the public) tend to let parties stay in power for one term more than is good for the country.

    Also I don’t agree about climate changes – the liberal policies seemed better to me. Although I didn’t agree with everything in the libs manifesto, I agreed with more than the other two parties, plus Nick Clegg seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the other leaders. I am hoping they will be able to shake things up, whichever party they form a coalition with.

    I am an ex labour supporter who has never voted Tory and not voted liberal for over 20 years, currently studying physics with the OU and with a particular interest in space.

  4. Donty says:

    I agree that fixing the economy is the focus but I think the scale of the West’s problems is such than a long term approach is needed. That won’t come from a short term ‘popular’ Conservative government or a limping Labour one. We need to remove some of partisan elements of politics that come quicker to the surface when the all powerful government needs to become popular in time for an election.

    I think that getting electoral reform will push the long term aims back into focus, and that would work in favour of science. If you look at the history of Labour and science or education it is not great! Why would a future with even less money around bode well for it under the same politics?

    Core consensus of the relative importance of some key areas would mean more consistent policies that can build things over a more sensible time. Imagine trying to do any of the big science needed in 3-4yrs? Try 30-40! An economy based on building knowledge and high technology takes time and more than the ideas in any one political party.

    For you in the USA, imagine if Bush had won total control of all the US government on less than 1/3 the votes cast. Then Obama won with just over 1/3 and had the power to reverse all the previous administrations laws and policies without effective checks. Then realise that a change of just a few hundreds of thousands of votes actual made the difference between those to positions. Mad.

  5. Elizabeth Thomas says:

    Good post, but guess we disagree again…

    Labour SUX! 🙂 I was a former Labour supporter but that whole Iraq thing — plunging the country into a war that the Brits didn’t want but George Bush did changed my mind. (Blair wouldn’t even allow a vote in Parliament.)

    And I lived here under Margaret Thatcher so I can’t ever vote Tory.

    I just voted LibDem.

  6. hollowprose says:

    Interesting post. While I am not well informed with Britain’s politics right now, I can see how you would pick the Labour party. I myself would pick the Liberal Democrats, to be honest.
    It would be mad if only 1/3 of votes caused a victory, that would cause a riot here in the U.S. And although the government here is split into three branches, each playing a huge role, the administration in power could essentially wipe out the previous administration’s changes. Let us take George Bush as an example again; with the ‘PATRIOT Act’ (tacky name, I know) he essentially removed many of the “Undeniable Rights” U.S. citizens were promised by our founding fathers. Bush accomplished this by using the 9/11 attacks as a fear monger, and it worked. The population, terrified of terrorists, gave in a large strip of freedom for a sliver of security. The PATRIOT Act, in essence, was the beginning of a rather obvious change that will mold the U.S. into a police state, gradually. I am not a conspiracy theorist, I am merely stating what should be obvious to anyone who has been watching the policies of the last few years in the U.S.

    Wow….I just realized that my comment has relatively little to do with your actual post, sorry about that.
    I sincerely thank anyone who may have read my rant. As you may have been able to tell, I am a typical American whom is distrusting of the government, but I also believe in the government’s ability to right what is wrong….eventually.

    If you are interested in what exactly the PATRIOT Act is, you can start by reading the Wikipedia page on it.


    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

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