Lord Drayson refuses to consider crossing the floor

Minister reveals little except his desire for a Labour victory at the polls. Zoë Corbyn reports

January 21, 2010

He is the Twittering, Aston Martin-driving millionaire Science Minister who enjoys the job so much he is doing it for free.

And while he may have presided over decisions that have made scientists' blood boil, he is also liked and widely respected - not only by scientists, who appreciate his understanding of the brief, but also by his political rivals.

No wonder, then, that there has been speculation about what the future holds after the general election for Lord Drayson, who was appointed to the post in October 2008. If Labour remains in office, would he continue in the role? Or, in other circumstances, would he as a peer accept a job in a Conservative administration?

At the "Geek the vote" election debate in London last week, Adam Afriyie, Conservative Shadow Science Minister, could not help but praise his opposite number.

The problem, he said, was that Lord Drayson was "trapped" within a party that is "unable to deliver".

His Liberal Democrat counterpart, Evan Harris, who spent much of the debate humorously trying to appeal to scientists in his Oxford constituency, was also fulsome in his praise: all would be well at the Home Office if Lord Drayson were in charge, he said.

Speaking to Times Higher Education after the event, Lord Drayson would neither commit to nor dismiss the idea of taking a job with the Tories if they came to power.

"It is something I am not even prepared to discuss or contemplate," he said.

"I am fighting to win the election for Labour because I really believe there is an important choice to be made."

He added that even if Labour were to win, there was no guarantee he would stay in the post.

"I love being Science Minister and any opportunity to be Science Minister is one I would welcome. But one shouldn't take these things for granted," he said.



Adam Afriyie, the Conservative Shadow Science Minister, has sought to clarify his claim that ministers should be able to sack scientific advisers if they "just don't like them".

The comments were made at a science election debate hosted by the Campaign for Science and Engineering last week.

"It is right, I think, that any minister and any secretary of state, if they have an adviser, should be able to dismiss them on any terms at all - even if they just don't like them," Mr Afriyie said.

But in a letter to Times Higher Education today, he says that his remarks "do not imply that I believe advisers should be dismissed contrary to the terms of their engagement or best practice".

"While it may be right that a minister has the power to dismiss for any reason they see fit - within the guidelines and subject to the law - I certainly would not advocate it," he adds.

For more on the debate: http://bit.ly/6Z6znN

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