More Tory spend-save

It's not true that the Tories don't have any policies. They have a policy for each of us. Do you want lower taxes? They support that. Do you want more public investment? They support that too. Worried about the national debt? They are worried too, and plan to bring it down. You want it, they support it.

George Osborne had an article in yesterday's Sunday Times attacking the debt culture, and extolling the importance of building any recovery on a more sustainable balance of saving and borrowing.

Quite right. But then why was he also advocating a £6,500 energy-savings entitlement for each home, financed against the property, to be repaid (apparently) over a 40-year period? Isn't that boosting the debt culture?

And now he is advocating spending an additional £600 million on training scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, of which over half (£350m) would go to an extra 25,000 Masters degrees in the subjects.

If we have a thriving industrial sector, they will need more engineers (and other skills). If there is a shortage, they will have to pay more to get them or train people in-house. If vacancies are plentiful and terms are good, more people will be drawn into the field. Supply will expand to meet demand.

If we try to boost the sector through supply-push (training graduates) rather than demand-pull (industrial expansion and recruitment), we will end up either with unemployed engineers, or over-qualified graduates trying to find ways to use their skills in other sectors, as happened so successfully with the quants in the City, who calculated that they had eliminated risk.

The very fact that so many STEM graduates went into the City tells you that we don't have too few STEM graduates, we have too few attractive STEM jobs.

And the right horlicks that these people made in the City tells you that academic education isn't always the best way to train people in what's important - it's intelligence and understanding of what you are doing that really matters. Understanding is best acquired by "scratching an itch". We need lots of businesses looking to solve lots of problems in lots of different ways, employing lots of people (graduates or not) to deal with the many little complexities that arise in trying to improve every business process.

And if that doesn't come to 25,000 extra Masters students, then we should never have trained that many. How do the Tories know how many students we need of one type or another?

So the key is creating an entrepreneurial climate. That means low taxes, no micro-managing incentives, reduced regulations, no winner-picking grants and subsidies, etc.

...which is an approach that the Tories support.

...and an approach that the Tories oppose.

Depends who is listening.