Last Thursday, Jacob Rees Mogg held a talk in neighbouring constituency East Hampshire, where he laid out a vision for Brexit. Causing quite a stir, his efforts seem to have reopened the Brexit schism at the heart of the Tory party.
Their infighting has, once again, been headline news this week, accentuating the weakness and wobbliness of our Prime Minister, Theresa May.
To add more salt to the wound, David Lidington MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was compelled to call for mutual respect within his party on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, demonstrating the extent of the current coalition of chaos.
During his talk, Rees Mogg took care to highlight, rather eloquently, might I add, - and quite rightly too - how we should be striving for global technology leadership, and for a strong knowledge economy.
However, his, and other Tory Brexiter’s, short-sightedness became apparent when he decisively linked the means of achieving this to deregulation - stating that it is regulation which stifles innovation.
In the question and answer session after his lecture finished, I immediately raised my hand, ready to contest Rees Mogg’s rather dubious conclusions.
He is right - we should be striving for global technology leadership.
It is, however, instead poor productivity and a lack of research and development funding which stifles innovation. I quoted to Rees Mogg how between 2007 and 2013 we had received €8.8 billion in research and development funding from the EU. Taking care to mention his own line, how the British people “did not vote for the management of decline”, I asked how his government would make sure that we, the British people, and our institutions would not miss out in the future.
In typical Rees Mogg fashion, he swerved the question, trying to claim that our productivity forecasts have been wrongly calculated, and how funding innovation should be left to the private sector.
A rather inventive use of facts and statistics from a man who no less than 10 minutes earlier in his speech had tried to downplay the accuracy of statistics. Even going so far as to blast well-being statistics as something we should “be wary” of.
Seeing as he also tried to claim that inequality has not increased in recent times - and that wages are more equal today than they were in 1985 - it would be more fitting to declare one should instead “be wary” of Rees Mogg’s statistics.
Universities, in particular, depend on public funding and generate a lot of our research and development. They are specifically set to lose out from the Tory’s calamitous dealings with Brexit.
The British people, and our institutions, deserve better than this.
Isabel Bull, Communications Officer for Winchester and Chandler's Ford's CLP