No confidence in David Willetts
We are about to vote in Cambridge -- on a motion of no confidence in David Willetts, the Universities' Minister. I have to say that I was not hugely keen on this motion. It's not that I feel any confidence in so-called 'two brains'. Far from it. But I am not sure that having a vote of the Regent House (that is more or less -- and in some significant senses LESS -- the Cambridge university academics as a democratic parliament) is the right way to go about showing one's lack of confidence.
I know that Oxford have just voted that way. But it does feel a bit like all those student motions I eagerly supported in the 1970s..."This JCR has no confidence in the recent government of Chile", "This JCR reaffirms its support for the people's struggle in South Africa". We meant it all frightfully sincerely, but what good did it do except make us feel more virtuous? And wasn't there a sniff of arrogance in our thinking that OUR no confidence somehow counted.
OK, I realise that Cambridge is much more involved in what Willetts is doing than our JCR was involved in Chile (however naively well meaning our vocal intervention might have been; and it didnt go any further than voices). But I have some sympathy with those who argue that the university's way of engaging with government policy, and showing its opposition, should be to respond critically to the recent white paper... and explain why this represents reactionary, unthought out and damaging higher education policy
But now that the motion of no confidence has come to a vote, despite my qualms, I shall be voting against Willetts -- and urge the rest of my colleagues to do the same.
Well it's simple. If Willetts "wins" the confidence vote, he will certainly use it -- as a feather in his cap. We will see him crowing on the Today Programme and Newsnight and beyond about his victory at Cambridge, and when anyone queries the support he has among the academic community, he will point to the Cambridge vote.
Now that it has come to a vote (ill-advised as it may be), any vote against no-confidence will be paraded as a vote backing government policy.
So I am afraid that we have to think ourselves back to the JCR and vote against Willetts. Any other way and it's a victory for him