Just don’t mention stem cells please…

Jeb Bush and Richard Sykes You tend to judge people by the company they keep… so let me introduce you to the latest chum Richard Sykes has pulled in for Imperial College, even persuading him to sign a piece of paper that looks precariously like a concordat. Believe it or not it is none other than Jeb Bush, George W’s little brother and Governor of Florida.

Whether the man slapped the rector on the shoulder and said, ‘Yo Sykes’ before accepting a new sweater we shall never know. But the Imperial PR machine clearly thinks it’s something to make a meal of.

There are those who think Jeb makes his big brother look positively mild when it comes to political matters. Richard Sykes certainly didn’t sound like a shrinking liberal violet when he greeted the chap on a visit to the college earlier this month. Sounding much like a southern evangelist touting Imperial-led capitalism as the solution for all the world’s problems he declared…

Entrepreneurship is a major distinguishing feature of Imperial – it is at the heart of Imperials mission and it is implicit in our original charter written almost a century ago in 1907. The creation of wealth in today’s global and knowledge-based economies is critically dependant (that should be dependent by the way, ed) on science and innovation. That innovation is increasingly being driven by partnerships which cut across international and organisational boundaries and which involve Governments, the private sector and academia.

In return, Governor Jeb crooned…

Florida has a strong life-science sector and a strong university research base. By investing lots of talent and money, and building closer links with institutions like Imperial, we hope to build an innovation economy which is the envy of the world.

In spite of all the fancy talk the occasion was nothing more than a seminar involving staff from Imperial and scientists from Florida. Oh, and the signing of yet one more ‘memorandum of understanding’, this time between the University of Miami and Imperial to ‘set out a long-term partnership between the two institutions and establish a new strategic alliance in engineering and information technology’. We hope all those endangered alligators in the Everglades take note. There’s a lot of empty space there, and even though it’s protected that clearly won’t stop Richard Sykes licking his lips over it.

And if you are minded to take these two gentlemen on their word about the glories of unbridled ‘entrepreneurship’ and the wonderful effect innovation has had on the economy of Jeb Bush’s state here are a few plain facts.

  • In Miami Dade county, home of the university with which Imperial has just signed its memorandum, some 18.9 per cent of the population, almost one in five, lives beneath the official poverty line, with an average per capita income of under $20,000.
  • Jeb Bush is very keen on the life sciences and bio technology indeed. But like his big brother he is dead against stem cell research on ‘moral’ grounds, even though there is widespread public support for the idea. Did Richard Sykes, who surely is (rightly) in favour of stem cell research raise this when they met I wonder? Does he really want to cosy up quite so much with someone whose primary governing influence when it comes to scientific research is the Bible? One wonders…
  • To quote Wikipedia (which is accurate on this) ‘Jeb Bush played an influential role in the controversial handling of vote management and counting in the state of Florida.’ The election Al Gore actually won if you recall, even with some dodgy electoral roll mishandling in which Jeb is alleged to have been involved.
  • Jeb Bush is a prominent supporter of an organisation known as Project for the New American Century which has, as its aim, the goal of promoting ‘American global leadership; its ‘fundamental principles’ include the statement, ‘such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle’. PNAC provided many of the bright people who persuaded George W to go to war in Iraq (most of them now departed from the administration).
  • Jeb’s anti-stem cell position is part of a general ‘pro-life’ stance which has, in the past, included appointing a guardian for the foetus of a rape victim to prevent its abortion, a similar failed effort to prevent a 13-year-old receiving an abortion, and a failed attempt to stop Terri Schavo’s life support being ended on the advice of doctors. At the same time, one should point out that Jeb’s state is pretty good at the ‘death science’ sector too. Florida has the third highest number of prisoners awaiting execution among US states, and is fifth in the league table of states to have executed criminals since capital punishment was reintroduced in 1976.
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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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One Response to Just don’t mention stem cells please…

  1. Marlon Sorken says:

    John Ellis Bush and Richard Sykes, I am so glad to see them in bed together, priceless.

    Too bad vote-rigging Jeb can’t help turn Mr Sykes vision for Wye into a reality, I am sure Dick could do with some expert advice on how to avoid the democratic process that they both clearly hold in contempt.

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