Monday, October 24, 2005

Arts Vs Science

One unexplored aspect of our leadership contest is that we are being offered the old defining choice between arts and science. Like most other politicians, DC is an artist (PPE, Oxford). Rather unusually, DD a scientist (Molecular/Computer Science, Warwick).

Now your archetypal scientist has much to recommend him- bright, methodical, calm under pressure, clinical execution. If you ever need a spot of open-heart surgery, my strong advice is to get a scientist: not only will he get the facts right first, but he won't black out as soon as the blood starts splashing round the walls.

But what scientists are not so hot at is emotion. All that logic can come across as coldness. And we're reminded of this in Colin Brown's interview with DD in today's Indy. Brown homes in on an issue that fascinates all those arts journos: does he find it difficult to show emotion?

"To be publicly emotional? Unless its appropriate I largely choose not to. There are times when it is appropriate. When I was public service minister, I used to talk to nurses and policemen about their jobs. That was quite emotional. That was not sentimental but it picked up the emotional importance of what they were doing."

But would he change his style if the public wrongly thought he was not an emotional person? "I take the view you don't agonise over things in public. It is the way I have been brought up, and I don't talk about the inwardnesses of what I am going to do."

So he was stuck with the old-fashioned stiff upper lip?

"Yes, it's very old fashioned," he conceded.'

Is it a problem? Well, it certainly makes him appear less warm and cuddly than DC, and it does mean he's a different animal to most of the media. So in 2005 tele-campaign Britain, it could be a problem. Yes.

But surely we members need to look beneath the emotional skin. We need to decide who could best do the actual job. It may not be open-heart surgery, but there's a lot of hard detailed work to do, and there is going to be blood on the walls.

What's more, we all remember the last scientist we put in charge. She wasn't that great at emoting either.
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