British politics could strike some people as dull, but if you look hard enough you just never know. Last week, a fascinating new rift widened between the government and main opposition party over - yes, you read this correctly - programming models.

To quote the blog of opposition chancellor George Osborne, a man who does wear a suit every day, and who did go to Oxford.

"Government needs to stop thinking that when it comes to procuring IT systems, big is always beautiful. We need to move in the direction of what are known as 'open standards' - in effect, creating a common language for government IT. This technical change is crucial because it allows different types of software and systems to work side by side in government."

Crudely translated: why is the government obsessed with blowing tax money buying software from big software companies when it do the same work more cheaply using open source?

The current Government was supposed to have been the first the UK has ever had that actually ‘got' the importance of technology, but gradually as aspiration turned into policy after 1997, things started to drift badly.

By 2009, we have a number of failed, semi-failed and lingering IT projects to look back on, and a new one in the making, the plans to give every UK citizen an ID card tied to a ‘secure' database.

What next? A scheme to build a two-lane highway across the Atlantic ocean to the United States? How many speed cameras would that need?

You might agree with Osborne or not, but I was hugely heartened that amidst a debt pile and tottering banks, Osborne even cared about something that would not long ago have sounded as obscure as demanding government subsidise public showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

You don't have to be a Conservative voter to see agree with his heresy. We need to fix the world in many ways but one of those is to work out whether the state is getting value from money from its IT and adjust what we do accordingly. Tech isn't magic. It actually needs to be applied intelligently.

Of course, none of this means that the Tories won't screw things up just as heartily when they take power, sometime around 2010, but at least we'll be able to throw Osborne's fine words back at him.