Play up, play up and play the game

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Monday, October 15, 2007 - 18:00 GMT Jump to Comments

Adopting policy ideas generated from other parties is good politics and good governance. Unfortunately, the traditional media is allowing good governance to take a back seat.

The pre budget report has bought about a huge amount of press about the “stealing” of policy ideas by the Labour Government. The details are different but the core policy idea is the same in most cases. Even the left leaning traditional media settled upon this vacuous interpretation of events.

The impact of climate change on the public consciousness has led to lots of followership from politicians. Even George Bush has done some recently and attempted to claim some leadership in the process. The Green Party has set the agenda here, they don’t own the ideas though do they? The issue is far broader, Al Gore might be Mr Climate Change but those lobbying and protesting for many years would find his new clothes very hard to stomach, if he complained that George Bush had stolen his idea.

Clearly of the three parties the Liberal Democrats have the earliest adoption of most of the ideas being currently “stolen”. Their polls ratings are so low they are clearly not setting the agenda, so it must be the Conservatives setting the agenda? Cameron’s positioning himself as the “heir to Blair” couldn’t have made this any clearer. We don’t just have followership instead of leadership, we have followership instead of opposition. We need our politicians to steal ideas, we need our public policy to evolve in response to the changing challenges we face. The electorate wanted the Labour Party to buy in to the good policy ideas of the previous Conservative administration; they rewarded them with three election victories. The Conservative Party bought into the public policy ideas of the 1945 Labour Government for a generation. Despite the news driven “story telling” of the traditional media inferring otherwise stealing public policy ideas is a good idea. The electorate recognise a good move and so they should.

The Liberal Democrats might be setting the agenda, but it doesn’t matter to the voters. They are not convinced that the party would form an effective Government. Setting the agenda, having really original public policy ideas does not indicate that a political party will provide good governance and administration. The evolution of the idea of a reform of inheritance tax shows that all three Parties have contributed something. The Labour Government’s calculation of how much would be saved by whom shows some good thinking. When the subject cropped up in the Commons, it was easy to see the doubt in Conservative faces, they don’t want to be presented as the party of the rich but given the level of discourse in the Commons and in the traditional media, we swiftly moved on to more name calling between the Bottler's Boys and the Chameleon’s Chaps.

The announcement of the PAC report on efficiency on Thursday, indicated how poorly public money had been spent to spend less. The rubbishing of the Government’s claims of better public administration that the PAC report gives is of far more importance than whether they are choosing to adopt ideas that have come from somebody else. An opposition that is concerned about governance and administration rather than winning elections would have found this far more important given the high level of public spending as a proportion of our GDP. Particularly when so much more money has to be borrowed by the Government and you have bought into the Government’s spending plans, built around assumptions of public sector efficiency. And even more so when Gordon Brown is attempting to push the idea to the voters that he will adopt changes in policy as a result of public pressure whilst presenting a safe pair of hands administratively.

The baying pack like behaviour of Conservative backbenchers behind David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions, troubled me for two reasons. Firstly it seems to make a mockery of the electorate investing all that money in elected representatives to see them behave in such a manner. However more importantly it was the first time they seemed like an opposition in ten years. Apart from their frontbench all they could muster was the mob mentality of a gang of hormonally challenged public school boys.

Which makes me think that the electorate might not vote, as no party is convincing them of the necessary depth in ability, that a parliamentary party needs to sustain good governance and administration or to provide the scrutiny that is at the heart of good opposition. Which saddens me given the perilous state of our economy and our public finances.

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