Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Calling for a pause, the new anti-strategy strategy

In the modern era of soundbites and short term solutions to long term problems, I have noticed recently that, if you really have no idea what to do about something you don't like, calling for a pause is an increasingly popular choice.

For example, Rachel Reeves is apparently calling for a pause in the rollout of Universal Credit whilst, well, what exactly? Labour activists in Camden called for a pause in work on HS2 rather than call for it to be scrapped altogether - perhaps because scrapping it would be unpopular with Labour politicians in the North and Midlands.

You may not be able to turn the clock back,
but you can apparently stop it.
Effectively, what is being said is, "We don't like this, but we aren't sure what we should do instead, in case this turns out to be popular.". And, I guess, that's fair enough, unless you were planning to be running the country some day soon.

And, before anyone says that I'm being unfair on Labour, I must note the performance of Liberal Democrats during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill. The fact that a pause was required rather exposed the fact that the initial work of pre-scrutiny hadn't been done terribly well, and it was only when Liberal Democrat activists went ballistic that time was taken to look at it more thoroughly. It still wasn't that great a piece of legislation...

Our politics doesn't help. Opposition, rather than constructive engagement, is the order of the day in the Commons, whilst the Lords is rather better at scrutiny and amendment but suffers from a justified reticence to overturn the position of an elected House down the corridor. And pre-scrutiny takes time, when Ministers want to be getting on with things.

So, we can expect to see more calls for pauses, in the hope that opposition can be rallied against whatever it is, whilst the policy development concept withers on the vine across the political spectrum. Because opposition and legislation based on anecdote and prejudice is so much easier than developing a philosophically consistent view of the world...

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