Sunday, September 14, 2008

We're from the government and we're here to help

I read the statement by 12 Labour MPs in Progress magazine. The article says that what Labour needs is a narrative. Their suggested narrative runs as follows:

'Dear electorate, there are a number of issues that are concerning you. Some of these also concern us, such as the economy. We have no idea what should be done about that except that we know that targeting money to help people doesn't work, except when it does. We do, however, have ideas for reforming public services and tinkering with the constitution. Will that do instead?'

It is a deeply weird document, aimed at winning over very, very small sections of the electorate while ignoring much larger groups. The civil libertarian who thinks that identity cards are a pragmatic and sensible idea, but was outraged at the decision to specify an age limit for buying cans of spray paint, for example, will be comforted to hear that the report's authors think that the latter 'was a step too far'. Not much help in winning over members of the No2ID campaign, but possibly a winner amongst the No2AgeRestrictionsOnBuyingSprayPaint activists.

They are also clear that they don't like 'top down', 'centralised', 'statist' solutions to problems. They want to devolve decision-making to the most local level, and highlight a couple of examples of the dividing lines that they would seek to draw on this issue, attacking the 'left' SNP for taking the decisions to scrap prescription charges and hospital car parking charges.

In ProgressWorld, it is quite wrong for the government to sort out a problem which annoys a lot of people, and instead the priority should be to ensure that the decision is taken at a more local level by a trust or a social enterprise or some similar such organisation, so that the government cannot get any credit for sorting the problem out.

But here in Britain, at a time when voters are shifting to the left, maybe instead the narrative Labour is looking for is one which is actually in touch with what people are looking for, the one which used to terrify Ronald Reagan:

"We've from the government, and we're here to help"


At 12:36 pm , Blogger Andreas Paterson said...

I'm afraid I disagree with your No2SpraypaintCans argument here. Anyone describing themself as a civil libertarian and joining a group like NO2ID is quite politically active and therfore something of a minority. It seems a lot bigger due to its very active, effective and in my view, deceptive use of PR. Data loss scandals and the like have led to a bad readings in the opinion polls, but I'd say most ordinary people don't buy the full NO2ID line.

Incidentally, I have a number of friends who do Kendo and were far more upset about the ban on Samurai swords than ID cards.


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