What are our politicians talking about?... Listen to Alan Milburn, New Labour's election campaign coordinator, trying to inspire us by declaring that 'the priority must be to fashion an active citizenship'. Or David Miliband, the cabinet office minister now writing New Labour's manifesto, attempting to kickstart the election campaign this week by promising a new era of 'individual empowerment' in New Labour's third term. it is like listening to the members of some exclusive club, using a code that is intended to keep their plans a secret. Mick Hume, From immigration to Iraq, they are a political class apart, 11 February
Mick Hume is writing about the UK, but he might just as well be writing about New Zealand or the US. Politicians daren't present us with clear choices anymore. Choices create winners and losers, and the debased language of politics, like that of make-believe, cannot admit that policies will make some people worse off. The notion of trade-offs is rigorously excluded from political debate. Instead we get vapid, vacuous platitudes that widen the distance between politicians and the people they are supposed to represent. Every policy statement is scripted, having first been tested on a focus group and fine-tuned by the public relations industry. Politics becomes a battle between PR professionals. As Hume puts it: the gap between the public and politics is yawning - in every sense.
A Social Policy Bond regime would start out by asking the basic question: what outcomes do we want to achieve? Targeted outcomes, not activities or the current institutional setup would dictate where government funds would go. And these outcomes would be transparent: everybody would know what they are. Political debate would revolve around what these outcomes should be and how they should be ranked. There would be more, and better informed, public participation in policymaking because outcomes, unlike the bland pap that is the current political fodder, actually mean something.