The Modern Way of Making Public Policy

by Ray_North on January 16, 2018

Once upon a time – the making of public policy went a bit like this: Party A would have an internal policy making process, into which expert opinion would be considered and the merits of the policy considered; then, if there was support for it, they would offer that policy to the electorate – at this stage there was an understanding and an acceptance that the policy might not be universally popular, but, as it had usually been properly debated and refined and was often based upon a matter of principle, then Party A would be in a good position to argue its merits in front of an electorate which were deemed clever enough and involved enough to give a toss. Often the other party would oppose and object, but, just as often, the synthesis of this debate was fairly coherent government.

That was then.

Let’s look at policy making today and let’s, as a case study consider the Government’s whispered environment policy that was launched with all the fanfare of a parole board decision, last week.

Stage 1 Experts spend a great deal of time and expense considering an important matter, such as the future of the planet. They produce reports which are detailed, thoroughly researched and based upon academic expertise. These reports are roundly ignored by everyone.

Stage 2 National Treasure makes a documentary about a particular issue, such as the preponderance of plastic in our oceans or the shrinking of the polar ice-caps; and, as National Treasure is revered by national media, in particular right-wing media, populist right wing newspaper shows some sympathy with the cause.

Stage 3 Press Officer, Spin Doctor and assorted wonks have meeting in Westminster and decide that, as National Treasure is loved by everyone and has brilliantly highlighted the issue, then they must have an immediate policy on it – ‘even better’, says someone, ‘we can add it as part of a major rebrand.’

Stage 4 Prime Minister’s Office is contacted and is sympathetic to both cause and in particular ‘rebrand’, though accepts hasn’t previously given a monkey’s about the issue, but understands how good it will look as part of a new ‘caring image,’ that it is trying to portray – a decision is taken to come up with new policy for a press-conference to be held within days, because all realise that if they leave it too long then issue will have been superseded by the next thing.

Stage 5 Number 10 drafts a policy document and shows it to the Treasury. The Treasury says ‘no chance,’ far to expensive, far too many spending commitments and sends it back to Number 10. Number 10 re-drafts replacing any actual policy commitments involving spending with words and phrases like ‘review’ ‘plan’ ‘integrated targeting,’ ‘we will work towards,’ and ‘a firm commitment to.’

Stage 6 Policy is launched with a certain amount of hyperbole on the Today Programme and a couple of paragraphs in the Times and Guardian before being forgotten forever until the next time a National Treasure makes another programme.

Meanwhile, the experts, who really know what they’re talking about, draft more reports advising us how things could actually be much, much better.


Talk about brazen – I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, a Conservative Councillor from Windsor saying that although he had nothing against ‘real vagrants’ he wanted the police to use their powers to take away the possessions of those who he described as ‘professional beggars.’

What a total heartless bastard.

In this one incident all that is hateful about the psyche of the Conservatives is perfectly encapsulated.

For the Tories the issue is not why is someone homeless, what help can we give them, what things in their lives led them to a position where they have nothing in their lives other than a few bags.

The instinct of the Tory is not one of compassion or understanding or even sympathy; the intellectual approach is not one which enables them to look at inherent problems within our societal structure or our education system our economy or our criminal justice system, but instead sees only the poor and the destitute as a threat, a contamination of their streets.

Let’s be under no illusions about this – the Councillors of Windsor are engaged in a process of social cleansing as they seek to turn their borough into a place where American tourists can gleefully spend lots of money and revel in the archaic, emasculation of the Royal Family.

If you ever needed a reminder of why we should always work to oppose the Tories then just remind yourselves of what is going on in Windsor.


A look forward: 2018 London elections (part 3)

January 3, 2018

Today, we conclude our look forward to the May 2018 local elections in London. You can find the first part of the series here (including details of our methodology) and the second here. Our concluding part covers the ten London Boroughs starting with the letters M through to W. Merton – likely Labour hold We […]

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A look forward: 2018 London elections (part 2)

January 2, 2018

Yesterday, I started a three-part series looking forward to this May’s local elections across the 32 London Boroughs. This is part two in that series, covering the boroughs H to L. For part one, including details on the methodology, click here Today’s Evening Standard’s front page headline was Tory Guru: May Could Lose Half of […]

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A look forward: 2018 London elections (part 1)

January 1, 2018

As a New Year begins, I am setting out the scene for this year’s London elections, a critical test for the three main English parties. This is the first of three posts, setting the scene and covering 10 boroughs (B to G, alphabetically). May’s local elections will be a crucial test for the British political […]

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Dear Santa…

December 22, 2017

For Christmas please can I have a good book, perhaps a biography, if it’s a biography then it doesn’t have to be that good. Can I also have some time with family and friends, and perhaps one of those spontaneous afternoons in the pub – that’d be good. And whilst i’m at it, I’d like […]

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Some new confusion from the Ministry of Justice……

December 12, 2017

I’m confused… I just can’t work it out and if any of our dear readers are able to offer me any explanation, it would be gratefully received. The source of my confusion is this – for the last god knows how many years (certainly for the last 19 years, that I can testify to), when […]

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Sweet Jones Alabama?

December 10, 2017

This Tuesday sees the state of Alabama go to the polls to elect a new senator. But can Democrat Doug Jones really have  a chance in this deeply Republican state? The accession of Jeff Sessions – Alabama’s former senator who Donald Trump picked as his Attorney General – created a need for an election that […]

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Brexit and the case for an Election Misinformation Act

November 23, 2017

I was sitting in my car yesterday when I heard the headlines from Philip Hammond’s budget – like everyone else, I heard the depressing figures for growth and wages and living standards, and initially, I just let them pass me by because I wasn’t surprised by them. Then, I considered them further and the implications […]

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Brexit Britain – Where Did It All Go Wrong?

November 17, 2017

How did Brexit happen? This is a question that will be analysed and debated for decades to come. It’s complicated. Many Leave voters right across the country feel disenfranchised but they wrongly believe that the EU is the cause. It is the decades of UK government neoliberal economics that are the true problem – which […]

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Is This The Most Clueless Conservative Party Ever?

November 13, 2017

Despite my praise for Richard Ratcliffe and the very measured way he is dealing with the total mess being made by the Foreign Secretary, we cannot get away from the fact that we are currently being run by a government so poor that it is starting to give the Trump regime over the water a […]

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In Praise of Richard Ratcliffe

November 13, 2017

Richard Ratcliffe would be quite within his rights, some might say, to go around to the Foreign Office, seek out Boris Johnson and give him a ruddy great bunch of fives; Richard Ratcliffe would be within his rights, most would say, to go on the airwaves and call for the resignation of the same Foreign […]

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#1091: 2017, Portugal, The Man – Feel It Still

November 12, 2017

As a rule I hate my kid’s music. They’re little, they’re yet to listen to anything that remotely has an edge to it, indeed most of it appears to consist of shouting the same lyric over again, because it doesn’t scan with the tuneless nonsense that passes for a melody. I suppose it’s not meant […]

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The Fallacy of National Sovereignty

November 10, 2017

Reclaiming our nation – they told us. National Liberation Day – is what Farage described it as. Finally making the UK independent again – is what they said. Throughout the debate on Brexit, we were told that a vote to leave the EU was a vote to reclaim British Sovereignty from the scourge of the […]

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#1090: 1988, Michelle Shocked, Anchorage

August 26, 2017

This year, my almost annual visit to the USA has taken me to “the largest state in the Union” – both the USA’s and my 49th state. There are a number of songs I could have picked to reflect this: perhaps Dwight Yoakam‘s North to Alaska (or the Johnny Horton original). Or, if I was […]

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A Tale For Our Times…..

July 31, 2017

Pick, as they say, the bones out of this…. I was in Court last week – the case involved a horrible road traffic accident, where a young Albanian delivery van driver had attempted to overtake a HGV when it was clearly dangerous to do so and ploughed headlong into the path of an oncoming car […]

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General Election 2017: now that we’ve stopped laughing, what next?

June 12, 2017

Forgive me readers for it has been bloody ages since my last blog. In that time, I have committed many sins, including the sin of confusion, hopeless optimism, blind despair, excessive elation, false elation and wicked gloating. Why? Because I, like every other poor bastard in this country of ours, has been subjected to the […]

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Georgia’s Sixth: Democrats First Test for Sunbelt Strategy

April 2, 2017

On 18 April, the southern US state of Georgia sees a ‘special election’ to find a new congressman. The election could be a key indicator for the way forward for the Democrats. One of the key questions for the Democrats to face in the aftermath of its electoral defeats last November is its election strategy […]

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What Brexit really means…

March 27, 2017

“Brexit means Brexit.” ~ Theresa May To many Brexiters, what Brexit really means is: The British Empire Rule, Britannia! Britannia Rules the Waves! Last night of the proms Sticking it up Johnny Foreigner Union Jack bunting Foreign muck The plucky Brit The Great Escape Dambusters Mother Country British bulldog Imperial chauvinism Born to rule Land […]

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Theresa May is the wrong prime minister at the wrong time

March 20, 2017

“I think the economic arguments are clear, I think being part of a 500-million population trading bloc is significant for us. I think, that one of the issues is that a lot of people will invest here in the UK because it is the UK in Europe. “If we were not in Europe, I think […]

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The United Kingdom: A Union of Unequals

March 17, 2017

I will always consider myself both British and Scottish. I have spent years wrestling with my own opinion on Scottish independence. I hoped that it would never come to this, but, from 2014 onwards, I made my progression from being a unionist to a supporter of Scottish self determination for the following reasons:- Independence is […]

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Corbyn’s Copeland Catastrophe?

March 1, 2017

There is no doubt that Labour’s performance in the Copeland by-election last week was historically bad: a government last won a by-election seat off an opposition in 1982. But Jeremy Corbyn’s most die-hard supporters have tried to explain this poor result away. Do their arguments hold any weight? You have read the headlines: this is […]

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Should the Lords have stopped Brexit?

February 27, 2017

There is an unfortunate irony that, sadly, one of the most interesting periods in national and international politics has coincided with us here at Allthatsleft going into self-imposed stasis. I write this, because I’ve been considering just how bad things could get – I write this because things that seemed absurd only a year or […]

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Trumpton, USA – A Place Called Hate

January 31, 2017

“I still believe in a place called Hope.” ~ Bill Clinton, 1992. In America 2017, hope has left the building. Hate has walked in, pimped out the White House with gold furnishings and started a real life version of Lord of the Flies. Obama was in the White House for 8 years, and managed to […]

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#1089: 2012, Viv Albertine, Confessions of a Milf

January 31, 2017

Last weekend, the lads of All That’s Left went away for a weekend in the country. As well as drinking what the experts tell us is the safe amount of alcohol for a month over 36 hours, there was a lot of music. One of my picks was this, my favourite find so far of […]

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Labour: dying before our very eyes

December 9, 2016

Another week, another by-election where the Labour Party candidate has seen his vote decrease. This week its Sleaford, where Labour eventually finished fourth behind UKIP and the stirring Lib-Dems. Should those of us on the left be nervous about this? Too right we should. Labour is currently embroiled in a slow and painful descent towards […]

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Can a Democrat be Elected as President in 2020?

December 8, 2016

Last month, the Democrats faced the most unpopular presidential candidate in the last thirty years, and lost. The victory of someone as dangerous as Trump against such an experienced figure as Hillary Clinton, the unexpected nature of the outcome by most commentators and the fact that she won the popular vote by over 2.6m have […]

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#1088: 2016, Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker

December 6, 2016

It seems like years ago since I last posted a song. And, it’s true, in that time, much seems to have happened, and most of it seems to have been bad. One of the worst things has been the death of Leonard Cohen – one of the true giants, a poet, a musician, a legend, […]

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Speeding Down To Trump-ton

December 3, 2016

We are only 48 days away from the beginning of the Presidency of Donald Trump. For me the very idea still seems so absurd as to be almost conceptually impossible. How could any electorate vote for someone so singularly ill-suited for office? But as every day goes by with more freak show appointments from the […]

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#1087: 1978, Kate Bush, The Man With The Child In His Eyes

December 2, 2016

2016 really has been a godawful year in so many ways.   Perhaps the winner of the ‘worst year since the Second World War’ competition.  Politically – Brexit, Trump, the Labour Party descending into an unelectable leftist cult, the rise and rise of Marine Le Pen in France.  Artistically – the deaths of David Bowie, […]

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