Sunday, July 4, 2010
UK's new coalition government
I realise that I have said nothing in the last month about the political developments in Britain – the first real peace-time coalition in the UK since the 1920s. What England does (like its football team) is, frankly, of less and less significance to the world. Aggressive, adversarial... choose whatever epithet you like, its systems have been for some time dysfunctional and, increasingly, in bad taste. And the United Kingdom is less and less united – since 1999, the Scottish parliament and devolved government have bucked the English trends both in policy and voting aspects (Labour increased its share of the vote in Scotland in June). The coalition process which UK people are amazed to find themselves with has been the norm in the rest of Europe for the past half-century. London Review of Books issue of 10 June had a good overview of the situation – led by Ross McKibbin’s magisterial piece - http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n11/ross-mckibbin/time-to-repent
So far the focus of the new government has been public spending cuts – and there has been little indication of where the new government stands on the management structures and culture of the public service. New Labour had continued indeed intensified the strange combination of neo-liberalism (marketisation) and of central controls and targets of their predecessors. The results had been widely critiqued – by academics and consultants such as John Seddon http://www.thesystemsthinkingreview.co.uk/
I have already mentioned the detailed critique by Allyson Pollock of how this approach has impacted on the health service. However, none of this critique seems to have found political expression – since New Labour had outflanked the Tories on the right on this (and other) issue. True, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Public Administration had looked at these issues of choice, targets and control – but their various reports lacked rigour.
A quick skim of the UK Think Tanks to see what advice the new coalition is being offered unearthed only one report – The Reform of Government – from the right-wing Policy Exchange. http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/pdfs/TROG.pdf