Ken – speaking his mind

Iain Dale has a roustabout interview with Ken Livingstone. Here’s a snippet:

“…although there will be mistakes, a real, massive devolution would start bringing good people back into local government, but there’s got to be financial change as well. 97 per cent of all tax collected in Britain is collected by Gordon Brown. When I told the Mayor of Moscow that he said: “That’s worse than Russia under Stalin”.”

The whole thing is nice astringent stuff – well worth a read. (Hat Tip: Andy Sawford)

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A local and republican 2009?

I’m never sure whether think-pieces work when the audience is on holiday. Personally, the old adage about getting a busy person to help when you need something doing can be adapted here: If you want to get people’s attention with a new idea, don’t pick a time when they are relaxing to pitch it. If it’s a good-un, it will cut through the clutter of a busy week-day.

Others don’t share my view though, and a few bloggers have clearly chosen the Christmas period to hit ‘publish’ on a few things that have been in their drafts folder for a while.

Here’s Podnosh asking why government doesn’t have reservists?

Here’s Read-Write-Web with what is (for me, anyway) a very optimistic post about re-localisation.

“In Web 1.0, these local businesses were viewed as roadkill. Everything would be ordered online and delivered by air and trucks from giant automated warehouses. Oops, lousy economics; plus increasing consumer push-back. So now Web 2.0 start-ups want to “partner” with these local businesses.”

And finally, RSA chief and former Downing St insider Matthew Taylor here outlines what he believes to be an opportunity for a new progressivism.

“This period was superseded by the long era of dominant individualism which may finally have come to an end with the credit crunch and subsequent downturn. Individualism fostered a remarkable era of innovation and freedom but was already subject to powerful critiques, especially from egalitarians emphasising growing inequality, high levels of social and individual pathology and, most of all, the dangers of climate change.”

He promises to flesh it out a good deal in 2009.

How can politicians resist the pressures that stop them from governing well?

This time last year, Sir Christopher Foster – a long-standing government adviser on economic policy was much in evidence. There was this interview in the Telegraph, and I heard him on BBC Radio 4. The link to the programme is no longer available, but I made notes at the time. The Telegraph piece makes some very good points about micro-management, but this bit stood out in the radio programme.

Foster offered a familiar list of problems: They were … (and I paraphrase)…

  • too many initiatives,
  • too many reorganisations,
  • not enough planning,
  • many more pieces of legislation.
  • too much micro-managing by politicians,
  • the overconfidence of politicians in their own abilities

… and of course, the relationship with the media.

And that’s all well and good. But – again – why do politicians feel the need to constantly try new initiatives? Generally, if they aren’t being seen to over-react to almost everything, they can expect a well-organised personal campaign against them from any one of a few thousand professional pressure groups.

An unwillingness to either comply – or loudly denounce – any one of these initiatives – will rapidly result in that career-ending verdict: ‘Out of touch.’

And should the relatively small cadre of ministers in central government really be spending longer planning for difficulties? Surely, that’s what the professionals in Whitehall are for?

Certainly, it seems that the people that become MPs are often puzzled spectators on the whole question of public administration. They often seem to lack the basic grounding in good governance, and are prepared to be bullied by their party whips into a spiral of short-termism. They have no idea about how to get government departments to do what they are supposed to. Continue reading