In the UK we are fast approaching an election period and political parties are coming up with lofty ideas and policies to tempt the electorate to vote for them. It doesn’t seem that long since the last election, and from what I can see, policy thinking does not appear to have moved forward. Same old same old… But what is missing, again, is any sense of what problem the political party is trying to solve and what value the policy will create for the country and its citizens.
Let’s be clear policy pontificating has little to do with reality, it’s merely there to say “look at me I am a complete [please enter your own description]”.
I sense no vision being developed or articulated for the UK. What will, or should, the UK look like, feel like, behave like, perform like in ten and twenty years time? And then from this how will we get there – the strategy. What policies, what laws, what incentives/disincentives and of course what problems need to be solved.
Turning to problem analysis, those of you with a classical training in business will understand my point. Every political party has had its, how can I say, “challenged policies” where for the greatest brains on the planet no one had certainty what problem they were trying to solve and the value it would create. The previous administration had the ID cards: it’s for security, no it is for access to public services; no it is not, it is for students, no it is not, it is for actually all of the above. The current administration had the changes to the NHS, moving a large wad of cash to the frontline and removing all political involvement in the governance of the UK’s biggest public sector beast, and the value created to the tax-payer for this monumental shift, err dunno. What I do know is that I still cannot get an appointment with my GP, but I could probably go and get fertility treatment.
Parliament is no better. When do you actually hear a Minister or an opposition member asking the questions “what problem(s) are we trying to solve”, “what constraints are we having to work to”, “what are the best options to solve the problem(s) in the shortest timeframe for lowest cost and lowest risk”. Without this basic business analysis approach no wonder we spin our wheels addressing things that add no value, and at worse, spend money on doomed initiatives.
As for Parliamentary oversight committees they are fabulous for grandstanding but not much else. Civil servants are trained to give away as little as possible, not to engage in a conversation, claim things have moved on since the audit report, and if you ever get into difficult, just say you will write to the committee chair person – a maximum of 2 hours of pain, job done, career intact.
So in essence we end up with a situation where incoming Governments have a raft of policies that do not seem to solve a problem that anyone is interested in, a Parliament that doesn’t have the skill to effectively challenge the Government and an oversight regime that is ineffective. We should not be surprised that single issue politics engage the electorate (think UKIP) and the mainstream parties continue to scrabble around for sound bites to differentiate their position from the other main parties.
So what should we do? I will give it some thought and come up with some lofty ideas…