So i recently read a piece by Tessa Jowell and something about it has been making me uncomfortable, I am not entirely sure, but it feels to me like a false flag Blairite message. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't reek so much of technocratic double speak with a disturbingly soviet edge to it.
So firstly there are the most piontless statistics in the world, the kind that exist on Open Europe or something, it is very Think Tankish (Not the good kind, the secret PR but masquerading as unbiased type)
"one in four of the voters that Labour lost said they saw government as ‘part of the problem, not the solution"
How does this mean anything at all? I mean Government is the most loose term anyone could use. What are these people? Daily Mail readers angry at Benefit cheats and apparently inefficient public service. Or equally likely they could be talking about police brutality and pointless wars. They could be just thinking about the Expenses scandal and other such occasions that have no indictment to the general functions of our government.
Still, the more important part i think we have is this:
"Government must move away from the ‘delivery state' to what has been called the ‘relational state': committed to developing people's relationships rather than the technocratic language of outputs, targets, and value-for-money."
Now firstly you might think: Ooh thats a lot of lovey dovey wank that will be forgotten the moment they get in. But while you could with confidence say that it sounds to at least in rhetoric come out against the managerial culture, I think it ends out being a lot more insidious.
You see, I think decentralization is overall a good thing, giving experts on local areas a greater say in local matters means a much more accurate approach to local issues, and we should be attempting to find a way to reconcile this with a strong state. I think currently we should be striving for an ideal where the local government aims and the central government shoots in regard to the application of our expenditures.
But i don't think this is what the aim is really for, these are the same people who 13 years ago were talking about bringing private sector rigor to the public sector under the idea of targets and management. These are the same people as then, and I do not think that has changed. What i think is more likely to happen is this will collide with the interests of appearing fiscally responsible and the lack of drive to really undo the target system, and what we will gain instead is a system that will intrude into the home life make some gains, but ultimately cause a very cold, soviet intrusion into the home life, one that won't resolve much, because the finance won't be there, and won't resolve much, because people will be constrained by the targets, and rigid command diktats on interaction.
We already see it now don't we? Ed Miliband has centralized the party amid all the guff about becoming decentralized gutted certain powers and at most opportunities gone for the route that makes him look prudent to the pundit class rather than dedicated to any "More to life than money and stats" ideas his crew espouse. This I wouldn't blame on him but of the general modern management of policy ideas - Think Tanks are the problem here, not all mind you, but many of the recently designed Tanks are not operations to develop new ideas, but are at best designed as PR machines that crank out a lot of pointless stats to support their sectional interests, and at worst actively prevent ideas that cannot be easily quantified.
This is ultimately the problem with so many policies to date, if it cannot be quantified it has no value, and while empirical evidence is of course a useful tool, it gives little room for originality in policy debates, also, basing policy on such foundations make it almost impossible to revoke systems of bureaucratic control because firstly comes the belief that everything can be planned out and secondly because to the letter bureaucracy makes keeping account of statistics very easy.
The biggest problem in all this is that i think that Labour has truly been taken in by the idea of a self sustaining system of the market, i think they have fallen for Hayek without realizing it. The entire system is not about liberty though it (as he) often espouses freedom,and that people fundamentally knowing exactly what is best for them, if only subconsciously (They don't, i certainly don't and even experts that can help you on particular issues don't on many others) But this is really just another means of control, it fixes this world is stone, and deals a very very cruel blow to anyone who is unhappy with their existence.
Labour believes in this self balancing system, they wouldn't have ceded power to the central bank if they didn't, they wouldn't have instituted managerial in the first place if they didn't. They still do now, because they are still practicing the same politics, hiding behind stats and polls dreamed up by PR machines and stating they are acting on behalf of the people's will. There has been no grand gesture yet that we are truly moving to an age of genuine decentralization and empathy from the state, oh sure lip service has gone on, but that's all, some early speeches and a toothless Refounding Labour operation while Ed Miliband attempts to gut independents power in an attempt to better cement his leadership, rather than say unify the Left under a well constructed theory on what society should be, rather there has been almost no backbite to the Tories, no grand design.
Now, it is still early in the game. I won't say that a capacity for genuine change does not exist. But if change for the better is to come it cannot be at the tools of the past. We need to gut the Blairites and purge the party of number crunching busy bodies, and get back to deciding policy in the old style of debate and grand ideas. Sure, we may not win the next election on this, but if we don't i think we will loose the next few after this, and we won't achieve anything with the Pyrrhic victory we would win there after exhausting all our political capital. If we can get out of this technocratic culture then Labour might at least start being able to come up with grand new ideas, without getting stuck in the mire of juked stats that pervade the political class today. If we don't change how we fundamentally create our ideas then any aspirations for radical change we might have will become bogged down by Technocratic practicality.