Archive for September, 2011

Primary colours: Should parties open up candidate selection to the public?

, 29 September 2011

This Tuesday in Liverpool, a roomful of Labour MPs, councillors and party activists discussed whether the party should introduce primary elections for the selection of candidates for parliament or other posts such as elected mayors. Primary elections have been used in the USA for decades, but until recently political parties in the UK have...

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Pass the parcel (or The buck stops where?)

, 27 September 2011

Government accountability for policy mistakes rests on a series of ambiguities which can too easily turn into ‘who, not me’ evasions. Among many other lessons, the Public Accounts Committee’s damning report on the £469 million (minimum) waste on the now abandoned FiReControl project exposes one of the inherent flaws in the auditing of large-scale...

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Putting out the FiRe

, 22 September 2011

Back in 2004, the Government decided to replace the control room functions of 46 local Fire and Rescue Services in England with a network of nine purpose-built regional control centres using a national computer system. Their intention was to ensure that the IT and other communications systems could be better co-ordinated at times of...

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Barriers to entry

, 20 September 2011

Speaking on Saturday at an Institute for Government event co-hosted with CentreForum at the Liberal Democrat annual conference, party chairman Tim Farron declared that the party had “failed” on diversity. At present, the Liberal Democrats have just 7 women MPs (this fell from 10 in 2010), and all 57 of the party’s MPs are...

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We need to talk about…. taxes

, 16 September 2011

Speaking at the launch of the Mirrlees report, this week, IFS Director Paul Johnson mused on the fact that we had strategies for education, for health, indeed for much of public spending – but no British government had ever seen the need to produce a tax strategy. Tax matters. Not only do we need...

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, 13 September 2011

E-petitions allow voters to raise issues which they believe politicians should consider. They are agenda setting, but, unlike a referendum or a plebiscite, they are not meant to decide policy. They represent a marriage of direct and representative democracy. The problem is that the terms of the marriage are unclear. What happens when a...

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Masters of the universe

, 6 September 2011

Most politicians’ books on policy tend to be predictable – particularly when written by ambitious young MPs with an eye on office like Tories’ Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi. Yet their account of the financial crisis, ‘Masters of Nothing: How the Crash Will Happen Again Unless We Understand Human Nature’, has many unexpected insights...

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Science lessons

, 5 September 2011

When Galileo first turned his telescope on Saturn he sent his scientific rivals information on his new discovery in the form of an anagram.  That was the dissemination norm in the seventeenth century – it enabled the discoverer to lay claim to the new finding – without letting rivals in too soon.  Scientists were...

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Why I Wrote to Eric Pickles

, 1 September 2011

Over the last year I have travelled around England’s greatest cities talking to more than sixty five business and voluntary sector leaders, local authority chief executives, journalists and councillors. The picture of city governance I have bought back is decidedly mixed; ranging from ambitious and strategic leadership to chaos and stagnation. Everywhere there was...

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