The Long-Term Threat from “Govern Now, Think Later” Politics

For a party that’s had thirteen years to plan its next government (or nearer eighty, in the case of the Lib Dems), this Tory-led administration is incredibly short-sighted. It has rushed headlong into a mass of reorganisations and restructurings which look very badly planned and certainly lacking in democratic mandate. Take the School Sports Partnership, a way of allowing schools to co-operate in providing competitive and social sporting activities for their pupils. Scrap it, said Michael Gove, let Heads decide how to run sports. A stream of Tories lined up to praise this new approach – “free the schools!”, they cried in unison. However, people who actually understand school sports made it clear that without properly funded local organisation, school sport was under threat as Heads were forced to prioritise their spending at a time of limited resources. Which to scrap – the sports and games, of those extra computers or even a new teacher? It’s fairly obvious where the axe would fall.

So Gove relents and performs a u-turn which is indicative of this government’s short-sightedness. Hours of discussion about a new approach to school sports and then a hurried about-face. What a waste of time, effort and resources. A little more thought, a bit more planning and this could have been avoided. It’s vital that Labour portray this u-turn for what it is – poor government, hasty management and wasteful ineptitude.

If it was only school sports which suffered from this “govern first, think later” approach, we perhaps could excuse the coalition. They’re new, after all. However, across the board, the Tory government is rushing through decisions without proper consultation and often against the wishes of those impacted most.

In the NHS, a hugely costly reorganisation has the support of only a minority of GPs, who are now being handed £80bn of commissioning budget. The change will cost around £3bn at a time of falling revenue for the Health Service (ignore the “ring-fenced budget” claims – experts say the NHS needs 3% increases p.a. to simply stand still. It’s getting 0.1%). So why do it? The only groups clamouring for an overall like this are the private health companies who are lining up to provide the commissioning services GPs won’t be able to. Report after report has warned of the risks of the dramatic overhaul in the NHS, particularly when money is tight. But Cameron and Andrew Lansley don’t care. They’ve made a decision and evidence be damned. The difference between this and School Sports Partnerships is that while some kids might get fat with the one change, people might die under the other.

Of course the government don’t want people to die, but the stampede to be the most radical minister in an unelected government is leading to rash decisions which will unquestionably have serious effects on people’s lives. There is a lack of evidence that this is at the forefront of any minister’s mind as he or she lines up the next dramatic shake-up of public services.

Finally we come to the big one. The economy. It’s stalling as the effects of Labour’s stimulus packages wear off. Unemployment is rising and the private sector is failing miserably to fill the gap left by public sector lay-offs, precisely as most serious commentators expected. The only jobs being created are part-time, which provide no security to people and often mean families rely on benefits to achieve a living income. Everything is focused on the deficit. The price of Osborne and Cameron’s blinkered obsession with cutting the public sector to somehow restore economic balance is record-breaking youth and women’s unemployment and, perversely, negligible economic growth.

The short-termism is frightening. Even if the Tories manage to eliminate the deficit in an entirely arbitrary four-year period, what will the consequences of their approach be? We will have a generation of young people trapped in unemployment. A lack of stable communities as people are forced to move around hunting for work. Increasing resentment from those who lose out towards those who seem impervious to the deficit-cutting measures. In short, a much worse country to live in.

For anyone searching for an alternative, look to the post-war period. Despite a deficit and debt which puts the current one in the shade, various post-war administrations managed to invest in huge housing and infrastructure projects and of course, the NHS. Boldness brought great rewards. It’s time for further boldness now. Government should be looking to the horizon and to our future, rather than the present. Of course we must increase efficiency wherever possible and provide the absolute best value for money in our public services, but relentless cuts will hollow out the foundations on which they rely. Once lost, local services will never be recovered.

We should be investing in a genuine green investment bank, with the power to raise funds and independently invest in new technology. Instead we have a fund of £1bn, considered entirely useless by all serious commentators. This country has a proud tradition of pioneering innovation, but short-sightedness from the Treasury is standing in the way of a potentially lucrative new industrial sector. If we don’t seize the initiative, others countries will. We need an active and engaged industrial policy which supports industry, encourages businesses to build links with communities through specialist skills and secure employment and sooner rather than later, the Treasury coffers will feel the benefit.

As for our young people, much better to invest in genuine work placements (such as offered by the now-scrapped Future Jobs Fund) than simply hand out benefits then kick people for not finding jobs which don’t exist. When recovery final does come, how does the country benefit from underskilled and unemployed people, out of touch with work? Pay for jobs and training now and reap the benefits in the future.

The thinking required is joined up. Connect each stage of people’s lives to the next. Attacking Sure Start and removing the element of universality will remove the community cohesion these centres currently provide. I have seen first hand how bringing families from across the community together improves the local area as people recognise they have more in common than they imagined. Turn our schools into a market place of special interest groups and the “sharp-elbowed middle class” and watch as these divisions widen further. I would scrap charitable status for private schools, ease the administrative burden on Heads and work towards a truly comprehensive system where every student has a fair chance, not just those in a position to exploit their time and influence.

Support the Educational Maintenance Allowance which keeps pupils in education and allows them the best chance to achieve. Fund universities properly – we will never be the factory of the world, but we could be its R&D department – in culture, academia and humanities as well as engineering and science. Offer proper alternatives to university too. We should support apprenticeships and training schemes which provide paid employment to young people embarking on a career.

And finally, recognise the importance of a life outside work. Community stability, confidence in the next pay packet, a feeling that work and community are not always separate can rebuild society where too often, poorly paid and part-time jobs for multinational companies leave people feeling undervalued. We shouldn’t be demonising those unable to work, but creating an environment where work is available, properly paid and secure. Then we can tackle the tiny minority who are over reliant on the state.

This comes from a recognition that a divided society is an unhappy society. As bankers waltz on, bonuses in hand, ordinary workers are suffering. A paltry, watered-down bank levy does nothing to ease the sense of unfairness that the economic crisis created. The country cannot tolerate further division between the haves and have-nots. We can’t return to the way things were before. Labour gambled on an asset boom and a drip-down from the financial sector. While the revenue this created rescued our public services, the wider picture was ignored. But what this means is more government spending, not less. But this time, we need to spend to invest in the long-term. Only then will we see a rebalanced economy with stable, fulfilling jobs for everyone. This will bring the deficit down as genuine, secure growth returns to our country. It creates a future full of hope for our children, rather than debt and despair and it shows that while innovation is to be rewarded, greed never should be.

This government shows no signs of looking to the future, only a panicky rush to make changes before public will make it impossible. They may be building for their own futures, but for the rest of us, the outlook is bleak.

1 Comment

Filed under Coalition, Economy, General, Labour Party, Uncategorized

One response to “The Long-Term Threat from “Govern Now, Think Later” Politics

  1. Sean O'Hare

    On the subject of school sports. I often think back to the days when I was made to play rugby, do cross-country running, climb on or jump over things in a gym. All things that I really didn’t want to do, in fact hated doing. I would have much preferred to be in a warm classroom exercising my brain. My school-days would obviously have had much happier if Mr Gove had been education minister. The reason why school sports are supposedly to be a casualty of these so called cuts is that they aren’t an important part of education because they aren’t an academic subject. If kids want to run around, jump, skip, play football or whatever they are quite capable of doing it in the park or recreation ground without a teacher being present at taxpayers expense.

    There are just a few ministers in government with some appreciation of how deep a shit we are in financially and Mr Gove appears to be one of them. Unfortunately he is being undermined by his own leadership at the first sign of a LibDem protest. I can at least agree with Greg that this is a poor government.

    On the subject of the NHS. If I could have all the NI contributions I have paid over the years returned to me, with appropriate levels of interest, I could then afford not to have to rely on this failing institution. I do agree that reorganising the NHS yet again is risky and at best a complete waste of time. Why not just scrap it and either give us our contributions back or get the government to foot the bill at whichever private hospital we decide to check ourselves into? I must add that I have no problem with the treatment I have received on the NHS having suffered a heart attack in 2009 and have nothing but praise and admiration for the medical staff that looked after me. However, I still think that those staff would have been better employed and better paid in a privately run hospital, even if funded from the public purse. There would have been far less parasitic bureaucrats sucking at the teet.

    Of course the government don’t want people to die, but the stampede to be the most radical minister…

    Radical! You must be joking surely? Radical is what we need to get us out of the mire that Labia landed us in. Radical is what we haven’t got. The debt burden is going to overwhelm this country and we will soon be in worse trouble than Ireland. Our grandchildren are not going to thank us for allowing Labia 13 years of profligacy. The dole queues and queues for the soup kitchens will probably get blamed on the Tories and LibDems rather than their predecessors, but it doesn’t really matter because they’re all the same – shysters one an all.

    Thanks to Labia’s stimulus package the pound stirling is now not far off parity with the Euro and still falling against both the Euro and the US Dollar. The BoE doesn’t and will not acknowledge the damage this has done to savers and pensioners and just to bail out banks. The banks should have been allowed to fail and depositors (rather than investors) compensated if necessary. It would have cost far less and the useless brain dead bankers would not have got, nor still be getting, their fat bonuses. The tone of your post seems to be anti-bankers. Do I take it that you weren’t totally in favour of the Brown/Darling solution of bailing them out? If so please tell what you would have done?

    With regard to “short termism” as you call it. As you are a businessman I thought you would perhaps have realised that you can’t go on spending (or investing in Brown’s terminology) using money that you haven’t got. After a while your creditors get twitchy and start to downgrade your credit rating, as they have done with Ireland, until you reach the stage where every credit avenue runs dry. At that stage you have a choice of drastically cutting back (i.e. firing employees) or going bankrupt (i.e. defaulting on loans). Neither are very savoury choices but that is what the Tories were faced with and have spectacularly failed to address.

    We should be investing in a genuine green investment bank

    Oh dear, not you too! Hasn’t anybody pointed out to you that the CAGW scam is over? They have been found out as liars. Very few believe in the Global Warming Religion any more. There was a hidden agenda which has been uncovered and lo and behold it is all about….money. Yes your money and my money to be exact. On the one hand there are the “scientists” who keep on with the pantomime in order to keep their funding going and on the other hand there are the bleeding heart socialists who want to send what little money you and I have left to Africa and other hell holes in the third world. They know full well that it won’t end up helping anyone escape poverty – only commerce can achieve that. They know that it nearly all ends up in the pockets of corrupt government officials, but that doesn’t matter as it makes the socialists feel good and the crooks can trouser even more of our cash.

    I am sympathetic with the greens when it comes to preserving rain forests and generally looking after the environment, but as a breed they must be a bit thick not to recognise that when it comes to CAGW their cause has been hijacked by charlatans. Climategate, Amazongate, Glaciergate! How many more lies need to be uncovered before they acknowledge that there is a something dreadfully wrong with the “science”?

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