Wednesday 27 April 2011

What's the big idea #2

From much of what Labour has had to say during this election campaign, one could be forgiven for thinking that their biggest idea is that they are ‘not-the-Tories’.  Perhaps that’s an unfair understatement – they are really claiming to be more ‘not-the-Tories’ than anyone else.  It may well help them to win the election, so I can’t really blame them for using that line.
Their manifesto however is a little more positive than that, if one gets away from the simplistic sloganising of Peter Hain.
The theme is all about delivery.  It chimes with the speech which Carwyn Jones made at Labour’s Conference – we’ve spent enough time writing strategies, now it’s time to implement some of them.  There’s a lot to be said for being that honest about their intentions, and not encouraging us to expect a lot of originality in government, just a government that will get on with things.
It does though mean that their key positive message is much the same as that of the Lib Dems – it amounts to a claim that Labour can manage Wales better than the others.  But is it any more credible?


Peter D Cox said...

As a one-time management consultant I have mixed feelings about management governments. And my first lesson in good management is not to have a strategy, let alone plans, without having a clear vision - a distinction that you've been trying to clarify for us for some time.

As a life-time socialist (though no longer a party member, of any party) I have been able to match polices - and the strategies and plans for achieving them, against a pretty crude vision of where I would like to be - and the rest of society too (that's the 'socialist bit).

If you want to claim good government as merely good management you need to define rather precisely (too precisely for my liking even as a consultant) the 'outcomes'. That leaves little space for dealing with Macmillan's 'events, dear boy, events'. Or for opportunities that situations present - like global warming for example which Wales could exploit.

Being very clear about a vision means enabling followers to implement without too much direct control (yes, even civil servants who can do it all quite well if left alone) and even common ownership.

So, usual question: not where are the policies? But, what are the visions?

Democritus said...

Seems we are returning to the situation recorded by the good Petrochius in his 'Secret History' of the politics of Byzantium. We have a green party and a blkue party each of whom occassionally alternate and strive to outdo each other in venality and corruption. No wonder decent and moderately idealistic folk like yourself are disgusted by the whole sorry mess.

John Dixon said...


I concur with your conclusion.

I think that many confuse three different things - a boss, a manager, and a leader. Bosses give instructions and underlings follow them, and managers supervise and control. But leaders set out a vision, persuade people to support it, and allow a degree of freedom. They don't need to micro-manage, because people are bought-in to the wider vision.

The belief that the answer to all problems is to give tighter instructions, or carry out more audits, or pass new laws seems to be rife amongst politicians (and, I'm tempted to add, amongst failed businesses - the parallel should be clear). In fairness, a blame culture in public services also seems to lead to a mentality where a lot of people want clear orders to be able to follow (or rather that they can subsequently show themselves to have been following).

It will not be easy to break out of that culture - but it certainly won't happen whilst the competition is largely about who can manage the tightest ship.