Policy is always a choice…

Perhaps I am within a rare category of people who believe that ‘neoliberalism’ has created some positive outcomes for society. I will use a definition of neo-liberalism which is summed up best by the economist Fredrich von Hayek of the Austrian school. His ideology and that of the 1980s mainstream was to abandon Keysianism of the post war era which preached the economics of maximum supply and output through high government taxation and spending. This spiralled out of control in …

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If Medics Treated Patients As Governments Treat the NHS, We’d All Be Dead

Another Secretary of State pushes determinedly, blindly on with NHS reforms, with the notion they alone can solve the great mystery of health. No matter how well intentioned, policy making is doomed to fail as before. I humbly suggest another way. The NHS is now into its 30th year of perpetual reform (perhaps we should hold an anniversary party?). Yet it is still in need of reform. At what point do the politicians wake up and conclude that, in the way …

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“Assembly election campaign characterised by superficial discussions on ‘bread and butter issues’.”

Interesting now that the election is over that suddenly the truth emerges about the DUP and Sinn Fein’s footsie over their joint prepping of the next Programme for Government: yet when I asked Gerry Kelly early on Saturday afternoon he was cagey, to say the least (2-50 in). Excellent from Steven McCaffrey at The Detail, on how this was a choreographed election. It’s worth reading it all, but here’s how he concludes: A critical analysis of Stormont’s last Programme for Government (PfG) …

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#SluggerReport: #AE16 is likely to be transitional rather a transformational election…

It’s been my view from the very start of this election campaign that it would be of very little consequence. The stop-start first nine years of Stormont have been little more than a throat-clearing exercise which its proudest boast is that it didn’t fall down. In preparing my constituency report on East Londonderry, one of the UUP candidates Aaron Callan suggested that whilst this election would not be transformational, it would prove to be transitional. Indeed whilst tribal politics is …

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Abandonment of policy and a growing ‘cult of managerialism’ in education…

Interesting piece by Frank Furedi in the Times Educational Supplement this week. It’s a well-aimed dig at managerialisation within education. It highlights a broader degradation of policy-making in England, courtesy of several generations of activist politicians. Yet some knock-on effects are evident elsewhere too (not least in devolved regions where there’s a dearth of policy innovation so that London-originated fads can get consumed and replicated without a huge amount of added thought. The cult of the leader in school prevalent …

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May’s #AE16 could be a precursor to a more open and competitive contest in 2020…

Apart from in West Belfast, there’s not currently much in the ‘big politics’ column for the elections in May. The Lucid Talk figures are remarkably stable (it’s a relatively stable methodology), which doesn’t suggest there’s any kind of democratic tumult. In unionism, there’s speculation about who’ll get Basil McCrea’s seat, his former partner, John McCallister looks set to be squeezed out in a tough three-way battle for two Unionist quotas in South Down, and in East Londonderry Claire Sugden faces …

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Downgrading policy in politics reduces the chances they will ever be implemented successfully…

As Harry Magee says in the Irish Times Inside Politics email newsletter this morning, are we there yet? The answer is no, no government for the south. Last week was St Patricks holiday, and this week is Easter. The real horse trading will happen after that. Many believe a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail is inevitable. In a time where the populist’s appeal raw emotion, an abundance of opinion and shortage of attention, a long if quiet pre-election delineation …

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Soapbox: Will the SDLP’s Achilles heel be the City that was once its bastion?

Hugh Brown is a Derry based reader, who occasionally writes Soapbox pieces for Slugger. He argues that the Achilles heel of Colum Eastwood speech was that it lacked policy detail and any explanation of where investment money will come from. Following the SDLP AGM in Derry, we are no further forward in what the SDLP tend to do in the run-up to the May election. Colum Eastwood’s demeanour reminded me of the Irish Labour Party before its decimation. His speech …

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Sinn Fein suffering for the want of a visible plan (cunning, or otherwise)?

It’s still not clear who Martin was going to see in Washington, or why he had his picture taken on the wrong side of Pennsylvania Avenue opposite the White House. However at home Brian Feeney is not impressed: …Sinn Féin’s problem is more profound. They’ve lost direction. They’ve forgotten their raison d’etre in the north. Flying to Washington about welfare funding is piddling stuff. No one in the party is articulating how to advance their fundamental aim, Irish unity. Instead there …

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“When it comes to fiscal responsibility, it’s your real future liability and assets that matter…”

So yesterday it was Labour making promises they don’t know they can keep, and today it is the Conservatives taking stale old policies from the 1980s out of the oven and serving them as fresh, leaving the country with a poor politics of small differences. So, on old narratives recycled as new, here’s Outside Left on the illusory comfort of austerity politics: When it comes to fiscal responsibility your paper balance sheet doesn’t really matter, it’s your real future liability and …

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Anger may win elections but it’s useless in effecting change without policy…

Over a week old, but still some of the best advice Enda Kenny will get anywhere in the public domain. The tailend of Tom Kelly’s column from the Irish News: Watching events unfold in Greece and the mass demonstrations of the far left in Madrid, nerves are becoming tetchy in Merrion Street. The Taoiseach is looking less Teflon like every day. He has always been the accidental Taoiseach albeit a lucky one but the forthcoming election will take more than …

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Aggregate spend in Belfast is probably higher than any other UK city

Haven’t got time to unpack this properly, but I think this is important insight from Mike Morrissey on why despite very high funding levels tackling poverty in Northern Ireland is simply not working… Mainstream service spending per head in Northern Ireland is about 20 per cent greater than the UK  while the region has also benefited from special funding from Europe and the US, a significant chunk of which has been targeted at communities in Belfast. The aggregate spend per …

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“It is a hoary old cliché, but anger is not a policy…”

John Walsh in the Irish Examiner warns not so about the rise and rise of populism, but the consequence of the adoption of opportunist tactics by the Irish opposition parties. Interestingly he begins with the populism of early 80s Britain when busting trade unions and a populist sell off of public housing stock he reckons set of a long slow timer for many of the difficulties besetting the UK today… Despite the claims of Gerry Adams and co that they …

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Why both picking popular political battles AND policy matters

listen to ‘Milliband, Roosevelt, the Consumer and the difference between policies and promise’ on Audioboo This is a very short snippet from BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme which involves a discussion of a proposal from Labour’s Ed Miliband to use consumer power to ‘put manners on’ big business when it comes to anti competitive practices (see this excellent Coffee House post by Stewart Wood). By the end it segues into a question of practicability. Steve Richards – one time editor …

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“People are being treated differently in NI because of their sexual orientation & that cannot be acceptable”

After a long period of reflection and internal discussion The Equality Commission today published a policy document on Promoting Sexual Orientation Equality: Priorities and Recommendations. The Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow said: People are being treated differently in Northern Ireland because of their sexual orientation and that cannot be acceptable in the 21st century. In summary, the paper “recommends that legislation should be introduced to permit same sex marriage and adoption and that a ban on blood donations from any group, …

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Britain is, and remains for all the rhetoric of Conservative and Labour, a two nation society…

So Labour is drifting, according to the polls.  The Observer yesterday put some bones on to why that may be happening. Or rather it explained why to some extent there is no real substance to Labour’s UK opposition… Today’s Opinium/Observer poll shows Labour dropping three percentage points from two weeks ago to 36%, taking its lead over the Tories to only seven points. Some senior figures in the party suggest that Labour’s silence for much of the summer is symptomatic of …

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SF adopting the Bertie Ahern ‘whatever you’re having yourself’ approach to policy?

There’s a lot of interesting response to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, but one of the most intriguing was this from Liam Clarke… The snap survey of 50 members, conducted by the ‘Belfast Telegraph’, shows surprisingly sharp divisions on several key issues. On dissidents, a picture emerged that showed grassroots attitudes are not as strongly opposed to such republican terrorism as the party leadership. Party members were asked if an armed campaign was justified while British rule remained. Some 26pc …

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Labour’s policy platform prepped for life in a parallel universe?

Typically perceptive piece from Harry Magee on Labour’s troubles in government in Dublin, which thankfully stays well away from the usual Leinster House gossip shop and who’s angry with whom, dry heaves and the like. He foregrounds the fact that none of the organisations that have set conditions on the repayment of funds are actually equipped to run a country, even a small one like Ireland: The reality is that the troika of international lenders isn’t a think-tank and the …

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Mike Nesbitt vacillating on policy and unionist co-operation over the last twelve months

Modern politicians must sometimes read biographies of past politicians and long to have lived and worked in a world where only major speeches were reported and their every word wasn’t recorded, indexed and placed in the public filing cabinet that is the internet. Here’s a selection of what UUP Mike Nesbitt has been saying about policies and unionist co-operation over the last twelve months. 15 March 2012 – Over the weekend I was reminded that Mike Nesbitt launched his UUP …

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