Gordon Brown's constitutional tinkering won't restore trust in government

July 04, 2007 11:53 AM

When Ken Clarke's Democracy Taskforce reported recently the TaxPayers' Alliance wrote for ConservativeHome:

"Unmanageable departments combined with inexperienced and short term
leadership produces dismally bad performance. This is what erodes
people’s trust in politics. People are right not to trust the modern
British state to fulfil all of the functions it has assigned to itself
and right to distrust every politician who tells them that it can. If
they really want to rebuild trust in politics the Conservatives will
need to start being honest about the need for genuine decentralisation
and handing real authority back to civil society.


This will mean challenging a few sacred cows. Fundamental reform of
the NHS. Genuine choice in education. Politicians need to get out of
management. They need to accept that their role should be to set high
level policy but leave detailed control of services to experienced
professionals managing decentralised services and responding, as far as
possible, to the priorities of the people."


Gordon Brown's proposals are open to much the same criticisms.  Moving the right to declare war from the Prime Minister (who can be fired by Parliament) to Parliament is to tinker at the edges of a system in need of far deeper change.  Politicians need to stop telling people they can be trusted to administer government departments that no one, let alone someone with as little management experience as the average politician, could run effectively.  Then the public might start to trust them.

When Ken Clarke's Democracy Taskforce reported recently the TaxPayers' Alliance wrote for ConservativeHome:

"Unmanageable departments combined with inexperienced and short term
leadership produces dismally bad performance. This is what erodes
people’s trust in politics. People are right not to trust the modern
British state to fulfil all of the functions it has assigned to itself
and right to distrust every politician who tells them that it can. If
they really want to rebuild trust in politics the Conservatives will
need to start being honest about the need for genuine decentralisation
and handing real authority back to civil society.


This will mean challenging a few sacred cows. Fundamental reform of
the NHS. Genuine choice in education. Politicians need to get out of
management. They need to accept that their role should be to set high
level policy but leave detailed control of services to experienced
professionals managing decentralised services and responding, as far as
possible, to the priorities of the people."


Gordon Brown's proposals are open to much the same criticisms.  Moving the right to declare war from the Prime Minister (who can be fired by Parliament) to Parliament is to tinker at the edges of a system in need of far deeper change.  Politicians need to stop telling people they can be trusted to administer government departments that no one, let alone someone with as little management experience as the average politician, could run effectively.  Then the public might start to trust them.

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