Politicians play – while we burn

15 Oct

The last two weeks have seen Cabinet Ministers demonstrate a total lack of  know-how or seriousness about government – their complacency while ‘Rome Burns’ is amazing,  but perhaps not surprising given that many ministers appear not to care about governance and believe that not caring about how government works  is positively cool.

I cannot believe that Oliver Letwin is so blase about government that he strolls through St James and dumps letters from constituents into a park bin, while Andrew Lansley appears to have not noticed that years of dieting have not reduced obesity,- or that Liam Fox did not think that perhaps having his best friend, with interests in the arms trade, at almost all official meetings with no civil servant present was not good governance. It is not only Boris that is bonkers.

All a time when we have experiencing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and people ( especially women)  are losing their jobs, pensions and the possibility of work because the country’s debt has soared  largely because of a lack of governance over the finance and banking sector. The attitude to being in government by many ministers seems childish and a bit like they are still playing in the playground.

The country might have rejected Brown for a failure ‘to appeal ‘and to stop micro-management, but there are few people in the regions who gave the Coalition  a mandate for  complacent government and most are desparate for good governance. Unfortunately, in spite of Austerity there is little political leadership, rather the old see-saw politics, that lurchs the country from mild statism to ‘no- government all ‘. Being in Coalition is not initself a new way of governing.

Cameron is totally right not to listen to his own Party – but he seems to be overseeing a group of ministers who perpetuate a rich, public school boy culture who appear to think that ‘being attractive to the public is about being nonchalent,  uninterested in ideas and casual about how to run the country.  It is clear there is an interest in learning from Tony Blair’s diaries about how to remain in office. so lets have an equivalent interest in how to support innovative government.

Innovative government seems to only concern the size of government,   policy-makers have entrenched and are not asking the difficult questions, removing ‘red tape’ is not a bad thing,  but hardly a policy if new forms of more open and inclusive governance are not being developed.  While they continue to be bypassed as dinasaurs some locality leaders ( across Party lines) are exploring how they can better work with business etc – but not at any price, new governance requires mutual adjustement on all sides. I am working with a number of places where creative leaders are attempting to break out of both tribal politics and sector silos, particularly with those in Yorkshire with Local Government Yorkshire and Humber where there is a tradition of leadership innnovation. Their public innovation awards will be announced on the 17th November – and they get better every year.

Innovation is about connections between people, collaborative and exchange in any sector – good governance is about creating the mechanisms whereby creative new firms and public services have access the markets. Government can do something about this – but no-one is talking about it.

On Friday 21st October we are having a Roundtable on Innovation and Public Procurement and will post interesting feedback from the MBS research, public procurers, businesses large and small and the Cabinet-Office.


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