Viewpoint from Danny Dorling on Inequality and the 1%

Danny Dorling
Danny Dorling

Over the festive period, spare a thought for the 1% lowest earners in the UK. Read on if you care…

The Conservatives won a narrow majority in May 2015. The result shocked a London based commentariat. This was hardly surprising as the Capital swung to Labour and London remains where life’s winners congregate, a place from where losers must be expelled. It was life’s losers who did not turn out to vote for the main alternative on offer, a watered-down version of Conservative austerity being sold to them by Ed Miliband. We were then told that the Labour Party did not appeal enough to those who were aspirational and wanted more, including people who wanted more largely irrespective of who had to have less. But perhaps fear and fantasy greatly appealed too, an eighth of the English electorate voted for the UK Independence party (UKIP).

In Scotland all but three of the constituencies fell to the Scottish National Party (SNP) which now represented as wide a cross-section of society as it is possible to imagine. The former Royal Bank of Scotland oil economist, Alex Salmond became Continue reading

Fire and ashes: success and failure in politics

Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders

By Matthew Flinders. This was originally published on the Oxford University Press blog.

Politics is a worldly art. It is a profession that is founded on the ability to instill hope, convince doubters and unite the disunited – to find simple and pain free solutions to what are in fact complex and painful social challenges. In recent months a small seam of scholarship has emerged that explores public attitudes to politics and politicians through the lens of Daniel Kahneman’s work on behavioral economics and psychology. ‘Think fast’ and the public’s responses are generally aggressive, negative and hopeless; ‘think slow’ and the public’s responses are far more positive, understanding and hopeful. Such findings resonate with my own personal experience and particularly when I founded a “Be Kind to Politicians Party” as part of a project for the BBC and it was amazing how many people I was able to recruit in a fairly short time.

The aim of telling this tale is not to make the reader feel sorry for politicians, or really to defend them or their profession. The ‘aim’ – if there really is one – is to promote the public understanding of political life and to steer it away from over-simplistic representations of sleaze, scandal and self-interest. (P.J. O’Rourke’s Don’t Vote for the Bastards – It Just Encourages Them! suddenly springs to mind.) Continue reading

Governing, governability, the future of the state and other minor issues

Jon Pierre
Jon Pierre

Jon Pierre is Professor of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg and professor of public governance at the Melbourne School of Government, University of Melbourne. He serves on the editorial advisory board of Policy & Politics.

Two recent papers in the October 2015 edition of Policy & Politics  provoked my thinking about governing and governance; Bob Jessop’s “Crises, crisis-management and state restructuring: what future for the state?”, and Allan Cochrane, Bob Colenutt and Martin Field’s “Governing the ungovernable: spatial policy, markets and volume house-building in a growth region”. They did so for quite different reasons. Or so I thought.

The two texts could not be more different in style and presentation. For me, reading Bob Jessop has always been like having a bowl of fettuccine al burro in an Italian restaurant; it is pure delicacy but at the same time so incredibly rich that in order not to choke you have to proceed very slowly. You read a paragraph or even just a sentence (sometimes that can be one and the same thing) and then find yourself forced to sit back to take in and digest Bob’s argument. His analysis covers several discourses and perspectives, then puts a diachronic spin on the analysis and ends up asking Continue reading

Winners and losers in George Osborne’s spending review

by Peter Taylor-Gooby, Professor of Social Policy, University of Kent. This article was originally published on The Conversation

George Osborne
George Osborne

George Osborne always plays the role of the smiling conjurer who pulls the rabbit out of the hat and steals the scene with aplomb. In his 2015 spending review and autumn statement, the surprise announcement was that cuts to tax credit will not be as stringent as expected – although housing benefit claimers are the losers. Concealed within the chancellor’s hat are cuts of more than 50% in grants to local government and tense optimism about the growth, employment and pay forecasts on which everything depends.

The chart below gives the main winners and losers in the spending review over the period up to 2019-20. Cuts are legion. The winners are the big players – the NHS and pensions – both accounting for about a fifth of total spending – which receive real increases of 3 to 4%.

Pensioners will benefit from the transition to the new flat-rate pension from next April onwards, increasing spending in this area by some 4%.

International development has a 21% increase, although some of the new money will be spent to aid security objectives and some in the UK on Syrian refugees. The new Single Intelligence Account for the security Continue reading

The Regulation of Ministerial Appointments and its unintended consequences

Felicity Matthews
by Felicity Matthews

The Cabinet Office is currently undertaking a review of the role and remit of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, which is being conducted by Sir Gerry Grimstone.  As part of this review, in September I presented to the Committee on Standards in Public Life the findings of research conducted by Matthew Flinders and me regarding the UK’s experience of public appointments.

Upon the recommendation of the first Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) was established in 1995 to improve confidence in the system by addressing widespread beliefs that ministerial appointments were not always made on merit.  By closely regulating the appointments within its remit, OCPA sought to ensure that ministerial appointments were made solely on merit, rather than party political loyalties or personal ties.  Indeed, comparative research reveals that the patronage capacities of British ministers are now amongst the lowest in Europe; and that OCPA is an exemplar in terms of promoting probity and integrity.

Nonetheless, whilst the capacity of ministers to intervene in public appointments has been reigned in, the involvement of parliamentarians has expanded through the introduction of pre-appointment scrutiny in 2007; and the relationship Continue reading