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Missions, promises, pledges and polls
plus the psychology of money and turnips (sorry)
This week YouGov reported that 50% of UK voters want a Labour government. That’s quite a moment.
It reminded me of photocopying private polling for Neil Kinnock’s Campaign Management Team that put the Tories on this symbolically significant figure on the first day of the 1987 election. It was considered so damaging that I had to collect the papers at the end of the meeting and shred them!
It was a good week for Keir Starmer to launch Labour’s opening bid for General Election glory. Keir has put us all on a mission, or rather five missions.
The word ‘mission’ created a media story. Suspicious journalists pontificated whether a mission held less value than a ‘promise’ or a ‘pledge’. It would have sent my blood pressure through the roof if I’d had to answer all the questions about this, and it reminded me why I am very relieved to be in the gentle backwaters of the Lords, not the stormy waters of the Commons.
In case you haven’t seen them, here are the five missions:
Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 – making everyone better off.
Build an NHS fit for the future – reforming health and care services to speed up treatment and cut health inequalities.
Make Britain’s streets safe – reforming police and criminal justice systems, tackling crime earlier, addressing violence against women and girls.
Break down the barriers to opportunity – reforming childcare and education, preparing young people for work and for life.
Make Britain a clean energy superpower, with 100% clean energy by 2030
The obvious thing to say about these ‘missions’ is that you can’t hide from Mission One and Five. Keir will be judged on these targets, and they have measurable outcomes. Labour will map out Missions Two, Three, and Four in the months ahead.
You can decide what you think about the pledges, sorry, missions, but I’ll share my insight on what it means internally for Labour’s team of frontbenchers.
Going for growth
Firstly it gives Rachel Reeves a big stick to use when considering all future policy pledges. Labour is going for growth, and all new social policies will be tested against this target. This test is good news for all new policies where you can measure an economic outcome, things like apprenticeships, R&D tax credits and workplace public health campaigns. All policies that allow an economist to model a financial result will be in good shape.
Getting a grip on delivery
One of my frustrations with Boris Johnson is that he isn’t remotely interested in delivery.* Prime Ministers have to be big picture most of the time, but they have to take some interest in output.
Sitting behind Labour’s ‘missions’ document is a section on ‘organising government around a shared vision.’ As a former Minister for the Civil Service, this rather dull paragraph jumped off the page at me:
“This could mean new structures and ways of working to facilitate collaboration, including replacing some of the cabinet committees with new delivery focused cross-cutting mission boards.”
This commitment means that Keir’s Number 10 will shake up the traditional cabinet committee structures, replacing them with project delivery teams led by ministers. It’s harder to do this than it looks, but if Keir can pull this off, it will mean ministers are held to account for operational delivery. I’m keen on this as, during the Labour years, I saw several absolute bullshitters make a speech, change a policy and then forget all about it.
Be in no doubt that we are now, and for at least the next 16 months, in full-on general election mode. Is it all worth it, or do you know what you will do already? Here’s an entirely unscientific poll for our growing community.
I barely write about politics any more, but the recent survey of readers suggested you want me to. Let me know if you get bored with this stuff.
*I’m talking in the first person about Boris because I do not think his Prime Ministerial ambitions are over.
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Tomatoes aren’t a proper British fruit anyway
I’ve been talking to my mum about her memories of rationing and the first tomatoes of the season appearing. She thinks it was May. It’s funny that my kids think you can buy a tomato when you fancy one, or at least they used to think that until this week when apparently, we’ve run out.
Don’t mention Brexit
Therese Coffey broke a golden rule this week by allowing the nation to discuss turnips. Inevitably, there is now a shortage. I imagine the Rees-Mogg family joyously gorging on venison and turnips for Sunday lunch.
Last week I mentioned the list of words that politicians should avoid, such as ‘nazis’. I’m adding ‘turnip’ to the list.
The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. There are some absolute nuggets in this book that I hope to persuade my children to read. The author is interviewed by Prof G on his podcast this week.
Overlord. D-Day and the Battle for Normandy 1944, by Max Hastings. Is it 40 years since he wrote this work that reassessed the most decisive battle of World War 2?
Long Covid now looks like a neurological disease in Scientific American. It never stops, but this is an important story.
Breaking my rule about Nazis, but there’s a great piece on their portrayal in film this week in. Think of Andor as Occupied France, etc.
The Real Black Mirror from. I'm told that the exec team at Alphabet are in absolute meltdown about the Bing purchase of ChatGPT. This disturbing piece will probably not allay their fears, but I'm unsure if Google has too much to worry about for the next few months.