Stand and Deliver: A Design for Successful Government by Ed Straw
|Stand and Deliver: A Design for Successful Government by Ed Straw|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Fed up with politics? Check. Contemptuous of politicans? Check. Think the civil servants and policy wonks are living in an alternate universe? Check. Ed Straw's Treaty for Government proposes a complete redesign of the way we organise our governance. Dense but accessible, it contains a lot of common sense and a welcome dollop of optimism. Ed Straw popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 266||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: Treaty for Government|
|External links: Author's website|
Confidence in politicians is at an all-time low. In fact, an alarming number of Britons express outright contempt, not just for their leaders, but for the entire political class - for the politicans themselves, for the civil servants standing behind them, even for the Westminster bubble of commentators and policy wonks. We vote for them in ever-decreasing numbers and even those who continue to vote often do not feel represented. Worse still, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be politically disengaged. We're in danger of losing an entire generation from the political process. How can this be good for a democracy?
Ed Straw wades into this debate with Stand and Deliver. While other prescriptions for our political malaise are largely political - Let's have more elections! Police commissioners! Mayors! More referenda! More localism! A recall law! - Straw's premise is that it's the system itself that needs changing. It's the organisation of government itself that's dysfunctional. And so he presents his Treaty for Government which aims to address anachronistic governmental institutions, which were never designed to work in a global environment or to administer large public sectors and which therefore fail in policy, delivery, and accountability.
I hope I'm not losing you. I wanted to write this review in clear and plain English. It would be a shame if Straw's book was only read by policy wonks and political commentators. An irony, even. And there is a great deal for the lay reader to digest, I won't mislead you. But you should read it, even if you do see yourself as one of the disaffected. Stand and Deliver is dense in that it is packed with detail, but it is also interesting and accessible.
For example, Straw thinks government should be by results. That sounds like a silly soundbite, right? But really, it isn't. We need an open and objective feedback system, monitoring the costs and success of everything government does. My goodness, how revolutionary, you might say. But really, isn't this what organisations should do? Why should governments be able to wait for elections every five years to receive judgement from an overly-spun, underinformed electorate? If a policy isn't working as intended, why isn't it simply abandoned right away? Straw thinks the House of Lords - a newly effective "resulture" - could do this.
This is just one idea in Straw's Treaty. There are many more: limited terms of office, specialist civil servants replacing Sir Humphreyism, fair funding of political parties. There isn't the scope to outline them all in a short review of the book. In any case, Straw's argument is that it is possible to build strong public support for massive changes to the system. If that's the case, then you, the public, need to read his book and see if you think it would, could, work. I'm an eternal optimist. I like many of the ideas and I completely accept the initial premise that the current organisation of government promotes not only its dysfunction but also the disengagement of the public.
Something's got to give, right?
Read the book. Or, at the very least, look at the website.
For a more specific critique of government, in particular the Blair years, you could look at A View from the Foothills by Chris Mullin.
Ed Straw was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Stand and Deliver: A Design for Successful Government by Ed Straw at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Stand and Deliver: A Design for Successful Government by Ed Straw at Amazon.com.
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