Thursday, 19 November 2009

Passing laws to solve problems

'Legislation will be brought forward to halve the deficit,' the Queen was obliged to say in her speech from the throne yesterday. There will also be legislation to abolish child poverty by 2020, as if that could be done by a stroke of the pen.

Any political scientist knows that it is very easy to set up a legislative factory churning out meaningless pieces of legislation. What matters is whether the legislation can be implemented and enforced and that depends in turn on a willingness to comply and, above all, sufficient resources. Nick Clegg had a point when he said that legislation was like a comfort blanket for Labour.

At the moment there seems to be little appetite to tackle the deficit with Ed Balls reportedly calling for spending on schools to be protected. That would mean that if the NHS was also protected, other programmes would have to be cut by 20 per cent. None of the proposals put forward by the Government yesterday seemed to have any hard numbers attached to them.

Having said that, civil society is probably too weak and uncoordinated to take the strain of service provision that David Cameron would like it to bear.

At some point reality will cut in, but not during a protracted election campaign which we now face.

1 comment:

Rich Green said...

David Cameron's response to the Queen's speech seemed to suggest he had the same views about legislating:

"One strange thing about David Cameron's response was, while challenging the government over the symbolism and politics of some of the proposed Bills, he also argued for more of them.

Cameron said that what was most striking about the Queen's speech was the legislation that was missing.

"Where is the immigration bill?" he asked and where was legislation to fulfill government commitments on directly elected police representatives.

He added: "The NHS – not a mention. Not government's priority?

Perhaps demonstrating why no modern government is ever likely to kick the habit of showing what it cares about by legislating about it.