Friday, 22 February 2008

Tedious political pointscoring

Here's a knotty question: is it better for government to be rapidly decisive, or to review its policies in depth before committing to action? It's a difficult one to get right, as witness the following two criticisms of the government. First, the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition gives us a stirring call to action:

Mr. Cameron: When will the Prime Minister understand that it is not reviews but decisions that people want?

Secondly, no less a person than the Shadow Chancellor demonstrates his own preferred means of policy formulation:

Former chancellor Lord Howe is to lead a review of taxation policy for the Conservative Party.

To be honest though, this isn't really this week's news, because the review was launched in 2006:

"Second, I am very attracted to the proposals in the Report to change for good the way tax law is made in this country. I have sat on Finance Committees and watched in dismay as this Treasury produces hasty and ill-thought-out changes to our tax code that then pass into law with little consultation and no scrutiny. That has to change. I am minded to accept the recommendations in this area. The distinguished former Chancellor, and chair of the Tax Law Rewrite Project, Geoffrey Howe has agreed to head a small group that will produce a detailed implementation plan - and I am most grateful to him for that."

George Osborne, Tax Reform Commission Report Launch, 19 October 2006

So, do the people want reviews or not? Difficult to say, clearly, but let's hope so:

"Soon after becoming Tory leader in December 2005, David Cameron announced that he would be setting up policy review groups covering six areas to help the party produce its next manifesto. None of the groups' recommendations are binding on the leadership. This week's [13 Sept 2007] environment group is the final one to report back."

Apparently, some Labour supporters have been heard to mutter that there'd be nothing wrong with a short term in Opposition. They're wrong, but faced so often with the temptation of being able to say any bloody thing without fear of consequence, can you really blame them?

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