Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Democracy, decency and devolution - speech by Tessa Jowell mayoral candidate for London

I don't agree with this speech but here is the full text. I've added some graffiti below it
and a related rant on another site that says you can feel sorry for MPs but assembly members are shit

Democracy, decency, and devolution
Inaugural lecture delivered by Dame Tessa Jowell MP on her appointment as Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics - Monday 8th December 2014

It is my great pleasure to have become a Professor of Practice at LSE.
I hope that in this inaugural lecture I can apply my experience of 38 years as an elected representative to respect both my hosts – LSE Cities and the Department of Government.
I have fought 12 elections and may just have 1 or 2 left in me!

2. In this lecture, under the themes of democracy, decency and devolution, I want to talk about the rupture between the public and politics, and the chronic dissatisfaction with the actions of government, with the resultant sense of alienation; but also how there is one more important preposition to add to Abraham Lincoln’s exhortation of ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’; and that is,
government with the people.

3. Trust in politics, politicians and the governing is at rock bottom;

and there is cynicism, suspicion about motive and a feeling that most politicians live in a world different from everybody else. It’s open season on politics and politicians. But in praise of representation, the sacred bond between the elected and those that they serve, I say this – that in 23 years as a Member of Parliament I have never walked through the Central Lobby or into the Chamber of the House of Commons without a sense of awe at the responsibility I hold for the 80, 000 people I represent.

4. It is not always easy,
I am there as their representative and not their delegate and it is a role and function at its best when a thread of engagement with individuals often with unimaginable problems, runs through and links their experience to the big decisions about legislation and policy. What are often derided as the ‘social work functions' of MPs are vital to ensuring the legislation is animated by the ambition, frustration, fortitude and ingenuity of lived lives.

5. There is also vagueness about exactly what a MPs job should be. The balance between
  • local activist,
  • caseworker,
  • legislator
  • campaigner
is undefined. Are MPs too young or too old? Are they less competent if they have not done what are generally regarded as “proper jobs” pre Parliament?

6. While trust in MPs generally remains low, it is trust in ‘Your MP’ that has fallen significantly and fuelled the campaign for recall. That is something we should worry about.

7. So much is focused on the pace of change and the lack of control that people feel over what is happening to them. The fear and insecurity that this creates. The sense that people are on their own. The fracture of the two-party predominance. The end of tribal party loyalty.

8. But in some ways national politics has become more representative over my 38 years. I am especially proud of the way that Labour has promoted women candidates and MPs, including by the once controversial means of all-women shortlists. When I became a Member of Parliament there were more MPs called John or Jonathan than all the women from parties put together. That has changed but changed is too slow and the ease with which Westminster seems disconnected and becomes disconnected from the burning day by day concerns of those we represent is one of the biggest contemporary challenges of our parliamentary democracy.

9. At the same time it is important not to overdramatise the position: in the 1970s election the turnout was 72%; in 2010 it was 65% - a decline, but not a collapse. The turnout in the recent Scottish referendum was 85%. More worrying is the decline in participation among younger voters - only 44% of 18-24s voted in 2010 - and declining support for the two larger parties, which in 1970 took 90% of the vote but only 65% in 2010. For my party, and the Conservatives, there is a massive challenge to continuing being parties of government while engaging and properly representing the mainstream majority.

10. Of course that sense of connection and relevance to people is important. Often it exists more in unspoken ways than it does in highly publicized intention. ‘Get on and do it’ and then tell people you’ve done it is so much better than heralding intention before anything has changed. Remember the Suffragettes: deeds, not words.

11. I am concerned that more people are entering Parliament without having worked in the world beyond politics. I had a professional career spanning 20 years and I have drawn so heavily on that experience in most of what I have done. The importance of relationships between users of public services and their providers, the small changes that can bring huge benefit to vulnerable people – and I’ll tell you that training and working as a psychiatric social worker there were daily reminders of that - the importance of routines in overseeing the delivery of policy. The speech is itself is not what bring about the change it promises. It is systematic and well planned execution of a plan is. And when I was leading the reorganisation of social care in Birmingham twenty five years ago I learnt most by staying overnight in each and every one of their many residential homes. Nothing experiences policy making better than experiencing in that slightly artificial way how policy making is delivered, and seeing first-hand how the instinctive humanity of residential care staff is sometimes outlawed by the rule book issued by the central department.

12. When I was first elected as a local councillor in 1971 the purpose of politics was to spend money and if you were on the left to spend more money than those on the right, the input invariably more important than what the spending achieved.

13. The amount of money spent was of itself evidence of success. But money was spent and indeed still is on the general presumption that once allocated it will always be needed. This is a pessimistic view about the potential for investment to secure change in people’s circumstances and opportunities, and produces consequent long term waste in securing resources for services which many no longer be as relevant as when they were first identified.

14. The other great failure on those years was what became ‘the producer domination of services’ which left a legacy, which we live with even now, of services organised more for the convenience of those who deliver them than the convenience of those who use them. This is particularly important now that the pattern of people’s working lives has changed so dramatically. Why else, for instance, would libraries not be open routinely on a Sunday? Why would most post offices be closed on Saturday afternoon and Sundays? Why is there so little co-location of post offices, libraries, GPs’ surgeries and schools?

15. Given this background, the first thing to remember is that the purpose of politics, I believe, is to bring about change by getting things done. That requires leadership; the qualities of successful leaders are well documented, but there are others, as well, which have mattered to me during my time in Government:
- Never forgetting the acrid smell of poverty nor what frustrated ambition looks like in the eyes of a young, unemployed person
- Clear values imbedded in every decision
- Understanding that progressive change is dynamic and that, as one goal is realised, another challenging horizon emerges
- The capacity to be empathetic and emotionally intelligent and
- Being able to tolerate discomfort.
- And, as I always felt about Sure Start which I established in Government, not to become transfixed by the bureaucracy and organisation, but always being able to smell the babies.

16. When I look back over the reasons that the Olympic and Paralympic Games became such a hallmark of excellence, I recall the observation attributed to Harry Truman that ‘It is amazing what a small group or people can achieve together if they do not care who gets the credit’. Or, as Margaret Mead put it slightly differently, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.’

17. Building a team which is fit to achieve the task in hand requires strong leadership but also shared success (I would always say to teams I led in Government that everything that goes wrong is my fault but all success is to the team’s credit); you need rigour in selecting the best people but giving them the freedom and confidence to get on with the job in hand.

18. So, how can we add government with the people to the other essentials?

Well, we have to recognise the limits of top-down government and celebrate and encourage the untidiness but often startling effectiveness of local initiative. That principle is subsidiarity – a term often used in connection with the EU, but overlooked in our domestic politics. It involves devolution to the most local available level; that has to be the guiding principle of public policy.

This approach isn’t just a set of policies or tactics, but involves a radical change in the relationship between politicians and people – no longer passive recipients of services, but active agents with control over decisions that directly affect their lives. Our cities, particularly London since the creation of the Mayor and the GLA, have been leading the way, but far more needs to be done. The clich├ęs about the need for a new kind of politics are so tedious because they seldom translate into action – it’s normally no more than a speech followed by short-lived media comment. But the willingness of the public to engage, when the cause is important enough, has been shown to an extraordinary in the Scottish referendum. People knew it was about them and their children, and that is what animated the debate.

19. I will never forget the Games Maker who said to me during the Olympics “You have to understand how much people are prepared to give as long as they’re not doing it because the Government is telling them that they have to.” That neatly explains the failure of the Big Society – a good progressive ambition disastrously presented and executed.

20. This is why the big contemporary question for politicians of the Left is the nature of social democracy in a time of constrained budgets. It is no longer the case that spending in itself is enough to persuade the public of our good intentions. Increasingly, what is done is as important as how it is done. That opens up great scope for creativity and innovation.

21. But back to devolution – there was always a tussle within the New Labour government, which is best summarised as a heart-head tussle - the devolution heart arguing the case with passion – more power to communities and so forth – but the centralising head agonising over the trade-off between localism, the post-code lottery and inequity. It was alright to devolve limited powers to Scotland and more limited powers to Wales and indeed to Local Government. Giving up control is not what most people come into politics for, and that needs to change. ‘Why (as one colleague said) win a General Election only to give away the power you have just won”?

22. If we are to lower the political centre of gravity in this way, we have to confront the post-code issue. It requires the matching of national ambitions to local circumstances, something that can only be done on a case by case basis. Simon Stevens, the new head of NHS England, has intriguingly suggested that the ‘N’ on NHS stands both for national and neighbourhood. There is enormous possibility in that reinvention.

23. The rich inventiveness of local Government is in fact so often under- recognised by media commentators who dance to the Westminster fandango. It’s a curious paradox, isn’t it, that public trust levels are so much higher in local newspapers, local radio and television, but that so much of the focus settles on the inter-relationship between Westminster media and Westminster politicians. Is it any wonder that the public feel so much of the time that they are uninvited eavesdroppers on a private conversation?

24. But if a progressive and successful devolution strategy is to be achieved, new ways of organising the design and delivery of services will need to be created.

25. It so happens that many diligent constituency MPs are outstanding localists, and it is essential to preserve in Government these skills of community connection and of community organisation against the rip-tide of the Westminster and Whitehall currents so that, as leaders, politicians become enablers of more local power and agency.

26. This new way will be articulated by a three-way interaction between responsible businesses, civil society and local government which will maximise the effectiveness of government expenditure at a time of severe financial restraint, which is likely to last for the foreseeable future. A General Election win for Labour will not change this fiscal landscape.

27. First, we have the potential for a concordat between responsible businesses that recognises that social purpose also drives commercial success, creating resilience, and customer and employee loyalty. We see this, for example, in the growing trend for employers, of their own volition but with strong public encouragement, to pay not just the minimum wage but the far more equitable living wage - and the London living wage in London. Decent treatment at work, starting with decent pay, will be at the heart of the new social contract.

28. Secondly and alongside this, we will see stronger civil society bodies and associations sharing in the delivery of services to their local communities. We adopted this approach with the Sure Start Children’s Centres which Labour set up - complementing existing parental and childcare support for vulnerable children, with strong parental involvement in the design of services.

29. The third element is the state, whether national or local government, which is steadily more efficient and more devolved, achieving more for less, transferring more power down to more local tiers of government and promoting stronger collaboration between central and local government. In this collaboration will lie the solution to the large numbers of elderly people who against their own wishes have to stay in hospital because of a failure of imagination and collaboration to arrange for their care at home.

30. Public services will face tough funding reductions whoever wins the next election. The best and most realistic local authorities are already planning on that basis and reconfiguring services – spending less sometimes means doing better and building more value for example through the examples of co-production in Sunderland and Oldham, the tri-borough shared services arrangement in West London or the way in which Lambeth, as one of the co-operative councils, is tendering services to community trusts.

31. There is much about the disciplines and incentives of successful private sector delivery that public services can learn from, but so too is their reciprocal benefit in acquiring the disciplines of transparency, accountability and openness and proportionate reward that are requirements of public service delivery.

32. While the march of New Labour to 13 years in Government after 18 years in Opposition is well documented and well framed by the mantra of ‘the many not the few’, ‘the future not the past’, ‘strong leadership not drift’, the transformation in local Government which has, much more quietly, achieved remarkable successes is much less well documented.

33. A bit of autobiography here and a cautionary tale. I was elected by accident to Camden Council in 1971 (being promised that as a paper candidate there was no chance I would be elected). I then served for 15 years during which, on two occasions, the homes and livelihoods of Camden councillors including me were under threat from the District Auditor.

34. First in defiance of the then Tory Government’s Housing Finance Act that removed local determination of rents from local Government control and second, because in 1979 we set a local minimum income guarantee to reach an end, locally, to the Winter of Discontent dispute. The 80s saw the battle between the social democratic mainstream and ideological hard left of Labour and militant in cities like London, Manchester, Sheffield where every decision was ideologically driven. It was a terrible time and I well remember leaving Council meetings with police protection in the face of the attempt to intimidate me by the hard left minority.

35. The behaviour of those councillors in putting ideology before the delivery of local services meant that Labour was punished for decades. For example, Ted Knight ceased to be Leader of Lambeth Council in 1986 but it wasn’t until 20 years later in the 2006 Local Elections that his name was no longer mentioned as a byword for profligacy, ideology and disregard for local people. That is a salutary reminder of the frailty of
public confidence. The provision of basic services in an efficient way is for any councillor their licence to practise.

36. There is an important and bigger point here, which is about tribalism. Decent local politics tends not to be sharply ideological, but rather grounded in community values and commitment to that community. This requires the Labour Party to reach out beyond its core and embrace people who may not be Labour Party joiners but share Labour’s values.

37. In my own constituency the Labour Party has always been a pre-eminent community organisation and indeed in each General Election, since 2001, more of the volunteer helpers in the campaign were non-party members than paid up card carriers.. A few years ago I was inspired by the work of London Citizens and Arnie Graf of the Industrial Areas Foundation in America to train as a community organiser. We should remember that Labour is best when it represents the mainstream majority, and when its membership also reflects that.

38. This is one of the many reasons that I welcome the decision to select Labour’s candidate for the London Mayoral Election by a primary. Labour supporters for the first time being able to take place in the selection.

39. Devolution will only work if the devolved institutions command public confidence - and aren't seen as imposing new and unwanted tiers of political bureaucracy. There is little public appetite for more politicians!

40. The era of big public authority re-organisation is over, I hope. The agenda, rather, is collaboration between councils in delivering services and the creation and strengthening of city regional authorities to take on strategic functions from Whitehall and Westminster.

41. There is a big debate about devolution to city regions within which the argument for more powers for the London Mayor and London Assembly features strongly. It cannot be right that in circumstances where 18.5% of national economic growth is exported by London to the rest of the country that London Government retains only 7% of the revenue it raises while New York retains over 50%. This must be one of the big negotiations for the next Government. London faces big threats to its status as the number 1 global city – threats that arise from failure to provide enough homes for Londoner to upgrade infrastructure, to match the increased demand of a city of 10 million by 2030.

42. We should be worried by the division of London between the very rich and the welfare dependent or the in-work poor, and the virtual impossibility of the majority of young working people being able to buy a home in London. The tensions are well documented in Deborah Mattinson’s London Thinks study, which most disturbingly underlines the disaffection of 18-35 year olds who are drawn to live in London for work and other reasons but feel on the margin, insecure and pessimistic about their futures. London may be the greatest city on earth but it is not the greatest city to live in if you are young, on a low income.

43. In reviewing the Government of London, it’s important to be clear that London is not claiming, nor should it claim, city state status but greater fiscal autonomy consistent with its interdependency with the rest of the UK. This is one of the many reasons why HS2 is important. Fast easy links with the cities of the West Midlands and North of England will prevent London overheating and promote their economic growth.

44. London is the primary economic generator, but other cities are underperforming with only one apart from London, Bristol, performing above the average national GVA per head. This underperformance arises from underinvestment, hence again the importance of HS2 AND HS3 radically improving the transport links between the cities of the North from Liverpool to Hull as well as their links to the Midlands and London.

45. Further and substantial devolution is straightforward in that it would not require further legislation so it becomes wholly and solely a test of political will. So why not devolve each of the following:
- Funding for further education, skills and apprenticeships which could include the funding for London currently allocated by the Skills Funding Agency and the Education Funding Agency.
- Spending by UK trade and investment.
- Funding for regional growth, economic development and business support which is currently made available to the London Local Enterprise Partnership.
- Commissioning of the Work Programme.

46. It is inconceivable that, by stripping out the layers of bureaucracy which frame the relationship between central Government and the local initiatives exercised under each of these, it would not be possible to win on two fronts – more local determination closer to the communities being served while also saving money.

47. What about the further devolution by the GLA to the boroughs? Here again, the GLA and Boroughs have substantial latitude to exchange functions with one another and the GLA can with consent delegate its responsibilities to London boroughs.

48. London boroughs similarly have the freedom now to exercise their functions by another more local authority. It’s also interesting to consider whether a defined community can assume a power to act for a defined period of time in order to take responsibility for responding to a particular local need. There is essentially nothing to stop this as the law stands. A well organised, geographically defined, group can certainly negotiate with the Borough to take on responsibility for maintaining a local library or park – in my own constituency Lambeth Council is certainly devolving much service delivery in this way.

49. So the key point is that possibilities for further devolution without further legislation already exist.

50. So in considering the future health of London, economic success, a city to which people feel they really belong, there are lessons we must learn from past failure:
- The failure to trust Local Authorities enough to deliver local solutions beyond national prescription and in turn the willingness of Local Authorities to trust local initiative and to engage civil society in the delivery of local life.
- A periodic disregard to what matters most to local residents – you get a long way in local esteem through regular and efficient rubbish collection and clean streets. However when asked what makes them most optimistic about London those sampled by You Gov overwhelmingly referred to London’s culture, their pessimism arose from housing costs and shortages.

51. But in order for devolution to mean anything in practice communities must have freedom to create new institutions which may not necessarily need to be permanent but exist for as long as they are needed for example, a pop- up parish council in order to convene local opinion about a particular local issue, to resolve the issue and implement any consequent action – intermediate organisations specifically focused on the boundary between community organisations and the local council and both these models offer a high level of decentralisation. Only one parish council has been set up in London since 2007. A ready-made format for the most local devolution – why are there not more?

52. The Mayor’s favourite mantra is that London is ‘the greatest city in the world.’ But is it really? It is obviously great for the arts, sport, and most business. But as a place to live and bring up a family? Or as a place to start out as a school leaver with poor qualifications? The tensions are well documented in Deborah Mattinson's London Thinks study. London is great for the uber rich and pretty good for baby boomers, but it's certainly not the greatest place to live if you are a young person with an insecure tenancy in rented accommodation, or trying to start or bring up a family on a modest income. Whether economically, socially or culturally London is two cities, one for the rich and comfortable and another for the poor and insecure.

53. Everything I have said about devolution, and a more active city and local government working in partnership with local people communities, should be focused on building a stronger, fairer, and more affordable London. Let me take two key challenges to exemplify this - housing and childcare.

54. The shortage of homes estimated at 800,000 by 2030 threatens a crisis.

55. Average house prices at £500,000 plus, an extra 4 millions trips on London transport by 2023, childcare which costs 28% more than the rest of the country and keeps mothers at home when for their families they need to be at work, and nearly half of London companies reporting skill shortages. A city bursting out of its capacity.

56. On housing , it is simply not possible to increase dramatically the rate of house building unless local government takes the lead. In London and virtually every other urban area of the country, local authorities are not only the planning authority, they are also the largest landowner and by far the most knowledgeable public authority when it comes to engaging with other public owners of land and with the local holdings of the private house builders.

57. Local government needs to take a far stronger lead, with central government devolving more resources and the Mayor of London, and city regional agencies in other metropolitan areas, working in partnership to put in place the wider infrastructure, particularly transport links, essential to opening new housing zones; starting with those parts of our cities - think Hackney and swathes of east London for starters - which have grossly inadequate transport links to support new housing and community living.
This means Crossrail2 and the Bakerloo line extension, and the need for the next generation of transport in London to be delivered hand in hand with schemes for housing growth and new communities.

58. On childcare the challenge for working parents is to have their children looked after well and safely while they are at work. Childcare for a child under 2 costs £14,000 a year which is why employment among women is low compared to other parts of the country. Also the terrible and life long inequality that opens up for children from disadvantaging families by the time that they are 3. Again solutions can be delivered by co production with parents, very locally. Parents paid the Living Wage by employers who recognize that decency demands that. Through the rationalization of children’s centres to do more in one building and by using and training childminders to provide the essential flexibility that workers need.

59. In conclusion, I have called this lecture, ‘Democracy, devolution and decency’. I have talked mostly about devolution, and only a little about the other two, but I hope it will be clear why. The missing preposition in Lincoln’s stirring summary of good government – the need for politicians at all levels to be with (that is, alongside, among and amidst) the people – is the key to how good government must now be delivered.

60. The growing gap between those who govern and those who elect them – or in increasing numbers, no longer bother with their election – has created this dangerous democratic deficit in Britain. If the people will not come to the politicians, the politicians must come to them; and when that happens, and around the political purpose are gathered the active elements of civil society, good decent business and the ingenuity of local authorities, politics will be seen for what so many of us have always tried to make it: decency in action.

61. Thank you

A video of the speech is on

A transcript of what Tessa Jowell said on Question Time about social care is posted on this blog:

I watched 29 minutes of Tessa Jowell's speech on how to govern. I saw
  • no mention of why the N in NHS is important, why the idea of councils running health is bad
  • nor the concept of Insurance, as in National Insurance

    These are important to making public insurance cheap and accountable.
    You pay-in all your life: you get a pension, or child benefit.
    Nobody has to make a speech, or sell you a policy, so it's cheap.
    Entitlement to a defined budget should be similar in the public and private sector, except that in the public sector it's possible to make everyone eligible. People who are new to a welfare state in Brazil so how much better it is to know what they are entitled to, rather than having odd projects and charities define it.

    I do not want my pension it could be lower in one place than another because of "local people" with their concerns about emptying of bins and street cleaning. Consultation of one person over a lifecycle is opposite to consultation of vocal and local people. When I have dementia, I don't think I will be on the neighbourhood committee deciding how much is spent on dementia care and how much on emptying bins or street cleaning.

    At about 29 minutes Tessa Jowell seems to duck the issue of the crisis in social care by offering more local organisational burden instead of more money, and presenting the decision-makers as somehow the owners of the money that has been paid like an insurance premium throughout a taxpayer's life.

    Jowell's technique seems to be to state contradictory or inane points slowly, like an TV estate agent who says "The property is aging. The rooms are roomy. This is the kitchen", and then when you are half asleep says "it is out of your budget, but perhaps, in a way, it is within your budget". I would not want to be on a committee with Tessa Jowell as part of her tri-partite partnership. It would be impossible to have a good or a clear idea and be someone willing to listen to the ponderous statements of contradictions. I suppose that nobody with a clearer head would have been able to work for Tony Blair.

    One thing I really want to strangle Tessa Jowell for, like most of the political establishment and journalists, is that she is willing to spend money on the Olympics and talk about a lack of money for social care, as though the two budgets were un-related. This is something people have riots about in Brazil. In the UK, I think we ought to have riots. Nor any apology for the Olympics and their false accounting. Jowell even likes to add an emotive note about the looks in the eyes of people who use services, or whatever phrase, to show that she thinks she's one of the decent ones in politics. Then she mentions the Olympics again. What about the service users who looked inter her eyes: shouldn't they be getting the money, not the Olympics? Her argument is  "stuff them", or in her own words, address a "failure of imagination and collaboration to arrange for their care at home"
I was dissapointed, because there was a frank criticism of politics as a job of 
  • making speeches - "tell us when you've done it" is a good response she thinks.
  • spending like father christmas: "the purpose of politics was to spend money and if you were on the left to spend more money than those on the right" with the amount spent a sign of success. She wants to replace that as budgets fall with local father and mother christmases making speeches to each other about efficiency to tri-partite committee members of favoured social enterprises and local people.
I watched part of the speech before getting a chance to read it. It starts at six minutes 22 seconds into the recording. The video speech has an introduction to the speaker before her own introduction to what she's going to say. The first mention of national social care is at about 29 minutes in, proving the sheer expense in time and effort of making decisions by committee. I think she proves her point about more committees being more efficient to be wrong, just in the length of her own speech.

PS: It is illegal to strangle politicians.

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