One of the many abuses of the English language in mainstream political parlance is the denigration of ideology. Defending his government’s cuts to public spending, David Cameron wrote in 2011 that: This is a government led by people with a practical desire to sort out this country’s problems, not by ideology. More recently, Nick Clegg attacked Michael Gove’s education policies as ideological, reportedly saying: Parents don’t want ideology to get in the way of their children’s education In fact, Nick Clegg really appears to have it in for ideology because he attacks it all the time. He said a couple of weeks ago: I don’t take an ideological approach to public spending. But it isn’t just our dear leaders trying to avoid the whiff of ideology. You hear it all the time – the Government’s cuts are “ideological” (i.e. bad), the Green Party’s opposition to nuclear is “ideological” (i.e. invalid).…

Read More A defence of ideology

Following my previous blog post about the Young Greens and lots of discussion with friends and fellow party members, I want to set out clearly why ecology defines my philosophical basis rather than social and environmental justice.

To avoid misunderstandings from the outset, I think social and environmental justice are important, but they don’t define my political philosophy.

The new philosophical basis of the Green Party says:

A system based on inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet on which we depend, and encouraging reckless and environmentally damaging consumerism…. The Green Party is a party of social and environmental justice, which supports a radical transformation of society for the benefit of all, and for the planet as a whole.

This sounds great! What could be wrong with that? I hope I might persuade you why I don’t think it is quite right, or at least encourage more thought and debate about political philosophy and the precise meaning of different terms. Read More My politics of ecology and justice

This is the first of perhaps two or three short essays inspired by Emer Coleman‘s masters dissertation on open data, written in a personal capacity and not as part of my job. In this post I want to look at what her proposed model of “iterative and adaptive open government” would mean for scrutiny of the Mayor of London. Her dissertation considers the difference between the New Public Management approach, characterised by public managers setting the goals and other public managers auditing their performance, and an emerging “Open Governance” approach using open data.

Read More Open scrutiny in the age of open data

It’s unhappily easy for our earnest efforts to fall on deaf ears, especially if (like me) you’re a bit of an egg-head. It would be lovely if people listened attentively to our reasoned arguments, but any academic psychologist could tell you it ain’t so. The Bad Science movement has roundly bashed the media for dangerously misrepresenting science. Ben Goldacre angrily lays blame at the feet of humanities graduates (like me?) who write and make editorial decisions about scientific subjects without any understanding of the subject or even getting the basics of the scientific method. Just recently we have seen climate scientists have their names dragged through the mud by, er, journalists and editors who obviously don’t realise how much of a non-scandal “Climate Gate” really was. So do we fight back with Goldacre-style condescension, taking the arguments to pieces and shouting at humanities graduates like me? That probably won’t get…

Read More Don’t be such a scientist

How can we tell a simple, persuasive story about Green housing policy? Tom Hill sent me this challenging article about the US Democrats’ recent failure to turn solid facts into folksy stories, reminiscent of George Lakoff’s past work on their failure to frame issues correctly (read this and this). I’ve been doing some work recently on the Green story about the recession, and what the Mayor of London should do in response. A big part of this is the Green story on housing, since the housing bubble is both a structural weakness in our economy and a negative consequence for the majority of people for whom it is far too expensive. Jenny Jones has recently published a great report explaining the downside of the story, and we’re working together on a follow-up describing a range of rather complex solutions. So how can we tell our positive story on housing in…

Read More Telling the Green story on housing

As long as the Democrats talked within Republican frames like “tax relief”, they always lost the argument. So why are Labour taking on Tory economic narratives during their party season? They’re handing the election to Cameron on a plate. The first narrative is that we need to cut public expenditure to save the deficit and curb the national debt. Except that our national debt is much lower than most developed economies, and is projected to stay that way. Our deficit is large, but Cameron’s criticism of any fiscal stimulus would only have landed us in a bigger hole with more unemployment and smaller tax receipts; perhaps even a depression. The second is that the public sector is an unproductive drag on the economy, and should be the focus of cuts. Except that the public sector injects stable spending power into the economy; provides the infrastructure and services that business can’t…

Read More Don’t let the Tories get away with it