Speaker’s lecture – a consensus is usually dangerous

 

When the main political parties agree about a policy or approach to a problem, taxpayers should start counting their spoons. Far from  representing some new higher level of democracy, it stifles choice, prevents intellectual challenge to the policy and often ends in expensive tears. Consensus can be a conspiracy against the public or a stitch up  by a professional vested interest.

On Monday I have been asked to give a Speaker’s lecture in the  Speaker’s Dining Room  at the Commons.  One of the issues I want to tackle is the enthusiasm for consensus and the wish to find more and more areas of policy and administration that can be given to experts to decide in place of Parliament and elected Ministers.

The public does sometimes say when  polled they wish the main political parties could get on better together, and work in the public interest. The idea of a finding a common wisdom is attractive. Yet the public speaks with forked tongue on this. When wanting to see Parliament in action, people usually want to see the most party and conflict riven part of the week, Prime Minister’s Questions. There is usually little enthusiasm to sit through a debate on a subject where the main parties all agree.

The same polls that say we want more consensus also can say the public want their MPs to stand up more for them against the government, the very opposite of building consensus around what the government is  doing. One of the privileges of being a democratic politician is you can choose which of the many  and sometimes conflicting views the public holds to advance yourself. Your judgement will then in turn be judged. There is rarely a single overwhelmingly held monolithic public view which you cannot gainsay.

I will explore in the lecture a couple of crucial ideas that have been consensus ones that have gone horribly wrong. The first was the Exchange Rate Mechanism. The second is the idea of an independent Central Bank. which helped give us the massive Boom and Bust of the last decade.

So spare us consensus. Give us choice. Spare us a rush to rely uncritically on external experts. Give us forensic analysis and loads of commonsense. That is what Ministers and MPs are meant to do – to use, criticise and judge external advice, not to give in to one strand of it.

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77 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Indeed when all three parties agree on something it is so often wrong. The state sector (and other close groups) so often move in similar close worlds. They develop a fashionable group think and then anyone not on message becomes a heretic and an enemy. The catholic church on the Sun/Earth movements, the medical profession on breaking the leg of rickets patients or over Puerperal fever. Indeed the medical profession have an appalling history of collective insanity.

    The current lunacies agreed by all the parties are: Climate change exaggerations and the CO2 “pollution” agenda, wind, PV, electric cars (with current technology anyway), the EU, the over regulation and daft employment laws agenda, the all will be equal by government degree even in insurance and pensions, and having a state sector and taxes about twice the size it needs to be, the EURO/ERM.

    I quite like an essay by Freeman Dyson which touches on these issues.
    HERETICAL THOUGHTS ABOUT SCIENCE AND SOCIETY by Freeman Dyson

    http://edge.org/conversation/heretical-thoughts-about-science-and-society

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      We largely have government by the state sector and for the 50% over paid/pensioned state sector.

      The other 80% are just there to pay for all the lunacies and just get a fake democratic veneer every five years.

  2. matthu
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    There are of course countless other ideas that have also attracted a consensus that have the potential to go horribly wrong: ever closer union (in all it glory), absolute certainty about the science of climate change and what to do about it, and the overwhelming advantages of investing scores of billions in HS2.

    Two of these ideas would potentially classify as having greater impact on the UK, Europe and indeed the whole world than almost any other political idea that is regularly debated at Westminster, so one needs to wonder just how it is that the political elite have so successfully managed to avoid any of these ideas either from being seriously discussed in the media or becoming major electoral issues for so long. (Perhaps we can begin to understand when we read that the government commissioned a report into HS2 and then suppresses the findings.)

    Individual MPs challenge these consensuses from time to time but only one major political party seriously challenges all (or indeed any) of these consensuses and that one is so far unrepresented in Westminster.

    When Michael Gove draws attention to the concentration of privilege running the country he provides half of the explanation: the political elite are indeed out of touch. But the rest of the explanation must be that a growing proportion of the electorate have become disillusioned with – and democratically disconnected from – the law-makers.

    This is a dangerous state of affairs.

  3. arschloch
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I hope you are going to shove in a few paras about the consensus on neo-liberal economics and Labour and Conservative kowtowing to the banks. That has worked out really well for the majority. There is no one here, unless they are in the “1 per cent”, who can say they have actually benefited from all this. If you are retired or are expecting a pension do remember ONS’s estimate of the state’s liabilities here and consider the chances of you having a prosperous retirement. Remember the 23k means test threshold for long term care too. So there is a fat chance that you be leaving anything to your kids. Thats something they may be really be dependent on after that all that university related debt, the 50 per cent chance of landing a “graduate” job with a salary that the FT has shown to be in free fall over recent years. You said it John “Consensus can be a conspiracy against the public or a stitch up by a professional vested interest.”

    • arschloch
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Oh by the way I am in what the FT call the “uber middle” the top 5 per cent of earners so if I am feeling the squeeze I do not know what its like for those lower down the pecking order

      • Anonymous
        Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Having to spend my future to stand still, Arschloch. There is no future.

        Consensus ?

        What a joke.

        Our leaders have been deliberately engineering such cultural changes that it is near impossible to have consensus on any issue.

        PS, Bob Crow and Tony Benn were both Eurosceptic. Did the BBC report on this ?

        What matter ‘consensus’ if we can’t deal in the truth ?

        • Livelogic
          Posted March 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          Indeed I rather liked Bob crow and Tony Benn their clearly were deluded on their lefty politics but they are right on the EU & democracy and many other things.

          Even if richer tube drivers just means poorer everyone else that was his job government’s job was to stop him holding London to ransom.

          Tonu Benn also alas pushed the economic disaster that was Concord through another net destroyer of jobs like Wind & PV energy are and HS2 will clearly be.

      • bigneil
        Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        I will be surprised if this is allowed on. I worked 45 yr, the last 40 of which was spent on a “shop floor” in a factory. Stood up on concrete -heavy physical work. Didn’t get promoted, because I had no relatives there. It really was nepotism city.
        At 60 I slipped and injured myself, enough that I “retired” -After contacting the DWP I was awarded £22.07 a week -for one year. now I get zilch. Living on the bit of works pension from my ex-job. My back is bad enough that I have to stop 3 times going round the supermarket. My limit for walking is about 50 yds before I have to stop.
        Compare this with reports of foreign (people ed) walking in here with multiple children, – -free house, money, NHS and schooling (if the parents send them). One report showed a family getting over a thousand a month – -all for having walked into the country.

    • Gary
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Is the Bank of England’s shredding of original transcriptions a form of manufacturing consensus ?

      Chairman Tyrie: “The MPC [Monetary Policy Committee] records might be of interest one day to historians about the inception of QE. MPC records used to be recorded and transcribed when the MPC was created. Is that still the case Mr. Fisher?”

      Paul Fisher: “They are not transcribed. They are still recorded so that the secretariat can go back to check any discrepancies between the minutes and what people may have said. But as far as I know they are not transcribed.”

      Chairman Tyrie: “And they’re stored?”

      Paul Fisher: “The recordings are not kept. Once the minutes are published…”

      Chairman Tyrie: [In a booming, outraged voice] “The recordings are destroyed! Why?

      Paul Fisher: “Because we have one copy of the minutes; that’s the one that’s published and there are not alternative versions.”

      Chairman Tyrie: “There are more than one purpose for these. There’s the minutes after a fortnight and there’s the historical value. The Fed Open Market Committee publishes full transcripts of its meetings with a five year delay. Whether it’s a five or ten year delay, certainly these are of huge historical significance. Why aren’t you putting something similar in place?”

      Paul Fisher: “This goes back to when the Committee first started. They initially did try to make transcripts, unsuccessfully.”

      Chairman Tyrie: “What do you mean unsuccessfully?”

      Paul Fisher: “It was very hard to actually physically transcribe the tapes in any way which made any sense in terms of the written material.”

      Chairman Tyrie: “Is that because you’re shouting and throwing things about. Most organizations manage to transcribe a record. Even the House of Commons manages to do it on a good day.”

      Paul Fisher: “I’m trying to explain what I know of it. My understanding is that people talking, very free flowing discussion, and they couldn’t make a sensible transcript.”

      • Arschloch
        Posted March 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        FFS my five year old could do the minutes for their meetings. All he would need to note was how much and when, a decision that’s probably taken before they have managed to open up the packet of Hob Nobs. Money printing is all they know. So he is probably just as qualified to sit on the MPC, his fee would make up for the child benefit that was taken off him last year, another vote winning decision from Dave

        • zorro
          Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Typical excuses….they could make notes and record the meeting. Somehow, I doubt that there are vociferous arguments conducted at 300 words per minute….

          zorro

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        Paul Fisher: “It was very hard to actually physically transcribe the tapes in any way which made any sense in terms of the written material.”

        Words that do make sense are worth recording. I came across the following which I thought well worth recording:-

        “What a man cannot state he does not perfectly know, and conversely the inability to put his thoughts into words sets a boundary to his thoughts … English is not merely the medium of our thoughts; it is the very stuff and process of it.”

        Makes you wonder just how much clear thinking goes on at MPC meetings.

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I see we have Michael Gove saying the number of Etonians in Camerons cabinet is “ridiculous”.

    I am far more concerned about their lack of engineering, physics, science, mathematics, logic, business and real industry. That and the fact they all seem to believe in the AGW exaggeration religion, the EU, endless over regulation of everything, a weak currency, high taxes and a state sector twice the size it should be and over paid by 50%. Perhaps we could at least have some more sensible ones in like JR, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lilley.

    Also in the telegraph:- EU citizenship for sale to non-Europeans in Bulgaria for as little as £150,000.

    • Hope
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      There is no difference between the liblabCon that is why the lack of choice is forcing people to vote for a sensible alternative ie UKIP. The liblabCon are presenters of EU law, policy and regulation. People of this country want a free independent sovereign nation. Something all three are committed to preventing.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        Well about 2.6 out of the 3.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      The Bulgarians’ price of £150,000 for a passport is a lot less than the Maltese are charging, €650,000:

      http://euobserver.com/justice/122101

      But it is a lot more than the £10,000 that a certain Times journalist who is now a Tory minister suggested as the price of a British passport back in 2004.

      He wrote:

      “I propose that we set a price for a British passport, at say Pounds 10,000, and allow anyone either to pay that sum upfront, or remit it to the Treasury over a set period of time, like a student loan.”

      It seems that article is no longer on the Times website.

    • zorro
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Of course these countries are selling their citizenship….it is a passport of convenience which allows them free entry to the UK and the West….and the Bulgarians get £150,000 for issuing a 32 page booklet knowing full well that they will be no charge on their country….

      zorro

  5. TGod
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Your first paragraph is very applicable to the 2008 climate change bill where a complete consensus of our MP’s voted to give the country very expensive energy prices for years to come. This was our own parliamentary consensus not the EU who you are now trying to blame for expensive energy.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    You assume all Mp’s will have common sense, ability and wish to reason and think things through.

    Likewise you assume all MP’s can recognise an expert and question them sensibly against their thoughts and ideals.

    I see from Press reports today, that a Government advisory body have found that independent expert Scientists who were promoting the advantages of GM food, all seem to have financial links to that industry.
    Could the same could be said of Climate change, and many other topics.

    Whilst I agree there is never a 100% one way thought process, the fact that Governments of all colours instigate a three line whip to try and force their views through the lobby, rather than allow MP’s to view things from their own, and their constituents point of view.

    I am sure you will make a good case in your speech for your views, but for your wishes to come true, many of the present practices, thought processes, and workings in Parliament would need to change.

    • Mark B
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Its not just limited to ‘independent’ experts. Former Government Ministers and their spouses business depended heavily on these GM Companies patronage.

      The truth is out there !

    • ian wragg
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I have recently come to the conclusion that to be a politician you have to be extremely stupid or a crook.
      The LibLabCON is united on destroying this green and pleasant land but I’m not sure who’s pulling the strings.
      I understand Brussels has a lot to answer for but still when our host continues to support a party which is clearly not Conservative by any measure, there must be another explanation.
      There is the Bilderbergers and Agenda 21 plus a host of other shady organisations. I wonder when someone will break ranks and do a kiss and tell as to who is responsible for the mega stupidity of our 3 main parties.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    JR: “That is what Ministers and MPs are meant to do – to use, criticise and judge external advice, not to give in to one strand of it.”
    Regrettably, too many are just happy to transfer the powers with which they have been entrusted by the electorate to the unaccountable EU and allow quangos to deal with implementation. Delegation away from Parliament seems to be the modus operandi. Democratic accountability has been undermined and quite deliberately.

  8. Gary
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    In other words ,you are calling for abolishing those tyrants of enforcing consensus, the whips?

    • sm
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      If you belong to a club (or Party) you agree to play by its rules, and the whips are there to enforce that, not to achieve cross-party consensus. If you don’t like the rules, you don’t join the club.

  9. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Spare a thought for the poor member of the public faced with decision after decision and either too many facts or a lack of them. Plus the challenge of differentiating fact from opinion.

    So, a despairing plea for consensus can be a reaction to decision overload: if the parties agree then they are likely right. But, of course, as you correctly point out that could be far from the truth.

    The situation is not helped by there being far too much political activity. And too many politicians, which is likely the other side of the same coin. Is it not the case that Britain managed to run the Empire and fight two world wars with far fewer politicians and (employed and contracted) civil servants? Progress?

  10. Mark B
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    John redwood MP said;
    “Consensus can be a conspiracy against the public or a stitch up by a professional vested interest.”

    I very much agree with this.

    I believe in conviction politics, and are naturally swayed to politicians’ of all colours. Not so much by their ideologies but, by the strength of their arguments and beliefs. I feel challenged ! And that is good. I do not want to live in a shell, or like some in Westminster, a bubble !

    To me, the adversarial system of our Parliament, much like our court system, can root out the weak and poorly constructed beliefs and arguments. In a truly functioning democracy, Ministers and the Government have to go before Parliament and face the peoples representatives. Unfortunately, too many of these representatives are either part of the Government or, aspiring to be part of the Government.

    Consensus politics on the other hand, allows those who are not in possession of firm beliefs, to go through political life relatively unmolested. They rely on the opinions of others and ‘focus groups’ to tell them what to think and what to say. They are like a ship at sea, being tossed about by the waves and dragged by the underling current, with no political and moral compass to guide them. Empty vacuous souls who wither when the harsh wind of reality comes blowing through their sails and on to the rocks. They take comfort and solace in the herd.

    Lastly. You can never form an alliance / consensus with Socialists, Marxists etc. Why ? Because they have a political system and belief that they, and only they, must control all aspects of human life and activity. This in order to create a better and more equal society, as ‘they’ see it. This, as many including our kind host know, is fantasy but, these people are quite serious and determined. To them, consensus politics, particularly form their ideological opponents, is akin to running up the white flag of surrender. You do not negotiate with Socialists, you fight them with facts and a well honed arguments. That’s why they hate the mother of all Parliaments and democracy. That is why they hate freedom of speech, the right of free assembly and try to close down debate with negative slogans and name calling. Consensus allows them that level of free reign.

    It is because Lady Thatcher was not a consensus politician and knew her enemy well, and fought them hard, that she is reviled even to this day.

    Consensus politics is the easy option but it isn’t the right option.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      To me, the adversarial system of our Parliament, much like our court system, can root out the weak and poorly constructed beliefs and arguments.

      It’s also very slow and expensive, which is why the courts are moving away from the adversarial system to prevent one party dragging out a case as long as possible.

      They rely on the opinions of others and ‘focus groups’ to tell them what to think and what to say.

      Where else are they going to get their information from? Surely a focus group made up of experts who have examined this problem is going to provide more useful information that a politician basing their decisions on their own ideology rather than evidence.

      Lastly. You can never form an alliance / consensus with Socialists, Marxists etc. Why ? Because they have a political system and belief that they, and only they, must control all aspects of human life and activity. This in order to create a better and more equal society, as ‘they’ see it.

      You also can’t form an alliance with the neo-con as they’re only interested in making themselves richer, rather than making society better.

      That’s why they hate the mother of all Parliaments and democracy. That is why they hate freedom of speech, the right of free assembly and try to close down debate with negative slogans and name calling.

      The neo-cons seem to be the people who hate free speech (especially when people challenge their ideology), free assembly (specially when people protest against their ideology), and try to close down all debated by claiming that their opponents are socialists/communists/Marxists.

      • APL
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        unamie5: “It’s also very slow and expensive, which is why the courts are moving away from the adversarial system to prevent one party dragging out a case as long as possible.”

        What nonsense. ( no surprise there)

        If a case has evidence that makes it long and drawn out, the accused has ( or should have ) the right to present all the evidence to establish his/her innocence.

        You are arguing for arbitrary ‘justice’ which is above all, convenient for the State. Such, is neither justice nor just.

        Which is why you are wrong, but I repeat myself.

      • APL
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        uanime5: “Where else are they going to get their information from?”

        It should be obvious to anyone, the focus group an MP should focus on is his or her constituency.

      • Mark B
        Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        You cannot put a material price on freedom, democracy and the rule of law. These values, sadly, have had to be paid in blood. People fight to be free and, that fight has always had to be made against those who seek ultimate power, whether they claim to have good intention or not.

        I make no defence of Neo-Cons. I see them and Marxists as two sides of the same coin. I stand for freedom, liberty and justice in a TRUE democracy where, those that act for and on our behalf, do so !

        What do you U5 stand for ?

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      You rightly mention that one ‘can never form an alliance with Socialists, Marxists, etc.’

      Matthew Parris wrote a very good article in Saturday’s Times on the death of Benn and he quoted Aneurin Bevan talking about the Tories: ‘We want the complete political extinction of the Tory party…So far as I am concerned, they are lower than vermin.’
      And what did Cameron have to say about Benn? ‘A magnificent writer, speaker and campaigner, with a strong record of public service.’

  11. Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Too many of our “experts” these days are no longer impartial; all to often there is more than one solution to a problem, but in most cases the “expert” only discusses the one that he favours and in which he often has some financial involvement. Consensus amongst “experts” is much the same, a tendency to jump on the bandwagon because they see some personal advantage – often they are not genuine independent experts, but have based their decision on the same research as the others.
    When I trained as an engineer, I was taught that there is never just one solution to a problem, and that one needed to look at all possible solutions and the pros and cons of each one before making a decision.
    But no, current experts seem to see only one solution, their solution, to a problem. The recent pronouncement by a senior government doctor/medical adviser that taxes should be increased on sugar to try to reduce obesity, is typical – to her there is only one solution. Surely her job should be to assess the problem and advise on the available options.
    As for the global warming consensus, probably the least said the better. I wonder how many of the scientists forming part of the much publicised “consensus of scientists” have personally looked at and studied the published papers and data, and how many have just decided to join what appears to them to be the winning side?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Consensus amongst “experts” is much the same, a tendency to jump on the bandwagon because they see some personal advantage

      Experts tend to reach a consensus because the evidence indicates that one conclusion is correct. That’s why scientists are able to reach a consensus through scientific testing, while economists cannot due to their inability to test their ideas.

      When I trained as an engineer, I was taught that there is never just one solution to a problem, and that one needed to look at all possible solutions and the pros and cons of each one before making a decision.

      While true that doesn’t mean that all solutions are going to be equally viable. It also doesn’t prevent one solution from being much better than all the other solutions.

      The recent pronouncement by a senior government doctor/medical adviser that taxes should be increased on sugar to try to reduce obesity, is typical – to her there is only one solution. Surely her job should be to assess the problem and advise on the available options.

      What exactly is your evidence that she didn’t consider a range of opinions and decided to promote the one that is most likely to work?

      I wonder how many of the scientists forming part of the much publicised “consensus of scientists” have personally looked at and studied the published papers and data, and how many have just decided to join what appears to them to be the winning side?

      In science the “winning side” is the side that has been proven by evidence. The failure of the deniers to provide any evidence to back up their claims has also convinced many scientists that the deniers are wrong.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        Do you realise Uni, that every day in court cases all over the UK, experts and scientists give their expert opinions as evidence.
        Then shortly afterwards the other side uses other experts and scientists who give evidence which is totally opposite.

  12. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    There is nothing at all wrong with agreeing. It is good to agree. There is a common purpose. The overall aim may be the same cross parties , however the problems are usually one of management. How to we work things in order to get to that common goal.
    I don’t think the public are interested in theatre in politics and disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing only slows progress.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      “There is a common purpose.”
      There is also Common Purpose – you wouldn’t be one of their ‘graduates’ by any chance?

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted March 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Well in actual fact I am disagreeing with most of you in your pursuit to ensure there is always feisty opposition.

        • Max Dunbar
          Posted March 16, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          Have you been on a Common Purpose course?

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

            Tell me who doesn’t want wealth , health and happiness.

        • Mark B
          Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

          I too would want to live in a world that is peaceful, wealthy and happy. But I know human nature, and I know that this can never be achieved.

          And it does not matter how much you dress up or polish a turd (Marxism), its still a turd !

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

        P.S and world peace

        • Max Dunbar
          Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

          Your reply would appear to be in the affirmative.

  13. Atlas
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    John, I hope you can find time to post your actual lecture here, for our non-Etonian education!

    By the way, is Cameron’s Etonian Chumocracy any worse that Wilson’s ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ was?

  14. oldtimer
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I agree. The problem of political concensus is compounded when it involves spending taxpayers money (or these days adding to their debt burden) or, more insiduously, it adds new forms of indirect taxation (think ROCs). As others have already pointed out, this spending is open to corruption, for vested interests to benefit at taxpayers expense, and for crony capitalism. It results in monopoly solutions whereas what we need is competition and variety. The transfer of so many powers to the EU bureaucracy means that many directives and regulations emerge from behind closed doors. They are then imposed with little or no scrutiny on an unsuspecting public.

  15. Leslie Singleton
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    How does one know that those elected (good at kissing babies, telegenic, gift of the gab, beautiful, on some wretched List et cetera) are capable of forensic analysis and have commonsense? Most politicians are a joke these days and I for one don’t much care what they think; would rather have more referenda. Start from the basis that Switzerland gets by very well and that despite its unenviable location. There is no longer any reason to have too many elections.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Postscript–It’s by no means just the Ministers and MP’s: it’s the very system that is rotten; too sophisticated you might say and on its way out. Item: hearing today on the News or whatever about MP’s to be interviewed being given five things to remember which they are instructed to use as answers irrespective of the question. Despicable I say. Nothing lasts forever and the present system has had its day and will further decline and fall, as it in fact is doing in any event by reason of the wretched EU.

  16. Robert Eve
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Gay ‘marriage’ nonsense springs to mind!!

  17. Vanessa
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    What is the point of debate if all parties agree ? Surely to debate something means you are trying to persuade some to your point of view.

    It just goes to show that Nigel Farage’s opinion is correct – that you cannot put a cigarette paper between the 3 parties because they are all the same !

  18. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Well said Colonel Redwood. In politics it’s called ‘consensus’ and in the business world ‘group-think’. Both forms are equally dangerous as they stop the process of individuals thinking for themselves.
    There has been much work done to show that ‘group think’ has been the cause of a range of disasters from space shuttle’s blowing up to massively expensive IT projects being scrapped. In politics we have the global warming based on science that is ‘settled’ and a state of complete denial over the %1.2 trillion/120% of GDP debt we are in.

    Perhaps this is why Mp’s seem to be getting younger – younger people are easier for the leadership to mould into yes men and woman..and they find it easier to jettison any inconvenient views.

    Even the venerable John Redwood isn’t prepared to break from the orthodox view and admit GB is bankrupt and has no hope of paying it’s debts ( or even balancing the books looks like a long shot) so perhaps he is not immune from ‘consensus’ and group-think’ either ?.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

      There has been much work done to show that ‘group think’ has been the cause of a range of disasters from space shuttle’s blowing up to massively expensive IT projects being scrapped.

      Two space shuttles blew up because the management didn’t ignored the concerns of the engineers that certain parts in the shuttle could malfunction and that a shuttle may have been damaged during take off. So it wasn’t a consensus but a failure of the management to ensure quality control, and health and safety.

      IT projects being scrapped were due to ministers ignoring the advice from IT experts and instead using their own ideology to create a timetable of how long things would take. That’s why the Universal Credit has failed so badly, just like the experts predicted years ago. The lack of leadership at the top of the DWP and lack of financial controls also caused problems.

      In politics we have the global warming based on science that is ‘settled’

      Science that has been proved correct by all the evidence.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        Come on Uni, its not “proved” and its not “all the evidence”.
        And as much as you “believe”, the science isn’t “settled”

      • Kenneth R Moore
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Like the faked ‘hockey stick’ curve was proved to be correct by all the s’cience’…and how any inconvenient weather patterns that don’t fit the ‘settled science’ are ignored by the so called experts.

      • Kenneth R Moore
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        Mr Redwood, why hasn’t my reply been published ?

      • Kenneth R Moore
        Posted March 16, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        “Two space shuttles blew up because the management didn’t ignored the concerns of the engineers that certain parts in the shuttle could malfunction and that a shuttle may have been damaged during take off. So it wasn’t a consensus but a failure of the management to ensure quality control, and health and safety”.

        ‘and the management were unable to ensure quality/health and safety because of group-think!. In the same way David Cameron cannot control immigration or public spending because there arent enough speakers in the JR mould prepared to challenge that most hateful of things – conventional wisdom.

        The point is that the concensus was enforced by the group-think approach – that is the shuttle was safe to take off – thus any dissenting voices were shut out in order to preserve the status quo.

        Just google’ challenger space shuttle disaster group think’ if you don’t believe me’.
        The Nasa space program put the need to maintain conformity and avoid conflict above the lives of the astronauts.That is the root cause of the disaster.

        ‘Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. Here, the desire for group cohesion effectively drives out good decision-making and problem solving’.

        Which in a nutshell, is why IT projects go so badly wrong in the public sector.

  19. BobE
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The whip is highly undemocratic and should be abolished. The case should be won on arguments alone.
    I see attempts are being made to attack the UKIP people. How May will shake this nation.

  20. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    As an aside, the post above took me 10 minutes to write over coffee..in that time the national debt went up by £51,690 according to the Taxpayers Alliance. Less consensus is needed around this problem and more action is needed.

  21. acorn
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    The cross party consensus is that we are still on the Gold Standard and the economy is being run as if our import bill is using up all our Gold / Silver reserves. Should I presume you want to do away with the BoE and go back to free banking?

    Central banks and government fiat currencies are a late invention, particularly useful for funding big wars. We could go back to having HSBC pound notes; Barclays pound notes. Not sure I would want any RBS notes unless HSBC took them at face value. Whose money would I have to use to pay my taxes and what money would my pension come in. ;-) ;-) ;-) .

  22. Posted March 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I long to know where the evidence is for JR’s idea that “independent Central Banks” gave us “the massive boom and bust of the last decade.”

    If you look at the UK’s money supply figures, it was PRIVATE BANK created money and lending that was expanding like there’s no tomorrow in the years prior to the crunch, while CENTRAL BANK created money was expanding at a stable rate.

    Reply The Central Bank was charged with the duty of avoiding systemic risks and controlling overall money supply, which it failed to do

    • Mark B
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      And what of the role of the Financial Services Authority ? Were they not told to exercise, ‘soft touch regulation’ upon them ?

      Both the Banks and the Government of the day have an awful lot to answer for.

    • APL
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      JR: “The Central Bank was charged with the duty of avoiding systemic risks and controlling overall money supply, which it failed to do”

      Yes, if failed to do so. Now, what was the penalty for failing?

      How do you enforce a prohibition, if there is no sanction for ignoring the prohibition?

    • APL
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Ralph Musgrave: “it was PRIVATE BANK created money and lending that was expanding like there’s no tomorrow”

      That maybe true, but given that the private banks operated within the currency zone regulated by the Bank of England, it would have been entirely possible for the BoE to withdraw currency from circulation in proportion to the amount of private banking created money.

      The BoE didn’t, therefore it was complicit in the expansion of the money supply and inflation of the credit boom.

    • Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      JR, The fact that the BoE made mistakes in one area, bank regulation, in no way disproves my point that it was private banks rather than the BoE that was expanding the money supply like there’s no tomorrow prior to the crunch.

      Reply Of course it was commercial banks that created more credit and generated money growth, but it was the Bank of England which allowed and encouraged them to do that by its interest rate decisions and its decisions as systemic regulator. The Bank could have raised rates or demanded they held more cash and capital at any time, but did not do so.

  23. rick hamilton
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Every country is governed by elites, whether the UK or North Korea. They come from the same families, move in the same circles, attend the same schools.
    It could be argued that there is no point in having some of the best educational establishments in the world if we do not draw our top people from them.

    However, as other contributors point out relentlessly and I agree, the lack of real world experience, the appalling narrowness of outlook and the deep ignorance of technology, science, engineering and business at first hand simply do not equip these elites to lead a modern economy effectively.

    It may be the job of politicians to choose from options offered by experts, but if they have no professional expertise in any area of life except playing the game of politics, how can they challenge what they are told? The whole madness of climate change legislation and general eco-lunacy espoused by the main parties says more about their intellectual laziness than their concern for our well-being.

    • Aunty Estab
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      The ‘Best educational establishments” can`t be that good if the best they can turn out are these arrogant,incompetent people currently leading the main parties who have made such a mess of things.

  24. forthurst
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    “The second is the idea of an independent Central Bank. which helped give us the massive Boom and Bust of the last decade.”

    What about the effect of removing the BoE’s supervisory role of the banks, considering that most of the boom took place within the banking industry itself? In a normal boom, overheating shows up through shortages, price inflation, wage inflation as ordinary people bought lots of stuff, taxing supply; in the recent boom/bust, banks bought banks, lent money willy-nilly and bought toxic derivatives; for those who weren’t banksters, there wasn’t much of a boom at all.

    Reply The Bank was responsible for systemic risks which it allowed through general overexpansion of cheap credit

    • forthurst
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply: the BoE was charged with hitting an inflation target of 2% by attenuating interest rates accordingly; as the government’s definition of inflation did not include that of asset prices, whether of property, banks or such toxic derivatives as were unrecorded within the BoE’s own toxonomy, it seems unfair to blame it, solely, for the debacle; nor is it clear that if Gordon Brown had been setting interest rates, the outcome would have been any different.

      Reply The Bank failed to hit the inflation target for many months as well

  25. miami.mode
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    A bit surprised you have selected 2 subjects on a similar theme. I know the economy is the overriding factor in today’s politics but I thought the Exchange Rate Mechanism was only a practice run anyway.

    I don’t really want to sound too cynical but I would have thought you would have chosen the 2008 Climate Change Act which had close to 100% concensus or is this a little bit too close to home with David Cameron’s ‘man made climate change’ or do we have to wait until the bust is complete?

    Reply I was asked to give a lecture on economic policy. I will of course also refer to the dear energy policy.

  26. lojolondon
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    John, I like your article, but disagree with you on one point – I do not feel that the independent Central Bank gave us the extreme boom and bust of the last decade.

    That was entirely down to the completely intentional watering down of regulations and the replacement of the Bank of England by three disparate and competing entities, none of which owned full control of the situation, and each of which was repeatedly instructed to exercise “light touch” control over financial institutions. Gordon Brown basked in the warm glow of the performance of these financial institutions for 10 years, and when they failed he side-stepped the entire issue, pretending that the global credit crunch came from the USA, a fact never challenged by the UK media, as Britain’s relaxation of regulations led directly to the Americans following suit, not the other way around.

    Reply I agree Mr Brown was primarily to blame, as his tripartite system of regulation had the Chancellor at its head. I do not agree it was light touch- the regulatory rule book and the law codes expanded greatly – he just didn’t make the right call on the big issues.

    • zorro
      Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      It should more likely have been called ‘soft touch’ regulation. Because it doesn’t matter how many rules/regulations you have….it is how effectively they are enforced.

      zorro

    • Kenneth R Moore
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Or Gordon Brown did make the right call on the big issues for him personally – he is just a Leftie Scottish MP that hates England and thought we needed’ taking down a notch or 20′.

  27. Antisthenes
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Democracy as we currently practice it has many flaws and one is that a very few(politicians, quangocrats, bureaucrats and the like) can decide for the very many(the electorate). It is very open to abuse as it can and often does override the wishes of very many people. How many affixes one of two labels one is representative dictatorship when politicians introduce policies or laws that the majority are against. The other is dictatorship of the minority when those policies and laws are introduced against the wishes of less than a majority. The answer of course is to allow greater access of the electorate to the decision making process and public servants and the public sector to become more transparent and accountable. Not difficult to do the means and technology are available except the will of those who are most likely to lose much of their power and influence are against it. I know what has this got to do about consensus. They are loosely connected in that consensus if used wisely by bringing in everybody and that means the people being governed into the debate is a very useful tool. However the way you describe it is being used is just another tool of representative dictatorship.

  28. They Work for Us?
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    The political class that purport to represent us MUST have their wings clipped, made to feel the threat of job insecurity (easy right of recall) if they do not do what their electors want. Referenda should decide azll major issues, like EU membership, levels of gross (not net) immigration and whether any new tax should be levelled at all.
    It is the height of arrogance to decide measures that the electorate don’t want and whip them through parliament. It is not good enough to believe that a manifesto package of say 20 issues provides a democratic mandate in general elections. Invariably different people will support different selections in the manifesto. Aagain all major issues should decided one by one in a referendum.
    The Conservatives might win if they adopted two measures. A list of major issues to be decided by referendum (these could all be on one ballot paper, with the vote within six months of the general election) and the selection of local candidates by the local party from people of proven ability and experience.
    I am sorry but PPE, being a party student chairman, working in central office and becoming a special adviser etc etc don’t cut it any more. I agree with others that the lack of science and engineering knowledge amongst members is appalling.

  29. Robert Taggart
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Guessing consensus be all that more easier now ? – unfortunately !…
    With the recent passing of two of the last great parliamentarians – Maggie ‘Iron Lady’ Thatcher and Tony ‘Wedgy’ Benn – consensus and convention be the ‘norm’ conviction be a dirty word.
    Maggie – knew her own mind and expected those around her to know it also !
    Tony – British politics premier paradox and personable with it !
    Oh for the ghosts of parliaments past – over to you now Johnny !

  30. The PrangWizard
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to think that in challenging the consensus you would mention that there are people who object to the conspiracy in the main parties against the establishment of English parliament. Those who oppose an English parliament are the same people who nevertheless support a Scottish one. All the main parties refuse to acknowledge the issue and act against its proponents by stifling debate and pretending there is no demand; they attempt to question the legitimacy of the English voice. Much of the media do the same. Both are simply protecting their established positions and each other, taking no account of the rightness of the case.

    The only party in England campaigning for a new free and independent England is the English Democrats. There will be no renaissance here until there is a break in the status quo. A big change is needed and new thinking must be allowed its opportunity.

  31. uanime5
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Consensus can be a conspiracy against the public or a stitch up by a professional vested interest.

    It’s also the consequence of using a First Past the Post electoral system because only the views of the largest minority are represented.

    Reply So are the European Parliament and the Scottish Parliament any better?

  32. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    The most recent wrong headed concensus is between the Party leaders on Ukraine, where we are falling over ourselves to support the views of the US and EU. The facts are that the interim Ukrainian government is illegal, that an elected President has been deposed by a mob, that in taking back Crimea Russia is only reclaiming what it gave away in 1954 – and is seeking an affirmation of popular support within the territory in dispute.

    This is an issue on which there should be a major back bench rebellion. When is it going to happen?

  33. Robert K
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Consensus is a loathsome trend in British politics. Of the many undemocratic shifts that are underway, the most pernicious is the melding of political opinion to the “middle ground” which today is blatant, de facto Socialism. At least in the 1980s there was a clear polarisation between Labour and Conservative which gave the electorate a clear choice. Now, you couldn’t put a sheet of paper between the ideologies of the two main parties.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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