We Agree Too! More reactions from the commentariat to the PASC report

1 May

Following the publication of the PASC report last Tuesday, reactions from the press  and the policy/strategy community have been very positive.  Here is a further selection of what the press said:

Tullet Preborn – what’s the big idea? the imperative need for a new ideology

Effective government is not simply a matter of management. Even in good times, competence is barely enough. In bad times, ideological clarity is imperative, and the lack of a clear, ideas-based strategy is the black hole at the heart of the coalition administration. Even before confirmation – in the latest set of official economic data – that the UK is mired in a double-dip recession, it was clear that this is one of those ‘bad times’ in which big ideas are not an optional extra. The recent damning report of the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) criticised the coalition government’s “inability to express coherent and relevant strategic aims”, and warned that a “chaotic strategy” of “muddling through” carried grave risks for the future.

Those governments which have changed Britain for the better have done so on a platform of intellectual clarity. A coherent philosophy, accepted by the electorate, enabled the 1945-51 Attlee government to build a welfare state on the economic ruins of the Second World War. A clear freemarket ideology played a decisive role when Margaret Thatcher’s 1979-90 government rescued Britain from the stagflation and decline of the 1970s. Now, however, when the problems are even worse than those which confronted Attlee or Thatcher, the coalition government seems to lack any ideological agenda or strategic direction whatsoever.

Institute for Government PASC calls for annual statement of strategy to parliament 

The Institute for Government welcomes PASC’s report on strategy in government – our research over the past 3 years has highlighted the need for more strategic thinking at the heart of government. Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, who gave evidence to the committee said: “We agree with PASC’s assessment on the need for more strategic thinking in government. Our research has demonstrated that, compared to other countries, the UK centre of government is light on the ability to commit departments to a longer term strategy. “Strategic thinking in Whitehall is too often back to front – it is based upon what spending decisions are being made, instead of basing spending decisions around the strategic priorities for the whole of government. Obviously finance and strategy have to be linked but in the right order.


The Public Administration Select Committee has today published a report which is deeply critical of the Government’s ability when it comes to strategy. While this is old news as far as Cowan Global are concerned, we’ve been stating as much for months, the Government’s response suggests that still no one is listening.

PWC – Public engagement – the missing ingredient 

Does the UK government need an annual strategy? The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) thinks so. Their 24th report on ‘Strategic thinking in government’ not only makes for fascinating reading for fans of the management guru Peter Drucker and his articulation of the emergent strategy school of thought, but also poses a real challenge for government3. PASC calls upon Government to publish an annual ‘Statement of National Strategy’ in Parliament. Its view is that it is essential for ‘policies to be informed by a clear, coherent strategic approach, including an assessment of the public’s aspirations and their perceptions of the national interest’. But how can such a National Strategy properly involve the public?

Huffington Post UK – Coalition Has A ‘Catastrophic Lack Of Coherence’, MPs Warn 

The criticism that the government is too short term in its thinking will be particularly stinging given pledges by David Cameron and Nick Clegg to engage in a “horizon shift” when they came to power in order to think long term. “Our horizons have shortened as the timescales of our problems have lengthened,” Clegg said in September 2010. He called for a “fundamental alteration in the timelines of our decision-making”.

Sky – MPs Blame Bad Strategy For Coalition Errors

MPs have blamed a string of government blunders on a failure of strategic thinking by ministers. A scathing report by the Commons Public Administration Committee said too much policy was driven by short-term decision-making. Its verdict follows a difficult few months for the coalition which has come under fire over the granny tax and pasty tax in the Budget, as well as its handling of the threatened strike by tanker drivers which triggered fuel panic buying.

Egovmonitor – Select Committee report says government lacks “coherent strategy”

A report by MPs has accused the government of lacking a “coherent strategy” to back up its home, economic and defence policies. In its scathing report, the Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC) has blamed an absence of national strategy and a “patch and mend” approach to policy-making. The lack of strategic thinking is leading to “mistakes”, such as those following the recent Budget.

Public Service – Government must have a clearer strategy

Serious doubts have been cast over whether the government has the capacity to carry out long-term strategic thinking to tackle the complex, diverse and unpredictable domestic and global challenges that the UK faces. The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) cited “recent concerns about a strategic vacuum at the centre of government”. It urged the government to publish an annual ‘Statement of National Strategy’ to underpin the annual spending round and the run-up to the budget.

The Week – Rudderless, arrogant posh boy: Cameron takes a hammering

Tory MP Bernard Jenkin is behind the report by the Commons Public Administration Committee which says the lack of a proper national strategy is responsible for a string of “mistakes”, from the Budget to the handling of the threatened strike by tanker drivers. It says the Cabinet and various Cabinet committees are incapable of carrying out anything more than a “patch-and-mend” approach to policy-making. And it warns that “chaotic strategy” – just “muddling through” – risks creating a “vicious circle”, where weak leadership leads to bad policy, further undermining public trust in government.

Civil Service World – PASC: ‘Think long-term’

Departments must think of the long-term when setting out budgets as part of a Spending Review, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has said in a report published yesterday. PASC chair Bernard Jenkin said that “too often, the annual Budget appears to determine strategic priorities, but this does not necessarily lead to coherent national strategy.” His report argues that “the strategic goals and ambitions of the country, informed by the public’s perceptions of the national interest and by their values and aspirations, should be the basis of the Spending Review and Budget process. “It should be possible to see how the key strategic aims are reflected in the business plans and spending estimates for each department”.

Independent – Forget what sounds clever. Just run the country

Government and politics are very different things. Government is running the offices of the state in the public interest, employing hundreds of thousands of people to do so. Politics has little to do with the public interest. It sometimes gives that impression, but the public interest isn’t the driving logic of it. It is essentially a sophisticated marketing exercise designed to enable one political party rather than another to retain power or regain it by winning the next election. Unfortunately the people who are good at politics are often poor at governing. They tend to produce “omnishambles”. Events this week have illustrated how political marketing really works.

Telegraph – David Cameron’s sense of calm is making him look like a privileged lightweight

The public administration select committee published a useful report yesterday highlighting the Government’s lack of an overarching strategic direction. Its “inability to express coherent and relevant strategic aims is one of the factors leading to mistakes” ranging from the defence review to the pasty tax, it concluded. In a phrase, it hit on the failing at the heart of Mr Cameron’s difficulties: he is so busy being a successful manager – and if this is success, what does failure look like? – that he has forgotten to provide the political direction that would give his government purpose. His party increasingly fears that, without purpose, he risks going down as the Tory leader who never won a general election and lost to the worst Labour leader ever.

CIO/Intel – MPs: Government needs proper focus to foster tech success

The government lacks a strategic focus, and needs to concentrate on creating a strong technology industry, among other areas. That is a verdict of the Public Administration Select Committee, which today published a highly critical report into the government’s planning. “The fostering of a strong economic and technological base is both a sound objective and enlarges strategic options,” said the report, for which university professors, business chiefs and other prolific figures were interviewed. “Many of our witnesses argued that sectors of our economy should be viewed as strategic assets and that the government should take an active role in promoting these sectors.”

Conservativehome – Can Cameron get his government back on track? 

On Tuesday morning the Public Accounts Committee’s accusations of a lack of strategic direction gave fresh impetus to the media narrative that this government is lost in a mid-term fog.


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