Posts Tagged '#socialcare'

The Lady is not for Wobbling: Mrs May, social care and spending political capital

A shorter version of this blog was originally published by Prospect magazine.

Matt Flinders

When is a wobble not a wobble?

This might not seem the most obvious question to be asking in the context of the current General Election campaign but that’s exactly what makes it so important. Could it be that Theresa May’s recent backtracking on the costs of social care was nothing of the kind? Instead part of a more subtle game of preparing the public for tough choices that will inevitably have to be taken? Have we just witnessed the political equivalent of a footballer’s fake dive?

Partisan politics aside, there is little doubt that Theresa May is an incredibly astute politician.

She plays the game well and to some extent she has re-written the rulebook. The game of politics is rarely as simple as kicking the ball or scoring goals; more concerned with playing other players off against each other, often within your team, and knowing exactly when to go for the legs instead of the ball. The simple point I am making is that Theresa May has climbed to the summit of the British political system as if it really were a weekend wander with Philip.

“[The manifesto] highlighted the existence of major and increasing inter-generational inequalities…”

I’m clearly exaggerating to make my point and ‘the commentator’s curse’ may now ensure Theresa May’s immediate collapse under a double-pincer tackle from behind (where are Boris and Gove this week?) but my point is that there was something odd about the Conservative Manifesto launch and the subsequent brouhaha over social care costs. This was a strong and bold manifesto, it explicitly re-positioned the Conservative Party towards a more traditional model of conservatism and – critically – it highlighted the existence of major and increasing inter-generational inequalities that will at some point have to be addressed.

This was no ‘back of a fag packet’ hastily scribbled treatise but a thoughtful manifesto for social change that bore the clear imprint of one of the most impressive brains ever to have worked within No.10 – Nick Timothy. Could it really therefore have been that no one saw the backlash about social care costs coming? Was this really a manifesto written in a rush and therefore in need of later refinement?

I don’t believe it. There was something far more fundamental and strategic going on. Theresa May was effectively cashing-in a little political capital in order to make a point. The current system is unsustainable. Previous governments have consistently protected the position of older generations for the simple reason that they are the social cohort overwhelmingly most likely to actually vote. This is not fair. The reason young people tend not to vote is because they feel that the political system does not work in their interests (which is largely true because they don’t vote). Therefore British politics is trapped in a self-sustaining cycle of cynicism that risks simply increasing levels of inter-generational inequality while also preventing the introduction of policies to address certain embedded structural disparities.

In this context the Conservative manifesto’s position on social care and universal benefits was not under-cooked or ill-prepared – it was a calculated decision to soften-up large sections of the public and forewarn them that the current situation is untenable.

It takes a brave politician to adopt a strategy that will undoubtedly be unpopular with a core section of their traditional electorate but the simple fact is that Mrs May can not only afford to be brave but there is an argument that she actually needs to deflate the dominant position of the Conservative Party – to cash in a little popularity in order to make the public aware of the need to take tough choices later on.

“This was a calculated move, a slight tug of the string, to take just a little wind out of the sales of the Tory kite…”

The idea that a strong politician might actually want to cultivate just a touch, a dash, of unpopularity might seem completely bizarre but there are risks for a government, particularly in the British context of being too strong, too dominant. Like a kite flying high the stronger the wind the more impressive sight but so too are the risks of a sudden implosion, a panel torn or a once taught string suddenly snapped. Too large a majority risks having large numbers of MPs wandering the corridors of Westminster bemoaning the fact that their phone never rang; the offer of a ministerial position never made. Angry, embarrassed and over-looked these backbenchers tend to congregate, scheme and plan….(why do Boris and Gove keep springing to mind?)

I could well be wrong but my sense is that this was no wobble. President May is too bright to make such a basic error of judgement. This was a calculated move, a slight tug of the string, to take just a little wind out of the sales of the Tory kite, to cash in just a little political capital in order to manage the politics of public expectations about the future.

Matthew Flinders is Professor of Politics and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield. He can get the word brouhaha into almost any sentence and his latest book – What Kind of Democracy Is This? – is published by Policy Press next month.

 

You can pre-order What kind of democracy is this? by Matt Flinders here for just £15.99.

Browse all the books in our 50% General Election promotion here.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

The welfare myth of them and us

Read the complete preface to the second edition of John Hill’s influential Good times, bad times below. This ground-breaking book uses extensive research and survey evidence to challenge the myth that the population divides into those who benefit from the welfare state and those who pay into it – ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’, ‘them’ and ‘us’. 

John Hills (small)

John Hills

Good times, bad times was completed in 2014. A great deal has happened in UK politics and policy since then, not least the election of a majority Conservative government led by David Cameron in May 2015, the result of the referendum in June 2016 for Britain to leave the European Union, and the subsequent appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister in July 2016.

Through all of this, the issues discussed in this book have remained central. One of its themes is the way that our lives are ever-changing.

Sometimes this is simply because we get older, we form – and dissolve – marriages and other partnerships, children are born, and they leave home.

But it is also because we move in and out of work, change and lose jobs, and what comes in from work and other sources can change not just from year to- year with our careers, but also from month-to-month, or even day-to-day, in ways highlighted by the spread of ‘zero hours contracts’.

Our needs – for education and for health and social care – change as we grow older, but also with the fluctuations in our state of health.

“Much popular debate assumes that people’s lives are unchanging.”

Continue reading ‘The welfare myth of them and us’

It’s not just about the money: 5 dilemmas underpinning health and social care reform

Following on from the publication of the third edition of Understanding health and social care, Jon Glasby looks at what’s needed for long-term, successful health and social care reform.

jon-glasby-pic-2

Jon Glasby

Open any national newspaper or turn on the news and (Trump and Brexit aside) there is likely to be coverage of the intense pressures facing the NHS.

Throughout the winter, there have been stories of hospitals at breaking point, an ambulance service struggling to cope, major problems in general practice and significant financial challenges.

For many commentators, this is one of the significant crises the NHS has faced for many years, and quite possibly the longest period of sustained disinvestment in its history.

“Draconian funding cuts have decimated services at the very time that need is increasing.”

Continue reading ‘It’s not just about the money: 5 dilemmas underpinning health and social care reform’


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates

Archives


Helen Kara

Writing and research

Peter Beresford's Blog

Musings on a Mad World

Paul Cairney: Politics & Public Policy

Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling

Path to the Possible

Democracy toward the Horizon

The GOVERNANCE blog

Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Shot by both sides

The blog of Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP

Paul Collins's Running Blog

Running and London Marathon 2013 Training

Bristol Civic Leadership Project

A collaborative project on change in local governance

Stuck on Social Work

And what a great place to be

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

short and insightful writing about a long and complex history

Urban policy and practice

Publishing with a purpose

TessaCoombes

Policy Politics Place

Blog

Publishing with a purpose

Public Administration Review

Public Administration Review is a professional journal dedicated to advancing theory and practice in public administration.

Publishing with a purpose

%d bloggers like this: