Those who regularly read this blog will know that Open Politics is a regular obsession of mine. The basic idea is that the world of policy making works better if there is a enthusiastic presumption towards openness. Policy makers should always be in favour of publishing, and this mindset applies to early thinking.
Today’s Guardian reports that Nick Clegg has blocked de-regulatory proposals contained in a report written by venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, commissioned by Steve Hilton. Does the report contain good ideas? Is it academically evidenced or is it a personal polemic? What economic problems does it identify and how does Beecroft try to remedy them? Basically, is the kerfuffle worth all the fuss? (Some cynics may point out that the article is a political win-win. It feeds both the Lib Dem “we need to be in Government to make the nasty Tories a bit nicer” and the Conservative “we would be doing more reforms if it wasn’t for those pesky Lib Dems” narratives.)
Policy formation is not – nor should it be – a tidy process. It is futile to pretend otherwise. Policy formation is a creative art. It involves opposing arguments, debates and the constant injection of new ideas. The unnecessary secrecy around reports such as the one written by Beecroft allows the press to twist such work into a ‘he said/she said’ process story, when what is important is the substance of the debate.