Doing policy differently

People feel like they don’t have enough control over their lives. They have to navigate complicated bureaucracies to access the services they need. 

They feel they have little influence in the decisions that affect them and their families – or the environment in which they live.

And they feel disengaged from the democratic process, creating a swell of support for populist solutions which – because they cannot deliver what they promise – undermine confidence in democracy even more.

Political engagement with people is fundamentally dishonest. The main parties respond to complex issues by proposing simplistic solutions. ‘More police on the beat’ may make for a great Daily Mail headline, but facing up honestly to the challenge of keeping us safe is far more complicated.

If we are going to bring together a diverse country around shared values, we need our political leaders to be brave. We need to end ‘dog-whistle’ politics.

Underneath people’s feeling that Britain today is not fair lie fundamental questions about the way wealth is distributed. The response cannot be a return to a failed economic model or further deregulation.

These are big questions and big challenges, and to get to some of the answers we need to have a policy approach that reflects how we as individuals experience life. 

We are born, we live our lives, and we die. We need to think about the journey each person takes through life – and how each stage of our life comes with different challenges, from cradle to grave.

Therefore, an education policy needs to consider how every child can be supported to develop their talents; but also, the value of education to older people who have retired. A housing policy needs to consider different needs at different stages of life; and enable people to make transitions from one kind of housing to another as their needs change.

We also need to better understand the impact of policies on people’s behaviour. Unintentional and unwelcome consequences of policies could have been averted if there had been a better understanding of psychology.

And we need to connect policies across the traditional policy areas. People’s lives don’t fit into boxes – so why have policies delivered in isolation from one another?

So as we make policy, our key principles will be that they work from cradle to grave, that they make connections between the person’s age and their health, housing, education, environment, and transport needs.

Our policies need to be honest, practical, based on evidence – and make sense.

If we are going to find answers to the big questions, we need to answer the little ones: the ways in which we can make people’s lives better and easier.

We have heard from our supporters, and they want to move away from the tired politics of the mainstream parties. They are fed up of policies determined by old ideologies – and they have the energy and enthusiasm to develop this new approach. 

Things can be different. In the coming weeks and months, we will be working alongside those who want things to be different so that, at the next election, change truly is on the ballot paper.

Ann Coffey MP