I read Lindsay Tanner’s book Sideshow recently, and I think it’s optimistic. It describes an illness and then, staring at something looking awfully like a corpse, worries about prognosis.
I thought the bit about announceables was on the money: all those press releases, campaigns, projects, funding decisions and new initiatives. They’ve taken the place of politics, of what we used to call government.
But not governance. That goes on, and on, in the public service, and it is never announced. It’s just not announceable. All that paperwork, almost every sodding bit, is done without a single candle’s worth of spotlight.
Which is a shame because most of it is very fine. Natural justice, procedural fairness, and due process are done everyday in unremarked and unremarkable circumstances by people who go home to unstack the dishwasher. If those qualities aren’t present, it isn’t done.
That’s quality governance and it is often very dry, not within the entertaining template as Tanner describes. Nonetheless if, as Tanner hopes, politics isn’t just a soap opera then maybe those spending long afternoons in quiet wings of statutory bodies will get a moment in the spotlight. They deserve it.