October 11, 2006

Consultation, what Consultation?

Consultation has become a hot word today on the Radio 4 program You and Yours. You and Yours pointed out that there was a difficulty within the way that we think about consultation- is consultation a replacement for plebiscitory democracy or is it a way of starting a debate in which ministers can be persuaded either way?

The importance of the word 'consultation' within the modern political lexicon is a recent idea- it has accompanied the word stakeholder on its march to primacy over other wordings about the way policy is created. Partly it reflects a lack of confidence within the political establishment about the degree to which they represent the people that elect them- hence reaching out to community groups, stakeholder groups, consumer groups, proffessional groups and unions.

Therein lies another clue. The Labour government which came in in 1997, began with a simple intention- they wanted to bring in a state which facilitated the market but not abandon the ambition of government to reform society, just to do it alongside a market. Rather than the debate being between a Tory strong market and a Labour strong state, Blair wanted to combine a strong state and a strong market. Labour saw the Union control of the party as an obstacle to this ambition.

Consequently the Labour government wanted to consult with other groups- to widen the participation and influence of groups within policy making, to make the unions one of seven or eight stakeholders rather than negotiate directly with them. Consequently the idea of the state changed from the state as representative of the working class interest under a Labour government, a working class interest declared by the Unions, to the state as representative of society, with all the interest groups representing various stakeholders within society. This movement in the definition of the role of the state under a Labour government is the underlying change which has been reflected in the change of vocabulary and the move to consultation.

Consultation thus is the ultimate abandonment of class warfare.

4 comments:

James said...

www.lookmumtwohands.blog.com

Gracchi said...

Thanks for the blog reccomendation- not sure what it says about the culture of consultation but thanks for the comment anyway :)

edmund said...

I don't know sounds quite like old certain labour (and certian tory) style corporatism to me....

Gracchi said...

Yes it does. Though to me it sounds more like Katznelson's model of Kennedy. I do think the class point is worth thinking about too