Is groupthink really the correct response to financial meltdown?

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David Cameron has announced his party will work with the government to tackle the continuing financial turbulence, whatever that means. Nick Clegg has apparently said much the same.

But is this really the correct response? There are certain instances – for example when the country is physically under threat at a time of war – when suspending party politics may be a good idea. But outside of such extreme cases, when has cross-party co-operation ever lead to good policy?

In the immediate aftermath of 7/7 and 9/11, opposition parties agreed to “work with the government” – the result has been a massive curtailment of civil liberties which continues unabated. Even though the opposition parties quickly regained their senses and resumed scrutiny of legislation relatively quickly, the agenda of detention without charge, identity cards and even internment was set. 2005’s “compromise” of setting detention without charge at 28 days was in many ways a tactical defeat on the part of civil libertarians.

Rolling further back, we have legislation such as the Dangerous Dogs Act – initiated due to a nation-wide panic. This is widely cited as a brilliant example of how badly Parliament can get things wrong, yet isn’t the ground being laid for similar poor groupthink?

It strikes me there is a massive ideological debate to be having at the moment. Outside of Parliament, the Keynsians are having a resurgence. But with all three parties signed up to a monetarist agenda and the drawbridge being self-consciously drawn up, will they even be heard? Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this or that economic society, surely at a time of FAIL we should be encouraging debate in an open society not battening down the hatches? It’s also pretty meaningless with Labour holding a majority in the Commons. Sure, the other parties have some influence in the Lords but it is distinctly limited.

So I’m afraid to say I’m quite, quite wary of this latest development. It is time for a massive ideological punch up in the Houses of Parliament not a group hug. The fact that this is the automatic reaction to every reaction suggests that our political system itself is broken in a way that isn’t the case even in the US.

Come on Nick, this is your big chance: don’t throw it away because of a desire to be establishment!

3 thoughts on “Is groupthink really the correct response to financial meltdown?

  1. An ideological punch up? Hot diggity!

    It’s not going to happen though. The Tories are folding to public opinion and using this as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate they’ve changed.

  2. I don’t disagree, although I still think there is space in the debate for the Lib Dems to be less consensual.

    My main concern is how this illustrates how our current political system discourages difference of opinion and encourages all politicians to seize upon whatever happens to be the received wisdom at the time.

  3. The Tories are caving because it’s bankers that they have coddled that caused this and they have a history of opposing sensible regulation. It makes political sense on this for them to clinch Gordon and not let him get any punches off. Why should we do the same when we were right and they were wrong? We should be shouting about this from the roof tops.
    Simon

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