22 June 2011

Thinking Paper # 21: What is the right thing to do?

By Ron Ford-Golightly


Policy making has previously been a highly complex, lengthy and often tedious process, but not for David Cameron. The IIPBA carried out some in-depth qualitative analysis of the Prime Minister's rhetoric and uncovered the following: not only is he better spoken than the Queen, but since becoming Prime Minister, he's craftily managed to bypass the policy making process, replacing it with something which can only be referred to as "slightly terrifying". Bang goes Tony's sofa government, raise your glasses and give a warm welcome to the "the right thing to do" coalition of the future.

"The right thing to do" or a rather slack justification for making decisions?

From foreign policy to economic theory, David Cameron loves doing the "right thing". Ever since he was 4 years old, all he has wanted to do is the "right thing", that's why he now eats his greens. Terrifyingly for the British public (and for that matter, the population of Afghanistan and Libya), he's decided to bypass the traditional method of policy making i.e. listen, learn, reflect, write, review, listen etc and replace it with his rather vague and narrow sense of what is "right". On the face of it, no, when looked at from any angle or distance, this is decidedly slack.

The Evidence

When he became Prime Minister, he pledged "not to stick stubbornly to a course if it wasn't the right thing to do" (May, 2010). Well readers, you will be reassured that:
  • When commenting on the formation of the Coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Prime Minister said that he "thought that was the right thing to do" (May 2010). In private, our sources suggest that he also believes "it is the right thing to do" to let Steve Hilton not wear shoes around No10.
  • Regarding the Afghan National Army he decided quite out of the blue that "It is the right thing to do to build up the Afghan National Army" (July 2010) - those lucky little Afghans. "The compass says 'it's right' - the Afghans shall have an army" (Cameron: 11:34).
  • Upon making the decision to go to Zurich to help with the England World Cup 2018 campaign our beloved leader said "I wouldn't be going to Zurich and putting all the effort in if I didn't think it was the right thing to do" (November 2010) - of course he wouldn't
  • On cutting the deficit he stated that "The national interest dictates that we do the right thing" (January 2011) - the national interest also suggests that people need healthcare, security and to learn things.
  • He said the UN resolution on Libya and imposing a no-fly-zone was "the right thing to do" (March, 2011) - marginally better reasons than Tony.
  • On ringfencing the aid budget he said "it is absolutely the right thing to do" (June 2011) - note the slight change of rhetoric. I liked this one
  • And most recently, on restraining the prisons budget, he said that "the right thing to do is to reform prison." (June 2011).*
These are all actual quotes. Yes, we usually make things up at the IIPBA, but we felt this sufficiently serious to be truthful.


This message goes out specifically to Civil Servants - Please get a grip of your policy areas and send emails that will probably never be read to No10 with evidence, justification and explanation for policy positions. Don't take this wave or "rightness" lying down.

To our Post-bureaucratic age followers - Be heartened by the Prime Minister's willingness to cut through unnecessary red tape and health and safety regulations when making policy. Walk confidently down your street chanting these simple words when challenged - "it's the right thing to do".


Shit the bed, it's spreading. Just flagged to us by our Qualitative Analysis Team: in response to news that David Cameron eventually decided to wear a morning suit to the royal wedding, London Mayor, 7th in line to the throne, and good friend of DC's, Boris Johnson declared that "I think it's the right thing to do". Taking the piss or the spread of a political virus? Comments please.

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