One minute public trust in politicians is at a crisis point, the next minute voters want and expect more government.
Earlier this week, the public’s predilection for big government was confirmed, as a poll for the Red Box daily briefing found. Given the choice between government doing more or less, voters overwhelmingly came down on the side of more – 62 per cent to 38 per cent.
Yet, this follows another poll of just a few months ago, which showed the proportion of people who trust politicians to represent ‘their needs’ has fallen to the all time low of 24 per cent.
It is inexplicable. Or is it? It got me thinking.
Why on earth would anyone be wanting more from government when they have so little confidence in the politicians who are responsible both for executing government and holding it to account?
It simply does not add up.
Not even the fact that Conservative voters are more likely than their Labour counterparts to think of big government as bad – that it is inefficient and/or an intrusion into their lives – balances the equation.
The numbers suggest (10.7 million voted Conservative at the last election to Labour’s 8.6 million) that lots of Conservatives are secret ‘statists’ or believers in the virtues of a hyperactive State. They want the government to run great services, provide security and help grow the economy – and by implication they must believe government – and its politicians – are capable of delivering these goods.
And that is what beats me. It is so obvious that government fails and the more it does the more it makes matters worse. A look at any week in politics provides examples of what government is expected to do and what it inevitably fails to achieve.
This week it is Rotherham Council – the great child abuse scandal – that has been found wanting. It has monumentally failed to juggle the government’s demand for multiculturalism with its child protection duties, which no doubt, as in Stockport, include the provision of contraceptive ‘services’ for underage children too.
It’s not that there was a shortage of ‘services’ or responsible ‘officers’, either from the police forces or from social services, with the specific responsibilities. Vulnerable children, witnesses reported, came in to contact with many of them. But, in true big government style, no doubt these officers did what they were meant to do – record meetings, write reports and sit on ‘joined up’ safeguarding committees etc. But nothing happened, still the case today as another witness claimed this morning in news reports. Taxi drivers, he said, can still be seen at their ranks grooming groups of 14 year-olds-girls while policemen turn their backs on the other side of the street.
But never fear. Big government’s big intervener Louise Casey, the director-general for troubled families at the Communities Department, has a solution. Rotherham has to be taken into special measures – government commissioners are being lined up to take over.
But does anyone really think this will make any difference? Will the commissioners be any better than said officers at juggling respect for multiculturalism – which has lead to ethnic ghettos being left alone or treated as no go areas – with child protection duties?
And exactly what do these child protection duties amount to today?
Will, under the commissioners’ aegis, more children be taken off the Pill or put on it?
And what will Mr Pickles or Louise Casey do if the five commissoners tasked to take over children’s services find that many more children need to be taken into care? Will the care system be up to scratch to deal with it? How many of the abused children were in the so-called “looked after” system anyway?
Are they any safer in council homes or foster care, given the way children in care are allowed to run amok, than they would be by remaining on their own in their inadequate, neglectful and sometimes over sexualised family set ups?
What does Mr Pickles propose Rotherham do about that?
Rotherham’s problem, like the Trojan Horse scandal, is a problem of big government taking too much responsibility on its shoulders. Big government’s contradictory edicts – like those in the Equality Act – demands the impossible of local authorities and are bound to have perverse outcomes.
I predict that another layer of government imposed on Rotherham will end up becoming an exercise in political correctness that targets the innocent and leaves the guilty untrammelled.
I doubt too whether any of the commissioners will direct attention to, let alone admit, the real roots of Rotherham’s problem: an ethnic immigrant largely Muslim population coming face to face with the underbelly of broken Britain’s benefits street culture.
I imagine that plenty more than the national average of a third of children living with unmarried parents is to be found in Rotherham, typical of the children clustered in the ‘man deserts’ of our poorer cities and towns. This is where young girls grow up with state dependent mothers, where males are boyfriends with sexual rights, but never fathers with the duty of providing for or protecting their families.
Until we change that – which means stopping penalising marriage and starting to reward it – government interventions will only feed the cycle and make matters worse.
That is Rotherham I suspect – just one example of the mess government hubris gets us into – the assumption it can solve the social problems it has created.
Eric Pickles and Louise Casey will make all the right noises, sound firm and promise solutions. The result? Ever greater public cynicism when their interventions fail to deliver.
No wonder the public are sick and suspicious of politicians promising too much.
But though these attempts to bribe us with our own money diminish respect for politicians, they lead inexorably to bigger government.
Bigger government, in turn (if we believe YouGov’s poll about voters’ persistent and naïve belief that big government should and can deliver) infantalises the public it is letting down.
How else can we account for the logic gap between distrust and expectation?