The RSA uses cookies on this website. By using this website you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more read our cookie policy and privacy policy. More Info

Punch and Judy politics


As Rosie writes last night’s event with Simon Duffy was fantastic. We have breathed new life into the Albert Medal, hopefully we will do the same later in the year with the Benjamin Franklin. Over the years I believe we can build a strong public awareness of the medals and the particular virtues and achievements they celebrate.

Social Care Minister Ivan Lewis presented Simon with his medal and spoke eloquently about how the work of in Control reflected his and his Government’s values. I have heard several ministers speak over the last few days. Despite the many difficult issues facing Government – most obviously economic volatility – the ship of state seems steadier than it was in the periods between the faux election debacle and the end of the year. I wonder if the next batch of polls will show Labour back to parity with the Conservatives. If they do the media will no doubt turn their guns on David Cameron pointing out that when Tony Blair got a ten point plus lead in 2004 he held it in every poll for three years.

Politics continues to be in a strange place. With Conservatives rattling on about social justice and Labour cracking down on public sector pay and emphasising its toughness of security, the connection between ideology and party is opaque to voters. At the same time people are less and less inclined to believe that any politician has the answers to the big threats and changes of the modern world – whether it’s market turbulence, climate change or violence among young people. In these circumstances the national media, themselves suffering from declining public interest, try to extract drama from politics by presenting it as an oscillating boxing match. Thus someone always has to be up against the ropes; last year it was Blair, then it was Cameron, then it was Brown. Today’s cowering punch bag is tomorrow’s come back kid and so it goes on.

Generally political commentary takes place from exactly the wrong distance. It is neither up close enough to policy issues to really understand or explain what is at stake (Simon and Ivan were talking last night about a genuine revolution in social care but don’t expect to read about it on the front pages), nor is it far enough away to put in context increasingly volatile (and thus pretty meaningless) swings in public opinion.

PS Thanks Matthew for more examples of pro-social experiments. Do try to keep them coming - we have a long way to go to reach the 100!

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related articles

  • Coordination Theory: the basis for working together?

    Matthew Taylor

    In his fifth post for the RSA Living Change Campaign, Matthew Taylor explores some of the implications of the framework he has outlined over the last month and asks why ideas like these aren’t more widely known and used.

  • Wellbeing takes time

    Ruth Hannan

    As we emerge from Covid-19, Ruth Hannan argues there is an opportunity to shift from short-term solutions to approaches based on deeper understanding of citizens’ needs and which focus on systemic change.

  • Economic security and a better future for young people

    Hannah Webster

    If young people are to flourish in this new world of rapid change and insecurity, we need policies that support young people in the here and now, whilst also protecting their futures. Thinking about economic security is one way to do this.