The dispiriting interview on last nights Newsnight with Michael Gove and the earlier ‘debates’ between Chris Leslie (Labour) and Matthew Hancock (Conservative) which took place separately on both BBC and Channel 4 have provided the evidence that unless something changes the next 17 weeks of the election campaign will be incredibly depressing and repetitive. One change could be a focus from our broadcasters on the needs of the nation as seen through the eyes of various people or groups of people representing different policy areas. Into this context the parties (and hopefully more than the so called big 2) could be asked to explain how they would improve matters for the people and needs they represent. Perhaps our broadcasters could focus on themes such as housing, health, jobs and the businesses that create them, planning and the conflict between protecting the environment and providing the developments that society needs or wants. Clearly this would require the broadcasters to work together and do more research than might otherwise be required. Public Policy is something that is usually compressed down to the big numbers on jobs/unemployment, waiting lists and of course immigration. However a more in depth look at such issues would reveal a number of aspects. It also responds to the comments on Newsnight by Matthew Taylor, Daniel Finkelstein and Noreena Hertz who helpfully spoke up on behalf of the many people who don’t enjoy watching grown men argue with one another.
The focus on waiting lists is as much about how much capacity exists within nursing homes and home support services as it is the acute services in our hospitals and the many ambulances that queue up outside many of our A&E departments waiting for admissions. It is also an issue that involves the work of the voluntary and community sector, easily overlooked by both broadcasters and politicians in equal measure. The focus on jobs should consider where in the economy jobs are created and how much attention Governments actually pay to this part of our business community. It is widely recognised that the greatest number of jobs are created within the SME sector, rather than through large businesses. Yet despite this the main parties virtually ignore the needs and concerns of SMEs when it comes to policy setting. Even the coalition which has promised to focus 25% of its procurement on SMEs, has failed to differentiate between the largest Medium Sized Enterprises which employ 249 people and the Micro Entities which employ 1-9 people. It is predominately the smaller sized companies that are capable of the greatest growth in terms of both jobs and financial growth, releasing most of their profits back into local economies, rather than pouring profit into the city of London.
As we face the next 120 days of the election campaign, broadcasters and journalists have an opportunity to either shape the debate or oversee a bore-in. Perhaps on Friday when some of us will be focusing on Micro Businesses we could encourage Radio 4, Newsnight and Channel 4 to invite some small business leaders to quiz some of our political parties about the ways in which they intend to support these business women and men?