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Minutes matter

Nope, we’re not talking about your best time for 10k round your local park.

We’re not talking about how long to cook your Slimmers World oven chips for (it depends on how dense the potatoes are,and how much moisture they hold…)

Minutes matter, despite being the tedious bit at the start of a meeting, because they’re part of the evidence that a decision has been properly taken.

In the old fashioned world of committee administrators, there are three elements to a good decision. The first is an agenda that specifies the decisions to be made in sufficient detail that anyone reading the agenda knows what to expect. The second is information provided in advance of the meeting that allows the decision makers to weigh the evidence and assess it before deciding. The third is an accurate record of the decision made and why it was made, otherwise known as minutes.

What is clear from the Chilcott report, amongst all the other detail, is that cabinet government had failed. Cabinet members were not coming to the cabinet table to make unfettered decisions, but to endorse the actions of the prime minister, often decided upon in a thoroughly undocumented and ad hoc way.

Here’s the problem I have with this way of working. I sometimes feel as if I’m the only person in the word who gives a shit about properly made decisions. I sometimes feel as if, somehow, our political illiteracy has allowed us to let go of proper, rational cabinet decision making and replace it with a neo-feudal model in which the cabinet is not a place to make decisions, but a collection of barons who have to be appeased and cajoled by the PrimeMinister into endorsing his decisions.

Sadly, neither party leader speaking to the Chilcott report yesterday made this point. In part that’s because Cameron hasjust blundered spectacularly; he sought to appeasehis rebellious barons by staging a referendum that was not required, and which delivered the wrong result, like a medieval jousting match in which the serf on a nag surprises the lords and ladies by unhorsing the king’s champion. The last thing Cameron wants to do is to reflect on the way in which the same model of cabinet government that led Blair to err over Iraq led him to this.

And Corbyn? Decent, lovely Jeremy Corbyn? While the barons of the PLP plot an squabble amongst themselves over the spoils he resembles a monk or abbot, pictured standing piously at the side ofthe feast, condemning the extravagance and corruption but entirely lacking any plan to stop it. Even if he cannot summon any love for the blair styleof leadership, he couldat least argue that cabinet government become, once again, the practice of collective decision making, with proper records and clear reasons for the decisions being taken.


One comment on “Minutes matter

  1. ValeryNorth
    July 7, 2016

    This is what impresses me about so many political meetings at the grassroots level that I’ve attended (including the CLP meeting last week): people there care about procedure, minute-taking and minute-reporting, and so on. That whole transparency of process, or decision-making.

    Just as much as the “headline” human rights and freedom of speech and all that, the records are our guarantee against corruption and protection of democracy. It’s one reason why we have Hansard, for heaven’s sake!


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This entry was posted on July 7, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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