Kate Bell – Where next for anti-poverty campaigners?
First, conviction politicians do exist and will back policies either because there is a personal or constituency-based connection or simply because they are the right thing to do. Second, policies that reinforce an electorally successful narrative will always have greater traction with MPs. Finally, politicians are more likely to take action if a campaign is politically risky, either because it affects a large number of people or it risks reinforcing commonly held assumptions about the party.
To increase the likelihood of policy take-up, Kate suggested three further ingredients; policy should be seen to be achievable, it should not cut across other narratives, and there should be strong voices in support. Reminding anti-poverty campaigners that policies don’t have to be ‘oven ready’ was useful to hear; being feasible is important but policy advisors and economists will work out the details. On narrative continuity Kate pointed out that the Labour Party’s messaging around reinforcing fiscal credibility made it difficult to pursue a proposal to ‘triple lock’ child-related benefits but a proposal to launch a new specialist employment programme for disabled people was more sympathetic to this narrative. Finally, Kate acknowledged that it is difficult to move beyond the usual suspects when seeking support for anti-poverty policies but strong voices – and this doesn’t usually mean wonky experts – make a real difference.
Next presentation – Deborah Mattinson, Britain Thinks – Engaging with the public: What do the public think of us and how can we speak in ways that understand each other?