Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"BBAs" et al: Do policy buzzwords attract or filter people?

I tweeted this after the recent elections:
Now I'm reading this speech on bus subsidy reform, and just realising why it's so hard to get my head into elections - or a lot of "reform" and "policy".

"Better Bus Areas". "Portas Pilots". "Big Society". "Pasty Tax". Oh God, the list of buzzwords uh, I mean hypewagons, uh I mean "policies" just goes on and on.

Democracy - or rather democratic discourse (which is a different thing, but includes speeches, media coverage, and general efforts to increase enthusiasm) - has become a boring hamster-wheel of phrases and symbols.

Taking a lead from the private sector, it feels like politicians are wont to sell society in more ways than one - not only in the practical terms of outsourcing, but also (and perhaps more irritatingly and dangerously) with regard to how customers citizens buy into engage with the process.

Yes, there's some kind of thought-process going on behing all of these, some kind of "actual" attempt to solve the real-world problems we do need to address. I appreciate that, really.

But by the time this thought-process has become a "programme", it's been so tarred with political context, existing decisions, and PR "acceptance" efforts ("What's the hashtag for this new policy?") that engaging is about as engaging as a Microsoft sales chat. (And sure, some people like that. Some people enjoy politics too.)

The interesting aspect of this is whether such a technique is to entice people in with a brushing of faux-simplicity, or to discourage them, leaving the nitty-gritty to people with the time and background to understand the real talk and consequence behind the symbols.

Should policy be a user-friendly, read-it-on-the-loo affair? Or an academic, know-what-you're-talking-about conversation? Both have advantages.

Maybe I'll just carry on grumbling when the price of a single bus ticket goes up again.