Chris Skidmore, one of the authors of Britannia Unchained, says:
People aren’t interested in looking at medians and graphs. We have a duty to try and broaden that message outside of the think tank zone.
I don't know what to make of this. It could be that Skidmore is recommending that politicians use social science in the way Paul Krugman urges economists to use maths - you base your policy upon it, but then find a way of advocating the policy in more populist language.
Sadly, though, it is not at all obvious that Britannia Unchained's authors are using this resonable approach. They seem instead to have skipped the science and evidence and gone straight to the populism.
This suggests an unkinder interpretation - that Skidmore thinks formal science has no place in politics. What matters is what sells, not what's right.
The problem here is that there is no strong obstacle to this descent into post-modern politics. The anti-scientific culture of our mainstream media means they will not call politicians out on their abuse of facts, unless the abuser is not in their tribe - as Jonathan complained in noting the press's reaction to Britannia Unchained.
But does this matter? In one sense, maybe not. Expert support and empirical evidence does not guarantee that a policy will be a success - though I suspect it improves the odds.
Instead, what worries me is that this threatens to further corrode the standard of political discourse.Fact-free politics need not be the sole preserve of the right; some of my readers will have the name of Richard Murphy in their minds. And if we go down this road, we'll end up with one tribe thinking the poor are all scroungers and the other thinking our economic problem can be solved by a crackdown on tax dodging. And the two tribes will just be throwing insults at each other. And there's a few of us who think this would be dull.