Welcome to the PopCon Blog

An introduction to the blog from PopCon Director Mark Littlewood

It’s always worth remembering that a key rule of political communication is that it is only when you have risked boring yourself to death through repetition that your message may just about be getting through to the wider public. This is why political parties tend to encourage their spokespeople to endlessly repeat campaign slogans. “Take Back Control” wasn’t just a by-line on Brexit leaflets, it was used endlessly by the Leave campaign, eventually to tremendous effect.

PopCon doesn’t have a slogan as such (although if you have a smart idea for one, let me know). But we do have an analysis and it’s one that I am happy to repeat endlessly because it needs underscoring and reaffirming at every opportunity.

Over the last quarter of a century, we have allowed to grow up a network of quangos, commissions and committees which appear to influence and dictate our lives more than our democratic government. Indeed, so powerful are these bodies that elected politicians find it difficult to pursue their goals if these clash with the broad mindset of the entrenched establishment.

This doesn’t make cutting taxes, deregulating business or enforcing a sensible immigration and asylum policy impossible, but it does often mean that attempting to move Britain in such a direction is akin to pushing water uphill.

All of this means that the broad conservative movement needs a meta strategy, not merely a coherent policy agenda. PopCon exists to develop and promulgate that strategy and to argue for a full blown institutional overhaul of the UK state machinery.

There are swathes of areas of public policy where our sclerotic bureaucratic system mitigates heavily against sound public policy.

In the field of immigration and asylum policy, it seems to matter little what you might think is the optimal approach because (unless you favour fully open borders), our obligations under ECHR and our own outdated and burdensome human rights laws seem to make actually implementing any sensible policy nearly impossible.

In the arena of fiscal policy, one increasingly gets the impression that the Chancellor is playing monkey to the OBR organ grinder. Once the Office for Budget Responsibility has determined the so-called “fiscal headroom”, the government’s room for manoeuvre is enormously restricted. They can shuffle things around within a tightly defined envelope – but not beyond the tram lines set by Richard Hughes and his OBR team – of course, the estimates provided by this quango usually turn out to be wildly inaccurate within just a few months.

Similar problems abound with the Bank of England. Another body which is described as “independent”, but which broadly means “unaccountable”. No heads ever roll even in the face of dramatic policy failure. When politicians make major errors they often pay with their careers. When the quangocrats produce woeful results, there is barely even a mild shrug.

The dash to carbon net zero is one of the most contentious – and expensive – long-term policies imaginable. Yet it almost seems unacceptable to debate in the public arena whether the policies associated with CNZ are either wise or affordable. Instead, policy again seems to be contracted out to the Climate Change Committee. Too many vital areas of political debate are being “depoliticised” as if controversy and disagreement can and should be waved away.

The infuriating roll out of a plethora of “woke” policies also seems to reflect the predilections and priorities of an out-of-touch liberal elite. This elite seems insulated and uninterested in the cultural attitudes of ordinary people or – more often – positively hostile to the mainstream views of the wider general public.

In these areas – and so many more – it is not enough for conservatives to push back against bad policy, we need to completely remake the policy-making machine.

This blog will bring together an assortment of commentators, experts and opinion-formers to explore and debate how we might go about achieving this mission. They won’t always agree – PopCon has no “official position” on specific policy proposals. But we are united in a belief that Britain needs radical change and in a desire to work together to map out how that can be achieved.

Please join us in pursuing that objective.