Trying to involve experts in a policy review presents a challenge. I know, from my time at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, that people are often flattered to be asked and may lend their name. However the heavy hitters, the people whose views you really value, have many demands on their time and are erratic in their attendance. You end up driving it yourself and relying on the comments of just one or two people.
I therefore wish Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell the best of luck in his endeavours. He is embarking on a project to develop an alternative economic policy, presumably before undertaking a consultation exercise with Labour Party Members. If North Norfolk is anything to go by, many of these members have high expectations of what he is to produce.
Now John McDonnell has managed to attract two really big names from overseas: Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winner from the US and Thomas Picketty the best selling author from France. According to the first Press Release, both were unable to attend this weeks inaugural event but ‘will give presentations, at future meetings’. John McDonnell has also captured the support of former Bank of England monetary policy committee member Danny Blanchflower – a UK citizen who is now based at the Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Blanchflower is very highly regarded, so this is a coup.
I reproduce above the promotional photograph of the first meeting. The eager group clustered round the table and flip chart do indeed give the impression that they are up for the challenge. Look to the top right hand corner and you will see a frame containing an individual who seems to be distracted by something that is happening over his right shoulder. This is indeed Danny Blanchflower who, we are told, is to Skype into discussions from the United States. He may not have been told that a promotional photograph was underway or it may be that Skype has frozen. My advice to John McDonnell would to avoid relying overmuch on modern technology to support his efforts. Work with those who can turn up at the meetings.