Wednesday, 1 May 2013

We can but wonder “now would they have?”

Blogger Richard Seymour has a piece up on Comment is Free at the Guardian entitled  The fake jobseekers' questionnaire reveals a new kind of nanny state which is subheaded “This bogus test is a blatant attempt to 'shape' people and makes a mockery of Tory indictments of government bossiness.”  The indictments he speaks of  were of course to be heard issuing from the lips of persons such as David Cameron and firmly directed towards New Labour  - “We will have to tear down Labour’s big government bureaucracy — ripping up its time-wasting, money-draining, responsibility-sapping nonsense.” being but one example.

What has spurred Richard Seymour, and others, to go into print is the revelation that the government’s  Behavioural Insights Team attached to Number 10 and colloquially known as “the Nudge Unit” had designed an “on-line test” for the DWP which was ostensibly to allow an unemployed job-seeking person to identify their “signature strengths”.  However, it was soon discovered that this “self help test” was specifically designed to give “nothing but positive statements regarding the user's employability” and better yet not only regardless of the input from the user but in the original version  when the user simply clicked through all the questions without providing any answers at all.

Eventually, even the Labour Party became aware of the issue and felt obliged to “say something” and the shadow Work and Pensions secretary Liam Byrne duly put up on his personal website  a stinging rebuke :-

“The Guardian reports that that jobseekers are being asked to complete ‘bogus psychometric tests, as reported here:
No wonder unemployment is higher today than when this government came to power.  Ministers seem to have got jobseekers wasting time on mumbo jumbo personality tests when they should be looking for work”. 

The Labour party would quite clearly never have indulged in such underhand tactics and it seems entirely clear that the life of the “Nudge Unit” would be short lived should Labour be returned to power in 2015.  Or would it?

It is relatively easy, especially given the 1997 – 2010 track record to imagine a Labour administration making full use of such a valuable in-house taxpayer funded resource to devise “on-line surveys” that left users in no doubt, regardless of how they answered any of the questions, that they were 100% absolutely sure in themselves that the one indispensable item they needed to make sure their lives were complete in numerous ways was an ID Card, and the sooner they applied for one and developed a “never leave home without it” mentality the better.

But Labour may not have to have the “should we, shouldn’t we” agonising.  So successful and admired is the BIT that it has been announced today  that it is candidate number 1 in the government’s “mutualisation programme”++. 

++ Update 16:00 :Not everyone thinks this is necessarily a good idea


Mark Wadsworth said...

"Privatising" the Nudge Unit is absolutely classic New Labour-style crap waste of taxpayers' money.

Was there really a change of govenrment three years ago?

Bob E said...

But it will take 13 off the "civil service head count" (leaving only a further 74,987 civil servants to be "moved in the private sector by mutualisation" according to the Francis Maude masterplan as unveiled in the Indie) whilst also reducing the "salaries and wages bill" by over £ half a million ..

Who could possibly object to that? OK, so pretty soon it will transpire that the main customer of "Bitco" is "the government" and that said government is forking over £5 million a year for "services rendered" and also cunningly declaring £1.6 million of that as "profit that can be applied towards reducing borrowing" on account of the governments stake in the organisation, ...