I’m not sure whether political manifestos really describe the state of a nation’s politics, but they give strong hints. Reading François Hollande’s “60 commitments for France“, it’s a shame to see no echo of the discussions about new models for public services that you hear in the UK.
François Hollande, the Socialist candidate for president of France, is well ahead in the polls, so it’s worth reading his pre-manifesto, “The change is now: 60 commitments for France”, published last week.
It’s striking, as others have pointed out, that the Internet and new technologies get sparse mention in the 23 pages of political commitments. Other than a few business-focused promises about high-speed Internet and tech businesses, there’s nothing that touches on public service reform, let alone the sort of internet-enabled participation and co-design that was being discussed at UKGovCamp last week.
The closest M. Hollande gets is commitments to decentralisation (pledge 54, p. 35), but that is at its heart a specific proposal to undo one of the local government reforms undertaken by Sarkozy.
Compare that with the proposals in the UK Conservative manifesto from 2010, whose summary promises:
“We will give people much more say over the things that affect their daily lives. We will make government, politics and public services much more open and transparent. And we will give the
people who work in our public services much greater esponsibility. But in return, they will have to answer to the people. All these measures will help restore trust in our broken political system.”
Similarly, the Labour party’s manifesto at the same election said:
“Citizens expect their public services to be transparent,
interactive and easily accessible. We will open up government,
embedding access to information and data into the very fabric of public services. Citizens should be able to compare local services, demand improvements, choose between providers, and hold government to account.”
I suspect, however, that the lack of commitments on new models of public service reflects its lack of currency in the French political system. On Twitter, during UKGovCamp, Nicolas Vanbremeersch (@versac) said that there had never been a French GovCamp – but perhaps there should be.
It feels like, at a time when the French government is under the same pressure to make savings as the British one, that this is something where Britain could take a lead, if the appetite for change is there among the leaders and we can find the disruptors.