The Long Grass

Wednesday 25th April

The long grass is where your balls get lost – in all senses of the word.  But it also means safety from those who would cut the grass from beneath your feet.  Governments are increasingly good at announcing new policies, but we very rarely see them actually come into practice, despite their often repeated claims.  Money is a good example, as extra money is promised time and time again for the NHS or for rough sleeping or for whatever the newspapers are banging on about this week.  But those on the front line never see the cash.  It has to go through committee after committee first, it is mulled over, weighed and divied out, but by that time so much has been spent on consultants that the dribble that arrives has been all but forgotten about.

Tony Blair was the absolute master of kicking things into the long grass.  First you raise expectations by announcing a commission, an inquiry.  You appoint some grandee, an ex-politician, a judge, a Lord, and a team of experts to produce (after a couple of years) a report.  Grand blast of trumpets as the report eventually thumps down (all 5,000 pages) onto Ministerial desks.  We are considering carefully the recommendations of this important report.  Two years later and Ministers are still seriously considering the proposals.  Then you hear nothing at all, until a new commission is appointed.  The long grass slowly grows over the original, probably quite sensible report, until the weeds take over and it is completely lost, only to be discovered by historians of the future.

But the illusion is potent – the Government is doing something…