This group of people are just a few of the people who I recommend following if you are interested in public policy and public administration. What’s the difference between these two terms and what we know as party politics? Good question – the lines between party politics and public policy feel like they have become more blurred over the decades as all of the main political parties have drifted towards the centre. You could say that with party politics is bluntly about (verbally) bashing your political opponents and seeking election to public office, where as public policy as about influencing, commenting on and delivering the policies of whoever happens to be in power.
The top four “institutional” tweeters for me are The Guardian’s Public Leaders’ Network, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Institute for Government. They are not the only virtual or actual think tanks – there are lots. See this WikiP entry for an incomplete list.
The think tank of choice for politicians seems to be the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFF). If the IFF comes out on the side of one party on a given policy, you can be guaranteed to find a politician coming out with the line that sounds like “We know the general public think us politicians are low-life lying scuzzballs and wouldn’t believe a word we say, so don’t take our word for it but take the word of the respected, reputable independent non-partisan institute the IFF who thinks our policy on [insert name of policy] is fantastic!” Yes, I’m “Newz-spoofing”.
The highest profile university-based think tank is University College London’s Constitutional Unit. Sticking with an academic theme are the London School of Economics’ Impact Blog, and its Politics and Policy Blog. Some of you may also be aware of the Hansard Society which covers all things Parliament. Also related to academia is the Economic and Social Research Council. With a similar social policy mindset is Ipsos Mori, the polling organisation.
There are also a number of science, technology and innovation organisations tweeting out there. At the top of the Establishment’s tree are the Royal Institution and the Royal Society. These should not be confused with the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) which in turn should not be confused with the Royal Academy. Oxford’s Institute for Science, Innovation and Society tweets, as does the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. There’s also the Association for Science in Education and the Campaign for Science and Engineering.
It’s not all science though. The historian in me says that if we don’t learn from our history we are cursed to repeat it, hence History and Policy.
In terms of the more ‘partisan’ think tanks, the IEA and Policy Exchange are seen as more right-of-centre think tanks, while Compass (which only recently opened its membership to non-Labour Party members) and the Fabian Society have strong Labour Party/trade union links. For someone who had a more ‘environmentalist’ disposition while at university as an economics undergraduate, the rise of the New Economics Foundation has been a welcome one. Ditto The One Society which campaigns on reducing extreme inequalities. Sticking with the ‘green’ side of things there is the Carbon Trust and the Energy Savings Trust.
At a local government level are the Local Government Association, the LGiU and the NLGN. For what’s left of its existence, there’s also the Audit Commission. As an aside on all things public finance, Public Finance, CIPFA and the National Audit Office are essential following for those who follow the numbers. As things get transferred out to “Big Society” the tweets of the Asset Transfer Unit come into play. With lots of things getting cut, Citizens’ Advice is also important.
Health policy watchers may wish to follow The King’s Fund, The Francis Crick Institute, The Wellcome Trust. For those of you interested in all things foreign policy, Chatham House is the place to go – failing that, DFID’s research Twitterfeed.
On local government, Simon Parker of the NLGN, Charlotte Eisenhart of the LGA and Simon Burrall of Involve are three tweeple I’ve recently started following. I’ve also been following Bola Ogun on all things South London. Sticking with a similar theme of improving things locally is Paula Clayton-Smith of the Keep Britain Tidy Group. Neil Mackin tweets from inside local government, as do Ian Senior and Dan Slee. Those with policy interests also include Justin Griggs on parish/town councils, Will Perrin on hyperlocal issues, Jos Creese on public sector IT & Karen Smyth in Northern Ireland.
On policing, I keep tabs on Laurence Grant, formerly of the Home Office, Tom Gash at the Institute for Government, Paul McKeever of the Police Federation and DCC Gordon Scobbie of Tayside Police – the social media lead for ACPO.
Other people I’ve bumped into during my time in the Whitehall Jungle include David Wilcox, Toby Blume of Urban Forum and Jess Steele at Locality – all of whom are worth following for ‘improving local communities’ issues.
Transparency campaigners will be familiar with David Hencke – essential for freedom of information watchers.
Finally on the NHS Reforms, Dr Clare Gerada & Dr Clive Peedell are the ones to follow. I’ve not found anyone within my Twitter network who works in the medical profession who supports the Health and Social Care Bill.