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Ideas and Decisions - Dinner with John McTernan, 29 May 2007

The Per Capita circle was joined for dinner on 29 May by John McTernan, Director of Political Operations at No 10 Downing Street.

Over dinner, John spoke about ideas and decisions. John not only gave us his personal observations of how big ideas influenced the decision-making of the Blair Government over the last ten years, but expanded on the big ideas which will influence progressive decision-making in Australia and beyond over the next ten years.

We were treated to a vivid word picture of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown sharing an office in 1983, taking every brick out of the wall of progressive policy one by one, knocking the mortar off them, turning them around and asking "but does it work?"

John talked about the great progressive value of community, and how politics is adapting to the new demands of a society which is made up of networks, rather than hierarchies. As he put it:

"When we want to find a community leader, we are starting to look past the man who was elected to head the ratepayers association to find the two women who set up the toy library."

It was a compelling survey of the next wave of progressive thinking.

After dinner, we were joined by Will Hutton chief executive of the Work Foundation, a leading British think tank.

And we discussed China and India, democracy in foreign policy, the potential of environmental markets to transfer wealth from North to South, the north of Ireland ... As well as the Victorian infrastructure in the TV series Minder and the future of Heart of Midlothian in Scottish football.

Without making predictions for Australian politics, John left these words ringing in our ears:

"In politics, 'fear' may trump 'hope', but 'time for a change' trumps 'fear'."