The Whitehall machine isn’t up to the job. Labour must crowdsource

Labour will face a huge challenge when it forms a government next year. It’s not just the scale of the cuts it will be forced to make – though those will be extraorinarily tough. It’s the Whitehall machine that it will inherit, which is simply not up to the job. And it is the impact of savage cuts to spending on infrastructure. A Miliband government will need to do more with less. And it will need to work smarter, not just harder.

There will be many conflicting views about how to handle these challenges, but one thing is clear – digital technology will be one of the key enablers of transformative change. Ed Miliband gets this – and he has established a wide range of reviews to inform the policies and actions of a new government. There’s Maggie Philbin’s ‘Digital Skills Taskforce, John Woodward’s ‘Creative Industries and Digital Review’ and Alexis Cleveland’s work on ICT and efficiency. Next week Chi Onwurah will launch a review of Digital Government.

This is all well and good, and we can expect some good clear thinking but it ignores one of the huge benefits of digital technolgies – the ability to support collaboration, to harness hundreds of voices and thousands of ideas. That’s where Labour Digital comes in. We’re launching today. Elsewhere Parry Mitchell sets out who we are and what we plan to do. I want to set out what I think is the most exciting part of our work – crowdsourcing policy ideas.


There’s a gap in Labour’s digital marketplace and it will be filled by us, and by you the reader. I want the 100 best ideas for how government can use ICT. Just think about the policy areas that digital impacts on. There’s the industry itself – how do best nurture and grow it. Then there’s the industries it supports – everything from logistics to film-making.

There’s the productivity gains to be made in every service industry. And in the public services. What would Whitehall look like if it was properly re-configured? Or local government. In health and education there are specific applications, and general ones too. Is Big Data an opportunity – or just a fantasy like the fad that explained everything through neuroscience. What is the appropriate oversight of the spooks, and the privacy we should expect – or demand? The questions are rich and varied – I have not even begun to list them.

How can ICT transform everything government does, everything it touches or impacts on. That’s the exam question. Let me hear your answers. The bolder, the better. Send them to us at: [email protected]

John McTernan was Political Secretary to Tony Blair and most recently was the Director of Communications for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

More from LabourList