Evidence Schmevidence

Pols of various complexions have embraced something called ‘evidence-based’ policy lately. Evidence-based policy is supposed to be more rational, closer to the cool, double-blind, statistically-valid world of scientific experiment (the phrase comes from medicine).

The evidence so far, though, is that evidence is always going to come second to cheap political ‘hot buttons’. The evidence: the Government’s clever-looking, income-linked fines – which promise to hit the criminal rich with larger fines than the cheeky chavs – is an almost perfect clone of a failed policy the Tories called ‘unit fines‘ in 1992. Kenneth Clark quietly dropped the policy in… er… 1993 when they were shown to be unfair, unpopular and unenforceable.

Will Labour’s unit fines survive the upcoming general election campaign? Unlikely. I’ll bet you a tenner the scheme is buried by Easter. The evidence is pouring in, though: politicians can’t adapt to the more open, networked, media-saturated, post-democratic era that produced the desire to ground policy in reality in the first place. Cheesy political posturing will persist. Real evidence will continue to be ignored.