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In a messy parliament, academics should keep politicians honest

Respect for evidence separates the politicians who want to get things done from the partisan game-players, says the former head of the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology.

In the aftermath of the 2010 general election (hung parliament, rapid Conservative/Liberal Democrat negotiations, something about a rose garden), I optimistically speculated that ‘evidence’ might provide the bricks and mortar to build bridges across political divisions. In the aftermath of the 2017 general election (hung parliament, slow Conservative/Democratic Unionist Party negotiations, something about abortion), I feel less optimistic.

In an ideal world—the one my 2010 brain imagined—when no party has a majority, politicians go into negotiation mode, seeking to turn competitors into allies. First they park all the tricky value-based issues and agree the ‘facts of the case’. Then the political divisions and the values that create them become easier to reconcile.

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