ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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In High Dudgeon

studies, and yet more studies, and letting its more talkative ministers make remarks about the importance of the problem. BEYOND MERE COMPETENCE It, in the course of the election campaign, the debate does move along such lines, it will be a sign that a new phase has begun in the style of British political life. Such phases tend to go in decades. From 1957, when Macmillan took over from Eden, to 1966, when Harold Wilson consolidated the small majority that he had won in 1964, was the era of what one commentator has called "the competence mandate", when elections were indeed won on the basis of a general assessment of managerial ability, without any very clear delineation of the purposes to which that ability was to be applied. Heath and Wilson are perhaps the last relics of that age, for events since 1966 have constituted one long reminder that politics is about real issues, that management, whether of a party or of an electorate or of an economy, is little more than a trade skill which politicians must possess in order to survive, but which can only be justified in terms of the policy objectives which it serves. The major failures of the Labour administration, which stand apart from the numerous minor promises which one is now constantly reminded have been kept, are not failures of competence. In race relations, immigration, foreign aid, education, employment, the failures have arisen from an absence of clearly defined objectives, so that there has been no test by which competence might be assessed.

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