OPINION: Make the most of the silliness

LISA HARKER, deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research

We have officially entered the political silly season. The moment the end of the parliamentary session is in sight, Tuscany beckons and there begins six or so weeks of kite-flying, off-the-wall politics, aided and abetted by a news-starved media anxious to fill acres of empty space.

You will have got a whiff of it already. The suggestion that we might have to pay for rubbish collection went down like the proverbial lead balloon. Look out for more of the same: hastily conceived policy proposals subjected to a public-opinion test before policy makers decide whether they are worthy of serious consideration.

It feels like a good time to go on holiday. Joining the long queues at airports or ferry terminals certainly beats facing the frustration of feeling obliged to give serious responses to flippant policy proposals.

But in truth it is too easy to dismiss the politics of the summer months on the grounds of silliness. In some ways this is a very serious season.

Think back and you start to recall what once seemed unlikely policy proposals that have since made their way into serious policy making. Identity cards?

Vouchers for asylum seekers? Among the silliness, lie nuggets of future policy proposals that will see the light of day. It seems we too quickly dismiss what appears to be trivial summer silliness at our peril.

Nor should we really ignore the opportunity that the arid media days of August offer for campaigning organisations who, in the day-to-day political environment, have to jostle to grab even the tiniest bit of media coverage.

The late summer months provide limitless opportunities to make the kind of media impact that can only be dreamt of at other times of the year.

Never mind that the politicians are on holiday; in these media-obsessed days you can rest assured that they will be keeping tabs on the coverage back home.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if you want to seize the chance to make your mark on the policy agenda, you should really be packing away your suitcase and making the most of the silliness of the season.

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