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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007, 15:14 GMT
Matthew Taylor interview transcript
On the Politics Show, Sunday 14 January 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA.

Matthew Taylor
Mark Twain said, for a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. And I think if you work in government, you've got laws so you use law.
Matthew Taylor


JON SOPEL: And Matthew Taylor, who's now gone on to become Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts is with me now. And if it's all very well talking about active citizens becoming more community-minded. Everyone's going to say hurrah, yeah, great. How.

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Well I think there are three things that influence the way people behave. There's rules regulations, incentives. There's our individual goodwill but in the middle of that, there's the social norms - the things that we do just because we've grown up to accept that that's the sort of behaviour that's accepted of us, whether it's you know, queuing up at the bus stop or being polite to people in the street or the way we use public services, and I think we need to give more attention to those social norms that shape our behaviour, and I think it's got implications the way we do politics.

So instead of politics being a conversation about us and them, what the state should be doing for us, it's a conversation about us and our responsibilities; changes to the way we do public services so that public services aren't just about me providing a service to you as a customer, but about a partnership between patient and doctor, a partnership between parent and teacher. I think it's also got implications for the media, I have to say.

JON SOPEL: Of course, you've worked though in Downing Street where you're grappling with the reality of what policies can we implement, what policies can we get through. What is realistic is surely one of the central questions. I know where you want to get to, I want to know how you're going to get there.

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Well I don't think that we know the answer to that. I mean Mark Twain said, for a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. And I think if you work in government, you've got laws so you use law. Actually, we know some schools are very good at involving parents and that's better for education.

We know that some health centres are good at involving patients, so there is practice out there but we don't know enough about what it is that shapes behaviour. We've seen a shift in the last few years about people's attitude to the environment. Just over the last few months I've started to notice people are slightly embarrassed about the flights that they're taking for example, so you can see norms shifting.

JON SOPEL: Well Tony Blair doesn't seem terribly embarrassed about the flights he's taking.

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Well, you know, there's an issue about the way in which that was reported. But it's clear as Mayer Hillman said, you have to have a combination of state action and¿ but take one area.

JON SOPEL: Just on that point because you say that it's about individual action that's being taken and that leads to an example and we've had Tony Blair and his flights and we've had Ruth Kelly sending her child to private school and people think 'politicians, they're hypocrites.'

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Yeah well - there's a, this whole question about how we talk about politicians is I think part of what I'm talking about because we're constantly focusing on politicians as if they're the people who control every aspect of our life, but a much richer debate for democracy to have is as I say about the values that we have and about the responsibilities that we share.

Now it is possible to shape social norms. If you look at the transformation of people's attitudes to black people, to women, to gay and lesbian people over the last twenty years, it's gone from - equality was an area¿ twenty fives years - that only a few very left wing people advocated. Now it's part of our everyday lives.

Now I think we need to create a new set of social norms on issues like the environment, on how we use public services, on how communities fight crime. Now it's a very new area: I don't think politicians think like this, I don't think the media thinks like this, I don't think public servants think about this and whether we provide those services.

JON SOPEL: I listened to David Cameron being interviewed this morning and I thought he was saying more or less all of this. I'm sure he's going to say 'Matthew Taylor, welcome.'

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Yeah, well I think in, in a way that's the problem. Politicians do exalt us to behave responsibly but it's not actually built in often to the way that we provide public services. Now tomorrow for example, the government's hosting a big debate about involving the public in decision-making.

I think that's a good step forward. So for politicians to exalt the public to get more involved and take responsibility, only works if you're actually willing to open up decision making for example...

JON SOPEL: A very quick final thought, do you think the money then, the billions that have been spent, a lot of it has been wasted because of the lack of consultation?

MATTHEW TAYLOR: Well it's not so much consultation, it's working in partnership. A lot of the money has made a difference, but I'd like to see more money being dedicated to getting people to develop new sorts of partnerships because you know, the biggest influence on a child's educational performance is their parents engagement.

The biggest influence on your health is the responsibility you take for your healthcare and we've got to have a different dialogue, involving us as citizens in reaching those outcomes.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Matthew Taylor, we'll invite you back when the books fill up. Thank you very much indeed.


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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

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