We lefties have long been accused of advocating unrealistic policies. It's time this accusation was turned around. It is the "mainstream" policies of the Boss parties that are unrealistic. For example:
1. "Sack bad teachers." This would fail for a simple reason - the same head teachers asked to sack bad teachers are often those who hired them in the first place. If the heads were bad judges when they made hiring decisions, how come they'd be good judges of whom to sack? In fact, if you gave heads more power to sack teachers, the ones who'd get the boot would be the staffroom curmudgeons, the ones who didn't share the head's "vision", the older more expensive teachers, the ones who believe students should be educated rather than just taught to the test. In short, almost anyone other than genuinely bad teachers.
2. Tough immigration controls. The UK coastline is four times as long as the US-Mexico border. If Americans cannot police that border - it has around one million illegal crossings a year - how can we police ours? The answer is: only at prohibitive cost - which means higher taxes or lower useful public spending. How many failings of immigration controls are needed before people realize that they are just not feasible, give the (very) limited competence of central government?
3. Any policy requiring "cultural change". For example, Brown says: "it is time to replace a culture of low expectations for too many with a culture of high standards for all." Such policies fall to the question: where's your tool? The fact is, government just doesn't have the policy levers to change culture. At best, it can only use law and taxes to change incentives.
4. Cut government waste. It's obvious that much government spending is wasted. But the problem is that the same rent-seeking bureaucrats who create wasteful spending will be those asked to cut it. And ministers, like everyone at the top of a hierarchy, haven't a clue what's happening and so are unable to distinguish between genuinely productive spending and waste. If cost-cutting in companies is often stupid or counter-productive, how much more likely is this to be the case in government?
So, let's face it. Allegedly mainstream policies are unrealistic, in the sense of being unlikely to achieve their goals. But as I said, what the chatterati mean by "realistic" is just: "what the Daily Mail will tolerate."
Which raises the question. Could it be that a Venn diagram showing the two senses of realistic - feasible and tolerable to the trash press - would show very little overlap?