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The incoherence of “evidence-based policy-making”

The Independent Group promises a break with ideology-led politics but that is simply not possible to achieve

By Julian Baggini  

Ex-Labour MPs announcing the launch of the Independent Group. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

“Our aim is to pursue policies that are evidence-based,” proclaimed the Independent Group in its founding statement. It’s not exactly the part of the declaration that got the most attention, for two good reasons. First, isn’t everyone in favour of evidence-based policy? What’s the alternative? Government by gut feeling? Administration by intuition?

Second, we’ve heard all this before. In the early days of New Labour’s government, for example, the 1999 Modernising government white paper declared that “policy decisions should…

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