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Deciding Fast and Slow

Elinor Goodman finds out how government ministers make decisions under pressure from the instant all-pervasive information culture.

What is it really like to make decisions affecting millions of people, knowing that a mistake might be pounced upon instantly and your career left in tatters? Government ministers face this challenge every day, and now under ever-rising pressures - not just 24 hour news, but also hugely influential social media and far stronger demand for more open and accountable decision-making. Elinor Goodman finds out from senior politicians, civil service leaders and their advisors how government ministers make decisions in the face of growing pressure from this instant all-pervasive information culture. How is the quality of decision-making affected when the demands for faster and more transparent policy-making become impossible to resist? As information circulates ever faster, can ministers actually keep up and make good decisions rather than succumb to the demands for swifter ones? Where once there was just a news cycle to manage, now there is a need for instant replies to all manner of questions and challenges about the detail and purpose of policies themselves - and sometimes this happens before the policy has actually been finalised. David Cameron leads a government that can only dream of the time and space afforded to his political hero Harold Macmillan, who was able to take weeks deliberating on subjects which today's PM must sometimes resolve in minutes. So, what are the pressures and processes that contribute to ministerial decision-making in the 21st century? Producer: Jonathan Brunert.

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29 minutes

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Fi Glover and Jane Garvey roam the fields of broadcasting talking to interesting people.