Pundit or manager?

23rd Oct 2023


I’m sat watching the footie while I write this blog, thinking how I love punditry.

Sat in the comfort of an armchair, experts give their opinions on what the manager is doing right or wrong. They may be the great and the good; acclaimed in their careers; have been honoured on the way, but they are pundits not managers. The poor soul making the decisions on the touchline is the one who can actually makes choices; they have the pressure to succeed and pay the price if they don’t. The pundit, well they just say they got it wrong or right. They don’t get sacked if they fail to judge the situation correctly.

Speaking of football pundits, let’s talk about the National Infrastructure Commission. They too have no skin in the game. Unlike a politician, whose career is over if they get the call wrong, the NIC just carries on. That’s why publication of their latest assessment is punditry, nothing more, nothing less. But the dangerous side to this punditry is that it is seemingly done in a vacuum.

Let me explain. To support all-out electrification is an opinion, just the same as whether Bellingham should play at the front or back of a diamond midfield formation. (Yes, he should by the way). But what makes it dangerous is that the pundits have influence but no accountability for what they publish. They can build up hopes and fears for businesses and consumers, without having the ability to actually deliver.

Pundits may call for a substitution in a game, with much acclaim, but the manager is the one who makes the decision. They may not have the skills of the expert pundits but they do hold the job. They will have reasons for the decisions they take and they are held to account for them. Like politicians, we may not agree with them but we should respect their position.

So when the PM says not every home is suitable for a heat pump, who are the NIC to say otherwise? When the PM and Chancellor struggle to manage the UK’s financial situation, what’s the point of the NIC suggesting over £200 billion of spending the country can’t afford?  And putting all our eggs into the electrification basket might sound good for a pundit, when it risks not being able to keep people warm when it really matters is something the politician’s career rests on. Skin in the game counts on the pitch and when grappling with the huge and difficult task of heat decarbonisation.