The University of Southampton

ECS researcher applies knowledge management to politics

Published: 14 March 2005

Dr Kieron O'Hara, Senior Research Fellow in ECS, has written a book which will be of particular interest to the UK's political parties as a general election looms on the horizon. Dr O'Hara, a computer scientist who works on the AKT (Advanced Knowledge Technologies) Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration, has taken his expertise in knowledge management for organisations and looked at how it might apply to a government, a country, or a political party. He comments: ‘We have seen in organisations, for example in the NHS, how a lack of information can lead to poorly conceived decisions with unanticipated effects. I wondered if the same was true in the wider world. Perhaps our lack of understanding of complex, dynamic societies should lead to careful conservatism.’ The end result is his book, After Blair: Conservatism Beyond Thatcher, published this month by Icon Books, in which he embarks on a quest for an ideological answer to the Conservatives’ difficulties. He begins by redefining conservatism as a philosophy of knowledge, then on that basis he describes an effective Conservative manifesto which, he believes, would need to be much more liberal than current Tory policies, and lastly, he explores the extent to which the current party is still influenced by Thatcherite principles and how such allegiances block any real inclinations towards change. He concludes: ‘Most of the senior figures in the Conservative party reached political maturity under Thatcher. I am saying that they need to go beyond Thatcher and create a post-Thatcher, post-Blair Tory party.’ After Blair: Conservatism Beyond Thatcher is Dr O’Hara’s third book; his previous books: Plato and the Internet, and Trust: From Socrates to Spin also focused on knowledge and society.

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