David Blackburn

A zeal for reform is what Labour is missing

A zeal for reform is what Labour is missing
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Chris Patten appears on the last ever edition of Straight Talk with Andrew Neil in the early hours of Saturday. The coalition is Patten’s type of politics: socially liberal and economically neoliberal. He describes the government’s frenzy of legislation as ‘breathless’, but accepts that is understandable as it attempts to introduce a zealous reform agenda at the start of its term.

Patten observes the coalition recognising that the fiscal overspend invites radical public service reform; indeed, requires it. He said:  

‘What I think is admirable is that some ministers - Kenneth Clarke for example, Vince Cable for example - have made it plain that they don’t just see public spending contraction, necessary as it is, determining the priorities for the next few years. They think this is a time when we have to reorganise public services and in the process probably spend less money, and concentrate much more on outputs than inputs.’

Last night on this week, Michael Portillo observed that none of the Labour leadership candidates are inclined to view spending cuts as an opportunity to reform cumbersome public services. Why would they? They are wedded to the status quo, and comfort zone Labour politics. Portillo reckoned that James Purnell would have taken the opportunity. Labour’s reticence and dishonesty about the state of the public finances is losing them the centre ground and their intellectual vitality.