Peter Hoskin

Johnson tries to scratch the “Cameron veneer”

Johnson tries to scratch the "Cameron veneer"
Text settings

Alan Johnson's sure putting himself about.  After interviews last week with the Sunday Times and with Fraser in our own magazine, he's now got a comment piece in today's Guardian.  Aside from the exaggerations it contains about Labour's record on public service reform, it makes a rather odd argument. 

Johnson's first point is that Tory health policy is beholden to provider interest and too light on reform - which is, to some extent, true.  But - perhaps mindful that the same things could be said of Labour's approach on education - he then goes on to attack the Tories' transformative schools model for basically being too heavy on reform.  Here's the relevant passage:

"And for all the talk of compassion, his plans for education reform look distinctly laissez faire. Take his plan to open schools and expand surplus places wherever parental demand is strongest. I'm all for parents opening and running schools, but I cannot see how an old-fashioned free market experiment, removing all strategic oversight - and cutting £4.5bn from the school building programme in the process - can help struggling schools."

While it doesn't quite add up, and while Labour are positioning themselves on the wrong side of the schools dividing line, Johnson probably achieves his two main objectives with this article.  For starters, he debuts a refinement of the "PR man" attack on Cameron - the suggestion now being that, beneath the "gloss", the Tory leader dosn't know what he's doing on public services.  And he also answers those Labour calls for the government to say something that isn't downturn-related.