Peter Hoskin

Oil-and-water politics

Oil-and-water politics
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In an article for the FT, Gordon Brown makes his strongest commitment yet to public service reform.  As he puts it:

"...there can be no backtracking on reform, no go-slow, no reversals and no easy compromises. Indeed, to meet these new demands it is now time to go further and move to the third stage of reform where we not only further enhance choice but also empower both the users of services and all the professionals who deliver them to drive up standards for all."

Powerful stuff.  Another step on the Damascene road to becoming a Blairite.  Yet - as I've said numerous times before - I'm not convinced.  Why?  Because Brown is the architect behind our taxed-and-spent economy, and his Government has put reform into retreat in so many areas.

Besides, he's now getting his rhetoric into a muddle.  One of the best recommendations behind reform is that it can deliver more for less; reformed public services can achieve better results at a lower cost to the taxpayer.  The other side of the same coin: spending cuts needn't mean worse services.  Why, then, does Brown - supposedly a believer in reform - still persist in peddling the line about the Tories wanting to make "damaging" cuts to public spending?  He wheeled it out again at last week's Spring Conference.

Increasingly, Brown's statements are becoming like oil and water: they just don't mix.  Until they do, it's hard to take this born-again Blairism seriously.