James Forsyth

Purnell talks the left’s language

Purnell talks the left's language
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James Purnell’s speech to the ‘Progressive Governance’ conference in Chile is an interesting bit of political positioning. On the one hand, there’s a very Blairite argument that with the recession there is even more need for public sector reform, an acknowledgement that money is not the sole determinant of the quality of a service:

“the years of rapidly expanding spending on public services are over. The continuous improvement to public services which we have seen for a decade now cannot stop. But more money will not be its motor force. We will be forced, by sheer weight of necessity, to get more for each pound. That means the debate about how to reinvent public services, how to improve outcomes through reform, is an urgent necessity. In a world of change, we cannot promise people a quiet life.”

But this is combined with some language that will warm the cockles of the oldest Labour heart:

“We need to recognise that income inequality is just part of a wider struggle against the inequality of power.”

But perhaps the most interesting bit of the speech is the last two sentences:

“This is the lesson of the centre-left moment - not that we, the politicians acting as the state, take more power for ourselves. Quite the opposite - we let it go.”

When it comes to politicians of the left letting go of power, I’ll believe it when I see it. But there is an interesting similarity between this and Jon Cruddas’s comments about the need for change to come from below not above. This seems to be fast becoming a new dividing line within the Labour party. To the Blairites, who know they are too small in number to set the direction of the party on their own, it offers a chance to build ideological alliances across the party.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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