Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Reform Leader

There is a view you see trailed around the blogosphere that DD doesn't have any policy ideas of his own. That his pronouncements are either devoid of intellectual content, or where they have content, they're penned by Nick Herbert. That, while he may have latched onto ideas promulgated by the Reform think tank, that's only because he has none of his own.

Unsurprisingly, we think that view is totally wrong.

First, take the Reform think tank. It seems to us to have done excellent work in fleshing out a radical agenda for public sector reform based on consumer choice and competition. And it has been absolutely resolute in asserting its independence. It says:

'Reform was set up in 2002 by a team of individuals who believe that a new type of organisation was needed to promote the case for radical public sector and economic reform.

We are determinedly independent and strictly non-party in our approach. We believe that there has been policy failure in relation to public services over a period of years under all governments, and we want to persuade all parties that there is a better way. Our non-party approach is reflected in our cross-party Advisory Board and Council.'

All absolutely correct, as you will see if you check out its Board and Council.

Except...we're not quite sure it entirely captures story of its foundation. Because the way we heard it- from an inpeccable source, not DD's camp, and some time ago now- Reform was 'David Davis's think tank'. Just as Policy Exchange was Francis Maude's.

We confess we don't know exactly what that meant in terms of practicalities, and it was not something that was shouted from the rooftops. Which is why Googling around produces only one corroborating story, bizarrely from EDP24- "The site where Norfolk really matters"- dateline October 31, 2001:

'The supposedly independent campaign organisation called being established by supporters of...David Davis.'

Hmm...yes, well OK, a bit thin. But do you really think it's coincidental that Nick Herbert, Reform's first Director, is now one of DD's closest lieutenants?

Which is why we expect to see DD roll out a policy platform that is pretty similar to Reform's. Which we think is spot on.

So does it matter that it's not all Davis' own work? That Two-Brains does all his own policy crunching, while Davis relies more on others?

Talk sense, will you? DD's role is to lead a team. He needs to keep a firm grip on the big picture and put around him people he can trust to take care of the detail.

Just like that woman we're not supposed to talk about any more. And all those excellent thinkers she drew on to fuel her transformational politics.

We don't need a think-tanker.

We need a leader.

PS For those who've not read it, the Reform Manifesto is here, and the associated Briefing is here. James Bartholomew's critique is here.


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