Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rummaging In Ken's Attic

Rummaging through the dusty scrapbooks piled up in Ken's attic produces this:

'As for the national health service...The principle of managing any giant organisation is that one devolves responsibility locally as much as possible, so long as local bodies remain accountable to the centre and one can give them clear objectives regarding the standards and quality that they are meant to deliver...quality standards such as waiting time targets, pupil achievement targets or rates of detection targets for those who deliver the service.' (Commons speech 14 July 2004).

Nothing could show more clearly why Ken- Big Beast that he undoubtedly is- has had his day. Because that's exactly how he tried to reform our underperforming public services fifteen years ago. And it's exactly how Labour, after their initial hesitations, have been trying to do it ever since.

But although Ken hasn't noticed, while he was spending the last eight years pursuing other interests (see how I resisted saying 'earning a squillion quid?') , Conservative thinking has moved on.

That managerial stuff might have been worth a try back in Ken's hey day, but it simply hasn't worked. And the rest of us can see that.

So Tory thinktankers from Reform to Policy Exchange have been hard at work developing alternatives. And those alternatives are based not on top down managerialism, but consumer choice, competition, and fiscal decentralisation. It is an exciting development which will play a major role in returning us to power, will deliver vastly better public services, and will in time, transform the relationship between state and individual.

Which is precisely why David Davis is making it a central part of his platform.

In contrast, and sadly, all we can expect from Ken is that he will dust off those scrapbooks of when we was fab, and tell us once again that he already knows all the answers.


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