Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blair and Brown, the dirt on the infighting

I have to say that I was amused when I read this article in today's Guardian. It is headlined "Sack the chancellor. Cherie Blair's repeated advice to her husband" which under the circumstances seems good advice to me but alas was not followed.

Some interesting bits in the article:
According to Mr Cox, the problems between the two men had begun in 1994 but "became truly difficult after the 2001 election" because Mr Brown wanted "to be prime minister now".

He said: "I had a conversation with Cherie about how difficult Brown had become and was demanding he resign then. And ever since then, it has been continuous. Cherie reacted personally to what she regarded as Gordon's very bad behaviour, she took deep mortal offence".
To which I say Hark at her! Firstly she refuses to curtsy to the Queen, and secondly autographed a copy of the Hutton report into the death of Dr Kelly to raise money for labour party funds in the most incredibly poor taste.

Charles Clarke, a notable Gordon Brown fan* is quoted as saying:
"I would categorise Tony's approach to social entrepreneurship ... that is to say to give schools, hospitals, universities the resource to get on with it and do it. Whereas Gordon's view is much more traditional Labour view. Which means that you can pass a law or make an administrative decision in central government and that will change behaviour."
Which really goes to the heart of the argument. I have heard some air headed Labour supporters argue that the Conservative party is trying to offload responsibility. This is clearly not clear thinking. The fact is that trying to run things from the centre causes problems. The tax payer demands some value for money, and one thing this government has clearly demonstrated is that you can spend money to your hearts content on public services but it wont always deliver results, whilst people are demanding better public services.

This is in part where the rub arises. Public services are free. Except they are not. Even if the person getting the service is not paying for it, there are millions of tax payers who are.

No matter which way you try and deliver public services the issue boils down to this: I have ticked all my boxes, done my job, so if you don't like it, bog off.

That is unfair on many public service workers, but the ethos is still there that the service is free which it isn't. This problem then leads to some kind of them and us attitude. As an example, I can't remember his name, but a black man (former member of the army if I recall) was involved in a fight outside a night club, was hit on the head, taken to hospital where he became difficult and abusive so the police turned up arrested him and the man died on the floor of the custody sweet from his injuries. His behaviour whilst objectionable was entirely consistent with his injury. He died because he was a number and statistic rather than a customer who had money to spend.

The big issue with public services is how to get them to work better. The labour party under Gordon Brown seems to be setting targets based on spending. The current mantra is to increase education spending up to the level of independent schools. The Conservative party is looking for ways of giving the public ways to "kick" the public services where and when they need it. That is to be able to say to a public servant who is not performing, shape up or I will take the money elsewhere. Incidentally that could be a popular message on the streets. Tony Blair's "choice agenda" is along similar lines and in many ways is merely picking up where John Major's government left off.

*OK, I can think of another couple of people who like Gordon more.


Steve_Roberts said...

Is it too cynical to believe there is no TB / GB infighting, and there never has been, but rather a consistent tactic to wrongfoot the opposition (and the media, and the people) and to misdirect attention on serious issues has been to choreograph a sock-puppet ballet eg "No referendum" "Yes referendum" "Maybe referendum" "Maybe not referendum" complete with sound-effects of breaking china and furniture crashing to the floor ? It's certainly closer to what competent (if manipulative) adults would do than the tales of strife we read in the press.

Benedict White said...

Steve, I suspect it might be :) I don't think they could have carried it off for 10 years solid!

Anonymous said...

"The big issue with public services is how to get them to work better."

That is not the case. The big issue is what should be a public service and what should not.

Making medical practice a universal public service verges on lunacy, for example. It is bonkers.

The police should be a public service, but highly accountable locally. There should be no centralised police force. Again, education should not be a public service.

In fact, the government should be stripped of all responsibility for everything except the defence of the realm (too late, Tony! You didn't understand that that includes British borders) and the Foreign Office. Everything else, either devolved or completely privatised.

And every single quango exploded, preferably while the members are sitting. I've never seen a more arrogant, repulsive bunch of overweening, bossy, self-regarding morons in my life.