November 13, 2009


Our future in their hands: It is a myth that David Cameron and George Osborne have no ideas – from elected police chiefs to parents setting up “free schools”, they have armed their party with policies that match their vision of a smaller state (Steve Richards, 05 November 2009, New Statesman)

Blair was ruthless in making the connections with his overall theme. By the autumn of 1996, he and Brown had agreed that they would not change the rates of income tax and would stick with the Conservatives' spending plans for the first two years of a new Labour government, although they did not make the dramatic announcement until the following January. Already Brown had announced strict fiscal rules to bind his economic policies in ways that were aimed at reassuring the markets. Privately, he was also planning for the independence of the Bank of England.

At the same time, Labour's small incremental policies sent out a signal about more ambitious commitments to social justice, although they were imprecise about what form those long-term ambitions would take. The pledge to cut some classroom sizes was emblematic, a tiny policy to be paid for by ending the assisted places scheme, which gave a small number of pupils access to fee-paying public schools. The only specific tax increase was an almost universally popular one, a windfall tax on the privatised utilities that had made huge profits. A great deal of detailed work was carried out to make sure the proposal was credible.

Cameron has policies that match his vision of a smaller state, and they have evolved consistently. His "hug a hoodie" speech in July 2006 did not signal a march towards the centre-left. His arguments were based on Iain Duncan Smith's theme about the centrality of the family in addressing issues relating to poverty. From the beginning, Cameron argued that other institutions such as the family and the voluntary sector must take a bigger role.

It is a myth that Cameron has few policies. Wherever you turn, there are proposals aimed at shrinking the state and, in theory, transferring power to users of services. The Conservatives plan to introduce elected police chiefs, allow parents to set up "free schools", abolish central targets for the NHS and establish a separate independent body to be in overall charge of the health service. Most fundamentally, they plan to set up an independent body to advise on public spending levels, historically the most important task of elected politicians. They have numerous policies focused on heightening accountability in the public sector. Taken with proposals to cut public spending in real terms, the policies flesh out Cameron's belief in a smaller state.

The entire premise of Thatcherism/Blairism/Bushism is that you can improve the delivery of core government services by making them consumer driven.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2009 7:29 AM
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