Here's John Healey with a generally encouraging post on decentralisation over at Labour Home.
1. Healey is right that Cameron's decentralising rhetoric is one that masks a refusal to address the causes of political centralisation, and one that will, in practice, continue and deepen the tendency that has gathered pace since the 1970s
2. Healey needs to distance Labour from it's past on this one. There are plenty of understandable reasons why Labour took the approach that it did - he hints at it here:
"When we were elected in 1997 we were a government in a hurry. Our landslide was in part a rejection of under-funded, under-performing and highly uneven public services and our mandate was to transform them. So while we may have overdone the targets, central programmes and performance management, we were right at that time to drive the change from the centre. However, the arguments for doing so are now long gone."
He needs to go a great deal further for two reasons. The first is a principled one, the second is one that is more Machiavellian:
a) in democratic terms, what has happened to local democracy has been indefensible. It's been bad and wrong on so many levels, and they don't need listing again here again, do they?
b) people that work in the public sector are voters too. They've lived through a decade where they've had money chucked at them in a way that they wouldn't have dreamed of in the mid-1990s. They should be Labour votes that are weighed rather than counted.
Yet they hate their work. They hate the useless ever-multiplying over-paid audit-obsessed middle-managers.
They hate the insecurity of 'contestable' jobs. They despair - on behalf of the people they work to serve - of the lack of continuity, the inconsistency and the collapse of professionalism that has come with the rise of the managerial consultariat.
Politicians routinely get their targets met, but more rarely get anything useful done. Public sector employees understand - as voters as well as workers - that these clipboard-wielding zombies are incapable of moving small pebbles up hills. That they are great at giving the public what they say want - but never in a way that they want it.
As Dr Faustus discovered, you have to be careful what you wish for....
Labour needs to go one step further. It needs to do what is in it's soul. It needs to announce an about-turn. A re-statement of faith in professionalism. A shift towards a publicly accountable - but professionally capable - public service ethos.
It's no longer acceptable for all aspects of government to be about upwards accountability. That's what fosters our enervated arse-covering public sector.
Instead, we need an almost revolutionary commitment to decentralisation. One that only Labour - with it's Trades Union footprint - can promise.
It's time for an apology and a change of tack. Change is in the air. Now's the time to do it.
Go get 'em John!