Monday, September 07, 2009

Tongue-tied Labour

I don't make a habit of commenting on Westminster politics too much, but this post by Ben Lucas illustrates the forlorn position that Labour finds itself in at the moment.

Matthew Taylor's response to it makes sense, especially this bit:
"Currently it is assumed that the areas that will be most badly hit by public service retrenchment are those – like the North East – which have the highest proportion of their local economy in the public sector. But if the squeeze leads to new ways of thinking and working it could be those areas that see the biggest advances in overall productivity. This is not just about more efficient spending. Education and health care are two of the fastest expanding areas of global economic activity. Innovation in the public services could help the UK compete more effectively in these markets."
As Matthew says....
"The debate about deficits and cuts has tended to revert to a simplistic economic model in which the private sector generates money, the Government taxes it, and the public sector spends it."
If ever there was a time to challenge this, it is now - given what's happened in the past six months. But Labour is not longer in a position to have that conversation. It has a leadership that generally chooses to say nothing unless it has the space to say exactly what it wants to in the context that it chooses. And this space is no longer available.

Ben is saying that the government should go ahead with the Comprehensive Spending Review this year. I'd be worried about how much tacking and backtracking they'd do as soon as any element of it received a bit of hostile press.

It's probably too late to play the best card that Labour could: That it is ending it's flirtation with the idea that the public sector could be run more effectively if it were done along frameworks that pretend to mimic those of the private sector.

That there is a space for self-confidence and enterprise in the public sector. One that doesn't involve private sector salaries or the bureaucratic/managerial processes of large commercial monopolies.

I doubt if the current government would agree with this anyway - and if they did, I'd not be too confident that they could communicate it.

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