"4. Public services for everyone must be guaranteed by the state, not necessarily run by the state.
We will improve the NHS and schools for everyone, not help a few to opt out. But public services paid for by the state don't have to be run by the state. We will trust professionals and share responsibility - instead of controlling professionals in state monopolies."
Conservatives do need to reassure people that we believe in public services that are free at the point of use but the opposition to 'opt-outs' is disappointing. The importance of opt-out policies lies in the impact they have on the whole standard of provision. If a service provider knows that pupils or patients can go elsewhere - and that that could affect their budgets - there is a tangible incentive to improve the service for everyone.
Where the party has been excellent is the way in which David Cameron and David Willetts have handled the Education Bill. They haven't played Punch & Judy politics with the Bill and have decided that 'something for parents' is better than nothing. That is why Tories will vote with Blair and against Labour's dinosaur backbenchers. David Willetts yesterday, justifying the decision:
"It will now be easier to create new schools outside the control of Local Authorities. We need that extra diversity to improve the quality of education for all our children. Schools that take up Trust status will have power over their own admissions, to own their own assets and employ their own staff. Those are crucial freedoms, which we support. We also welcome the other measures to strengthen school discipline, to tackle failing schools, and to improve the standard of school food... Tony Blair said Labour was at its best when at its boldest. This Bill would have been better if it had been bolder. We were promised radical reform, but the Government daren't even put the term 'Trust Schools' into the Bill for fear of its own backbenchers. It is a long way from the boldness of the original rhetoric."
THE SERIES OF 'BUILT TO LAST' POSTS WILL NOW BREAK FOR PMQs AND RESTART AT 3PM.