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« Simon Chapman: The best moment of the conference | Main | Brian Jenner on Mrs T »

October 04, 2006


Richard Weatherill

Thanks for your report, Wat - even if it is all rather depressing.

Adrian Owens

A report that seems to capture the flavour of the conference. As I'm stuck in Lancashire and having my conference experience badly mediated through "Auntie Beeb" thanks for this Wat.

Let's hope that some of the current thinking on health and education that you outline develops somewhat in the next 12 months.

Simon Chapman

I had a quick conversation on the steps of the Highcliff a couple of nights ago with a close DC aide - what resources, I asked, are being given to support the public service reform policy group, bearing in mind that Zac is bankrolling stacks of reserchers on the quality of life review? The answer, BTW, is that at present there's only one person co-ordinating it full-time. She's very bright and energetic, but she's not Superwoman and she has to cover health, education, social care and social housing.

But I was assured this didn't matter very much - "there won't be much differential between us and the government on public services - we'll be doing the same but we'll just do it better" (I paraphrase).

We have identified public services as a key battleground at the next election. We might need a more compelling narrative than that. Certainly the work & ideas that all the volunteers on the public services group are contributing deserve no less.

Michael McGowan

No surprises there, Wat. The strategy is classic Butskellite managerialism: "we will do exactly what Labour is doing but manage it a bit better" - loosely translated as the orderly (hopefully but remember Sept 1992) administration of ongoing decline.

Osborne claims to be worried about competitiveness and Cameron says trust the professionals in education and healthcare. Somehow I don't think they endorsing Eric Anderson, Cameron's old headmaster at Eton, who said yesterday that reintroducing selective state education is crucial if the UK is to meet the challenge from China and India.

John Coles

Despite all of the waffle about change, Msrs Cameron and Osborne are the worst sort of conservatives - unthinking reactionaries. Lower taxes? Flatter taxes? Good grief, no! - steady as she goes, keep ploughing Gordon Brown's course.


"e.g. the vogue for synthetic phonics, and streaming"

At least these approaches actually work which is some consolation.

Agreed though that the removal of political control is the most desirable path.



Blacklisted by the (Gordon) Brown Broadcasting Corporation? You must be proud

Adrian Owens

Simon's comments above are worrying.

In West Lancashire we are starting a political discussion group (along with a good curry!) to make our contribution to the policy review groups. We start tomorrow with the public services policy group.

The comments made by the DC aide to Simon appear to reinforce the cynics in their view that at least some of these policy groups are constrained in their remit and will merely pay lip-service to inviting comments and consultation having pre-conceived proposals in mind.

Taking the public services policy group as an example. Only late last week did they publish a document for consultation. It is written in a language guaranteed to put off all but the most determined, and asks for responses by 20th October.

Given conference this week, people will have barely 2 weeks to respond - this when the policy group won't itself report fully until the middle of next year - what sort of consultation is this?

We've set up monthly discussions to provide responses to each of the 6 policy groups but I hope that the others operate in a more welcoming and open manner than Stephen Dorrell's group.


I love these comments threads.

Enjoy your curries - but please don't imagine that your ideas will have any impact on anything or anyone.

All three parties have now clearly been captured by "professional" politicians whose only - ONLY - concern is getting and, once gotten, keeping power. Whatever it takes.

The Tories should win next time on the "time for a change" ticket. But what will actually change? Nothing.


I got the impression from watching most of the speeches and interviews, but from Willetts's and Cameron's in particular, that the NHS wouldn't be tinkered with too much, except ensuring that hospitals were given the option to gain Foundation status, but Blair's recent education reforms would be taken a bit further.

Did Mr Willetts specifically rule out too much more change?

Paul Kennedy

"the NHS wouldn't be tinkered with too much, except ensuring that hospitals were given the option to gain Foundation status,"

Well I hope it is, massive savings in the running costs can be made by simplifying its structure and scrapping targets etc, with regards to Foundation status, what does that really mean, isn't it a modern name for what were Teaching Hospitals?

Dr John Crippen

Two other interesting fringe events. First, Reform’s session with Andrew Lansley on the NHS, where Andrew gave a very clear presentation of the Party’s health reform agenda. Unfortunately, it is exactly the same agenda that Labour is so unsuccessfully pursuing already – tax-funded, free-at-the-point-of-use, centrally rationed treatments (NICE), commissioning “gatekeeper” GPs, and payment by results for hospitals.

Never mind all those fabled policy reviews: we’ve already ruled out the most exciting innovative ideas that could make a real difference. No competing social insurers, no co-payment, no putting the money in the hands of consumers. Apparently, to persuade voters “the NHS is safe in our hands” we have to avoid promising the only solutions that would actually work.


Oh dear, oh dear, that is so depressing. More tinkering on the edges, maintain the bureaucracy, same comrades, different lapel colours.

Frankly, Gordon's plans might have more meat on the bone.

Dear, oh dear.


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