Thursday, June 28, 2007

Oh Brave New World

Roy Hattersley splutters excitedly about our fabulous future:
At least for the first couple of days Gordon Brown got both the style and substance absolutely right – no repudiation of the past but an absolute commitment to moving on. And it is clear what the new direction of travel will be. A more personally responsive health service, free from the straightjacket of targets. Affordable houses to buy and rent. A more sustained attack on child poverty.

More important – at least in terms of winning the next election – there will be no more celebrity politics. Glitz and glamour are out. The hard truth and hard decisions are in. No favours for friends. No free luxury holidays. No spin. Fresh air blows through Downing Street.
The problem is that the target system was basically Gordon's idea - it gave the Treasury (ie: him) greater control over domestic spending. To criticise it as wasteful and counter-productive (well duh) now is grotesquely hypocritical. The spin that there is no spin is not sustainable. Every time Brown, as all Prime Ministers must, has a photo-call with a celebrity (Kylie?), or is filmed on a football pitch, everyone will shout 'No spin eh? He's just as bad as the last one.' And they'll be right.
And 'affordable houses to buy and rent' are not something that can be delivered as a policy in itself - they are the result of planning policy, monetary policy, and the cost of land itself. Be very cynical as to whether this is a promise he means to deliver, or whether it is another 'NHS dentist for all' moment.
UPDATE: Oh, about that no spin business?
Mr Ellam came in bearing the news that Brown's first act was to “revoke the orders in council granting powers to special advisers to give instructions to civil servants”. Except this was entirely bogus: these powers were personally conferred on Alastair Campbell (who quit two years ago) and Jonathan Powell (who quit today). So there was nothing to abolish. I felt for Mr Ellam, this little ruse obviously wasn’t his idea. Under mild questioning, he quickly admitted this was a “meaningless gesture".

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