Earlier I blogged about the sneaky socialists who seem to always undermine public sector reform from within.
The problem is how to combat them and the their sneaky tactics:
So how should moderates in our mainstream political parties respond? The first step is to acknowledge their total failure to connect with ordinary working people. The Government doesn’t seem to realise it, but its partial move to give people free choices over schools, health and other services could be one of its most transformative legacies if properly followed through. Choice turns supplicants of state services into empowered consumers who can ditch poor providers and switch to the best, and competition between services in turn drives up quality. It is akin to Margaret Thatcher’s empowerment of the working class to own council houses and shares in public utilities. The narratives of the “big society” and Labour’s “one nation” alternative amount to little more than romanticist jargon in comparison.
But what about some specifics?
There are, of course, practical measures needed. My own research shows large numbers of people have no idea how to assess the quality of local GPs, schools and other services, so more choice in that context achieves little. While some information is available for schools, the medical establishment refuses to release similar easily accessible detail about NHS services because of the huge variation in quality it would expose. The situation where a parent cannot find out which GP practice is best at managing a child’s asthma is exactly what is sustaining the ability of ideologues to argue that public services must remain under monopoly state control.
The Government could perhaps try to limit the abuse of citizen panels to undermine choice through tighter controls – but the attack on freedom would only shift elsewhere. Much more important is for politicians to understand and start explicitly standing up against vested interests.
I’d start by taking on the various public sector unions…the PSA and the teacher unions.
Which brings us back to the analogy of guerrilla warfare. The most effective answer to dealing with that was developed by a free-thinking British Army officer, Robert Thompson, in the Sixties. Unlike the rest of the top brass of his time, Thompson understood that, ultimately, the battle for the hearts and minds of ordinary people was far more important than endlessly chasing after the guerrillas themselves or appealing to intellectual elites. The lesson applies more than ever in politics today.