Magazine article Public Finance

Flexible Friends

Magazine article Public Finance

Flexible Friends

Article excerpt

The certainties of politics are not what they were. Once upon a time public servants knew where they stood witli Labour and the Conservatives, but not now.

This week saw the two main party leaders make keynote speeches on the public services. Tony Blair called for public servants to learn from the attributes of business, while David Cameron warned politicians to stop 'beating up on' public sector workers.

Blair's speech was the least surprising. He talked darkly of confusing the public service ethos with keeping the status quo, and threatened that funding could be shut off if public servants did not embrace reform.

However, Cameron performed a remarkable volte face. He admitted that the Tories' view of public servants could have been interpreted as 'there's too many of you, you re lazy and you're inefficient'. In reality, he admitted, public servants know a great deal about efficiency and good practice.

It was an impressive speech, though somewhat at odds with the Tories' recent campaign to cut tens of thousands of civil service posts.

The political cross-dressing is developing apace, as Labour and the Conservatives do battle for the centre ground. …

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