Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In a Mess after Much Meddling

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In a Mess after Much Meddling

Article excerpt

Byline: BERNARD TRAFFORD

IT'S a time for U-turns, apparently. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is in a mess, now the entire health profession has come out against his plans for NHS reform.

He's becoming the focus of anger not because he's cutting, but because he's seen as meddling.

No one likes cuts, particularly when they're affected by them, but everyone knows we're in a financial pickle and that something has to be done. At least we can see where the Government is coming from.

To his critics, though, Lansley wants to tinker and redesign rather than simply announcing he's got to save money, rolling his sleeves up and getting on with it. That's what will probably force him into a humiliating U-turn.

It was the same with selling off the forests. I've no brief for the Forestry Commission, which seems to me to have spent the last few decades covering lovely countryside with conifer plantations, almost sterile and inimical to most wildlife.

But we all love our forests and the notion of privatising them - again, not related to the exigencies of the crunch - just hacked everyone off.

Do these messes stem from deeply held ideology? Or lousy political judgment? Or both? Whatever the reason, they seem to result in abject coalition climb-downs.

Mind you, I wish we got the occasional U-turn in education. Education Secretary Michael Gove is in a hurry to improve outcomes and to close the gap between the highest and lowest achievers.

That's a great motivation, but when it comes to education, politicians invariably mess it up because they are so dangerously certain.

Of course, everyone, or nearly everyone, went to school, so everyone reckons they're an expert on education. I respect and share Michael Gove's passion, but I despair when, instead of sticking to his job and running a system that's fit for purpose (that should be a lofty enough aim on its own), he insists on micro-managing in precisely the way he criticised his predecessors for doing - pronouncing on what periods history lesson should cover, how and when the study of Shakespeare should be compulsory, which books should be read in English. …

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