Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The New Blair Government

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The New Blair Government

Article excerpt

MR BLAIR'S sweeping election triumph reflects the nation's willingness to give Labour a second chance to show that it can deliver on its ambitious promises to reform public services, together with a refusal to be unreasonably frightened of Europe. On health and education, the Government's eagerness to act is not in doubt.

The question is whether it has any clear vision about how to build better education, transport, health and policing systems. Existing policies will not be enough.

As Roy Jenkins writes on pages 10 and 11, a lot more money will be needed to provide any chance of matching the quality of French health or German educational systems, to recruit extra policemen and save our railways. If the economy continues to flatten, it is unlikely that enough government revenue will be generated merely by growth. In one guise or another, there will have to be more taxation or borrowing.

Yet raising the money is relatively easy.

The harder task is to ensure that it is wisely spent, first by imposing tough management disciplines; second, by obliging public sector unions to adopt 21st Century working practices. Both doctors and teachers could play a more constructive role in shaping policies to match finite resources with ever-growing public demands. Mr Blair must ensure that the best brains of his Government are deployed. Conventional wisdom treats the Foreign Secretaryship for instance as one of the great offices of state. That perspective is redundant. It matters far less for Britain today who is Foreign Secretary than who runs Transport or Education.

It would be good for our democracy if Mr Blair had to face a credible Opposition in Parliament. Mr William Hague's resignation is the only sensible decision for him and for the Party. The key choice now will be what kind of Tory leader succeeds him. …

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