David Cameron has a piece in the Telegraph today. It is headed:
Brick by brick, we are tearing down the big State.
It’s all quite laughable.
I want truly open public services, where people can choose the hospitals and schools they go to, with the right information at their fingertips to make that choice; where different providers, from the private and voluntary sectors, can come in and offer new services that people can access free; where funding is directed to helping the most disadvantaged; and where these services are truly accountable to local people, not to politicians or bureaucrats in Whitehall.
People can choose hospitals and schools? Really? Is he planning education vouchers to give parents real choice in eductation? Nope. He is planning “free schools” – which means schools funded by central government rather than local. Is he planning health services where patients can choose hospitals for themselves, even private ones? Nope – he’s giving the choices to GPs. And what does he mean by “funding is directed to helping the most disadvantaged”? Who will decide who is disadvantaged then? Ah yes. Must be those bureaucrats.
To make that choice more meaningful, parents can now express a preference for any state-funded school, even when they live outside the catchment area – and local authorities have a duty to grant such requests if there is space.
He didn’t mention that this has been the law since Margaret Thatcher’s government made it so by the 1988 Education Reform Act. Nor did he explain why that choice has to be restricted to state-funded schools – after all, in the paragraph I quoted above, he mentioned private and voluntary providers coming in.
So today, as we publish our update to the White Paper, we are taking three new, radical steps. First, we are announcing an independent review that will specifically look at how we can extend choice to the most disadvantaged in our society. This means making sure that everyone has access to the information and support they need to make a choice, and that if they want to complain, they know how to go about it. Where we find this information and support is missing, we will act.
Oh my gosh! So radical! An independent review! And they will act. Definitely. Some time soon. Maybe.
Second, we are publishing draft legislation that would enshrine in law the right to choice. This means if your mother needs hospital treatment, or your child is about to start school, you will get a choice over where they go. And if that choice doesn’t exist, or you’re not happy with it, you will have a way to get your complaint listened to and resolved.
Obviously your mother isn’t allowed to choose for heerself then… But all pretty irrelevant really. He can pass all the laws he wants – if the school places aren’t there in the good schools, then you get a choice between rubbish or even worse. And his policy is to maintain the legal ban on setting up new grammar schools, so he obviously doesn’t care much about standards. But don’t worry. Your complaint WILL be listened to. By a bureaucrat. And resolved. To the bureaucrat’s satisfaction.
Third, we are going to consult on making it easier to set up neighbourhood councils. It has been too difficult for people to come together and have a say in how services are designed, prioritised and delivered in their local community. In fact, some local authorities have been guilty of the same kind of top-down bureaucracy that has been the Achilles’ heel of central government.
Some local authorities have been guilty of top-down bureaucracy! Really? And remind me again which is the leading party in local government? Ah yes, that would be the Conservatives, wouldn’t it? And why, pray, Mr Cameron, is the answer to create a further level of bureaucracy?
You’ve had central bureaucracy. You’ve had local bureaucracy. That’s not enough. Under Mr Cameron you’ll get neighbourhood bureaucracy too.
…no one should doubt my determination to make our public services better, by opening them up. I will not rest until the job is done.
It would be hard to find a more vacuous piece of drivel than this article.
But most interesting of all are the comments from readers. The article has drawn a positive tirade of angry and hostile remarks – and this on the Telegraph site – supposedly the home of Tory voters.
Says one – just to give you a flavour:
LIAR. You are a pinko statist.
Hey ho. I think Mr Cameron’s goose is well and truly cooked.