Brown’s national plan – six discussion points
Another crazy day in the office . I have torn myself away from Anne Atkins and Jeremy Paxman debating the English language in the Great Room to steal ten minutes to write this post. I wish I had longer because the plan being published by the Government in an hour deserves proper debate . Maybe I’ll come back to it tomorrow. But here are some points to be going on with:
1. Given where GB was two weeks ago it is pretty remarkable that people are interested in what he is saying now. Maybe the public reaction will be a big shrug of indifference, if not it suggests there may yet be life in this Government.
2. The idea of moving from top down accountability delivered through guidance, bureaucracy and inspection to a bottom up accountability delivered by citizens enforcing their rights is attractive. Although we await to hear how exactly the entitlements are to be enforced. No one wants a field day for lawyers
3. I understand that while some rights are individually enforceable others require community mobilisation. For example, the police rights will be delivered through communities being able to force the police to attend meetings to explain themselves. Whether it is useful to lump different types of power for citizens under the single heading of entitlements is open to question.
4. Politically Labour’s hope is that today allows them to remind people of the areas of big progress under Labour (abolishing long waits in the NHS, and the creation of neighbourhood police teams in every area, for example). It is also a challenge to the Conservatives – do they match Labour’s promises which could make them look weak or do they refuse which opens up to the charge of having a secret cuts agenda.
5. It is not clear how local government fits into this new regime. The danger is that local democratic authority is by-passed in a redefinition of the relationship between state and individual. I understand there is some good news for council coming later this week, but we need a clear account of how local government fits into this new framework of rights and freedoms.
6. An interesting plan’s credibility will sadly be undermined by the failure of the plan to tackle the political machine of Whitehall. We have too many ministers looking for work to do. They constantly generate new priorites and guidance which are all too often interpreted at the front line as instructions. Gordon Brown will want to make the case that his new framework frees up the front line and makes government less bureaucratic and complex, but until he slims down and muzzles the ministerial monster this is not believable
Overall, however, an important plan which should be judged on its merits. It will be interesting to see if there is any subtlety to the Conservative response