Tony Blair blogs badly

Tony Blair can’t see the difference between changing and improving public services on the one hand and opening up opportunities for people to take profits out of them on the other, argues Unison NEC member, Jon Rogers.

I note with great interest that the world of blogging has been joined by no less a personage than our Prime Minister! Albeit he is posting over at the Euston Manifesto site (that’s the modern day home of “send a gunboat” liberal imperialism for those not in the know).

Tony is blogging to tell us all the case for “reform” of our public services.

If I think his views are worth noting (bearing in mind he is thankfully on the way out) I may have a proper look.

In the meantime I am amused by his introductory paragraph which states that:

There is always a progressive case for reform. What progressive case is there for the status quo, except in utopia?

This is a wonderful example of Bair’s (mis)use of language. As I have observed here previously he thinks that reform of public services means privatisation. However his actual words are a statement to which no one could possibly object. And one sure thing about statements with which no one can disagree are that they are pointless. Indeed he nowhere defines what he means by “reform” in any rigorous way.

He goes on to argue (at unnecessary length) that society has changed and therefore public services need to change. Doh! Come and do a real job for once in your life Tony and you would find that public service workers are pretty much used to constant change.

The next paragraph of Tony’s irritating dross that is probably worth picking out is this one:

“The driving idea behind reform is to transfer power from providers to citizens. To give power to the people — it is as traditional a left-of-centre slogan as there is.”

Again he manages to utilise a platitude you would have to agree with in order to advance policies with which most people disagree. Because he goes on to say:

“If the citizen has a choice they have a power. The service is likely to be more responsive to their needs. Their voice is a lot more likely to be heard and acted on. The service has a stimulus to improve.”

This begs so many questions. Can we have an informed choice about every public service. Should I, as an individual, choose whether to have my tonsils out or instead to have a vasectomy? Should my children choose whether to study literacy or numeracy?

There is an alternative stimulus to improve public services in the public service ethos to which so many public servants are committed — an ethos which Tony will never understand.

This ethos is continually undermined by a “choice” agenda which is invariably about “choosing” between providers but almost never on a level playing field for the public sector.

Tony then claims that “reform works” and quotes some of those interminable New Labour statistics that so fail to persuade the electorate just now.

All in all, a disappointing little essay from someone who has been running the country for nearly a decade. He can’t see the difference between changing and improving public services on the one hand and opening up opportunities for people to take profits out of them on the other.

Few blog posts I have read so well make the case for a change of policies as well as personalities as soon as possible.

Perhaps it is all a spoof and the Euston Manifesto people are just having a laugh at Tony Blair?

Jon Rogers is a member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of UNISON, the public service union. UNISON is not responsible for the contents of his blog from which this article is taken.

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