Behind the headlines

The prime minister pulled off the stunt of appearing resolute
yet consultative, conciliating yet determined to proceed in future
as he has in the past, in his speech to to the Labour party
conference last week. Despite losing the conference vote on
foundation hospitals, there was no indication it would make any
impact on the government’s policy. “Get rid of  the false choice”
Blair said, “principles or no principles. Replace it with the true
choice. Forward or back. I can only go one way. I’ve not got a
reverse gear.”

Leadership, the prime minister suggested, resulted from instinct
rather than calcualtion and involved courage in adversity. “I
believe the British poeple will forgive a government mistake; but
what they won’t forgive is cowardice in the face of a challenge.”
Nevertheless, he promised to be open to other views. “Over the
coming months, I want our party to begin a new discussion with the
people of Britain” he said. 

Lisa Harker, chairperson of the Daycare

“The government should not reverse, but it does need to find the
accelerator pedal. A bolder approach to policy-making will be
necessary if society is going to be transformed in ways that are in
keeping with Labour’s values. Take the government’s pledge to
eradicate child poverty. It exposes a desire to close the gap
between rich and poor. But this cannot be achieved through small
steps, quietly or by stealth. Turning the tide of 25 years of
rising inequality is going to require the government to lead from
the front.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“I hear a much louder political voice this time around, based on a
value-driven determination to make the service user, patient and
consumer of public services central to all we do. I also welcome
the strong endorsement of local government in the announcements on
the children’s services (pale) green paper. We can’t afford any
more policies that are disconnected from reality or from each
other, if we are to deliver on the very welcome increase in
investment for accelerated improvements in our public

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“No reverse gear may not seem a problem when powering down the
highway of popular policy – education, tackling poverty, minimum
wage, equality legislation, abolition of hereditary peerage (but
don’t mention the monarchy). It’s just a tad imprudent when caught
in the narrow and controversial cul-de-sac of government dogma
toward young offenders, asylum seekers and a two-tier health
service. If there’s no room for u-turns and no desire to back out,
why bother asking the people what we think?”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Every Child Matters could make a real difference to children’s
lives. On the whole its ethos and principles do fit with the Labour
values of ‘inclusiveness, equality and respect’. However, those we
ask to support children directly, like social workers and foster
carers, are the backbone of any chance of success we might have of
achieving the lofty ambitions of the green paper so we should all
treat them with ‘inclusiveness, equality and respect’. Tony Blair
will certainly need to put his foot on the accelerator to achieve
this one.”

Bob Hudson, senior associate, University of Birmingham
health services management centre

“It’s interesting that Blair says that ‘he’ has no reverse gear –
the sort of statement that one might expect from a president rather
than a prime minister. He needs to have a dialogue with
stakeholders about what his core values of inclusiveness, equality
and respect mean in practice. Leadership is not just about
conviction. People without a reverse gear are dangerous.”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.