By Melanie Phillips
ISBN 1 903 386 15 2
Early in 2001, Melanie Phillips toured the US reporting
enthusiastically for the Sunday Times on service initiatives which
embodied "compassionate conservatism".
In the subsequent articles, now available in this short
booklet, she describes projects in which individuals are held to account for
their moral failures.
Whether the projects reassert the importance of marriage and
responsible fatherhood, tackle the first signs of neighbourhood abandonment
with vigorous policing or provide vouchers for schooling outside the state
system, she writes glowingly of their relevance for Britain.
But in the short time since their original publication their
message has become outmoded with the onset of recession.
Phillips has nothing to say on the lack of a federal safety
net and the terrible difficulties that jobless Americans encounter when they
are forced out of the labour market.
She has also missed the signs that Americans are turning
once again to government for solutions.
With delicious irony, one of the champions of school
vouchers interviewed at length by Phillips was recently soundly beaten in the
race for the New Jersey governorship on this very issue.
John Pierson is senior lecturer, institute of
social work and applied social studies, Staffordshire University.