Nice article in today's Guardian by Julian Glover, expressing but much more eloquently, what BM has returned to several times over the past few months - Labour and the Trades Unions howl over the Budget cuts and anticipated cuts in the spending review but have no realistic alternative policy agenda to offer. And yet, while they hog all or most of the media attention, moaning and being self-righteous, it seems to me that they are missing what's going on under their noses. Wedded as they are to 'process' often at the expense of outcomes, it seems that this extends even to the Labour Leadership contest, which Polly Toynbee despaired of in Saturday's Guardian.
There are loads of examples of fresh ways of looking at things like welfare reform and new ways of making the public services work better for everyone. BM wrote last week about Southwark Circle and about Participle's new vision for the welfare state 'Beveridge 4.0'. Even those affected by the reform agenda which makes me most nervous (Education) are not simply sitting and waiting - conferences are taking place all over the country, looking at new ways to deliver essential services within a tightened financial framework. As a school Governor, I have been impressed at the way in which Southwark had the foresight to introduce traded services for schools, with the result that while the impact of any cuts from central government will undoubtedly be felt, the impact on Southwark schools and children is likely to be less severe.
More widely, I noticed at the weekend that the Prince of Wales is facilitating some of this brainstorming: 'The Garden Party to Make a Difference' will run from 8-19 September at Clarence House, Lancaster House and Marlborough House. It will involve the arts, science and business and will include mucic from Jools Holland, debates by Jonathan Dimbleby, Sanjeev Bhaskar & Clive Anderson, comedy by Marcus Brigstocke and Hugh Dennis, a discussion and demonstrations of Ecocars by Roger Saul and Kevin McCloud and fashion by Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Another article which caught my eye at the weekend was a piece for 'Think Tank' in the Sunday Times, entitled 'Stop the aid - it's cash that ends poverty'. (Sadly cannot link to it due the paywall..) Claire Melamed is head of the growth and equity programme at the Overseas Development Institute and Joseph Hanlon is the author of 'Just Give Money to the Poor'. Their article discussed the success in countries such as Brazil & Mexico of simple cash transfers to the poor, rather than disparate multiple aid programmes. In Brazil this has resulted in a near halving of child malnutrition and in rural Mexico, high school enrolment has doubled among children whose families receive cash transfers; and for the first time, girls are just a likely as boys to go to school. They suggest that this idea of giving money to the poor, is essentially copying what we in Britian have been doing (successfully as it turns out, in terms of eradicating extreme povery and death from famine) for 200 years or so. It's not a panacea for the reasons they go on to set out but it's interesting. And it seems, their opening gambit in the lead up to the UN's search for a successor to the millenium development goals programme.
You see what I mean; it is possible to re-think the process. Just because it has been done a certain way for a period of time, does not and should not mean it cannot be done differently and better. Julian Glover has it about right - the public accept not only that cuts to public services are are coming but that long overdue reform is also on the way. Which is why I suspect that Labour need more than a change of leadership to begin to appeal to the public again.