Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is Labour heading for a Clause 4 moment in reverse?

Austerity drive will hand billions to private sector cried the Guardian on Saturday. I'm not sure the story quite justifies the headline, and wonder about the retro language used: 'Rubbish disposal is one of the services under threat of outsourcing' as if we were back to the 1980s. But I was more struck by the comment of Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham that:

Some private operators are going to have a field day, making a fortune from a system which will offer less public accountability

It's as if he has forgotten that neutrality on the question of outsourcing versus direct provision of public services was a key part of the New Labour agenda. As part of its 'Best Value' programme, New Labour insisted that local government should 'consult, compare, challenge, compete' (the four C's) in deciding how to provide services - we were not simply to assume that the in-house team did it best. Likewise in education through the academies programme and in health too, Labour embraced the role of private sector providers.

Is Andy Burnham's comment a sign of Labour re-embracing Clause 4 and rejecting the nasty private sector outright outright? If so, Labour may be looking to a similarly long spell in opposition to that which they enjoyed between 1979 and 1997. But I suspect that it is just rhetoric designed to court union votes in the leadership election.

No comments: