Friday 27 June 2008

One year on: Gordon is proving his reform credentials, but nobody is listening

The newspapers are full of their anniversary analyses. Few of them offer tributes to Gordon Brown a year after he became Prime Minister. Those columnists who spent their time rubbishing Tony Blair from the left have abandoned Brown with even more vehement opprobrium. But the best assessment of what is happening comes not from the dire mid-term polls or the failure of the voters of Henley to put Labour in third rather than fifth place. It is given by Peter Riddell in today's Times who recognises that the government has developed an appetite for reform in recent months that is largely passing the voters by.

This is important, not just because Brown is taking the right long-term decisions for schools, health, energy and welfare. On the latter, even Fraser Nelson in the Spectator admitted that the Tories plan merely to claim credit for work begun by James Purnell. This week's dreadful Tory health policy which failed to recognise the need for any maximum waiting times - because the BMA don't like them - stands in stark contrast to the strong NHS reforms being introduced by Alan Johnson and the best of Brown's imported ministers, Ali Darzi. The academies programme has been speeded up and a radical programme to lift the fifth of weakest schools is underway. He is being radical on the environment and energy policy. Other big reforms are on the way in the coming weeks. The Tories have yet the show a very convincing hand: despite the credulity of some, their schools' policy lacks Labour's practical and ambitious edge and their health policy is simply anti-patient.

But, of course, all of this has been obscured by the loss of credibility endured after the last party conference and particularly by the economic downturn. Unless the economy picks up relatively soon, there is little chance of Labour recovery. But if it does - as is possible in a two-year period before an election must be held - the reforms being introduced now will stand the government in good stead. And the government must continue to show the sense of purpose evident since Christmas however gloomy the polls and pundits.

No comments: