Tonselitis (not mine) kept me home today. Spent most of last night awake tending young Wilf who has a nasty dose. Wilf's travails left me half-dead and not getting to London for the ACEVO Working Group on third sector service delivery for the Department of Work and Pensions.
The purpose of this high-level group (including David Freud, the guru who is writing Government policy) is to `make the case' for an expansion of third sector provision during a blizzard of rapid change that will see Back to Work transformed from a sleepy, ineffective public sector monopoly in which clients had bugger-all choice to, we all hope, a new competitive world of fast-paced private and third sector organisations all vying to attract the attentions of thus-far-incapable job-seekers.
Will it work? If Australia is anything to go by, yes it will. Obviously there will be problems to ease out (cherry-picking of easy cases etc), subcontracting to smaller orgs and so on but, overall, by 2015 there should be a lot more people in work and off benefits than ten years of Labour's obese public sector has delivered.
This should, of course, have happened in 1998, not 2008 when Labour had the goodwill and political capital to do what it wanted. But, of course, they bottled it and sacked one of the few sane people in the Labour Cabinet, Frank Field. Now that Hain is safely out of the way (what a preening, vain man he was) we have the young Blairite James Purnell who, like all true Blairites, knows that markets have a big role to play in creating better public services.
The scarcity of people like Purnell in the Labour Party really scares me now. With the Unions giving them now 90% of their election cash their list of demands reads like something from 1975. What, of course, Labour need to do is ditch Brown in the Autumn, elect Miliband with Alan Johnson as Deputy and surround him with Purnell as Shadow Chancellor and Ed Miliband as Home Sec then go to the country in Spring on a radical-centre ticket. They will still lose but not badly. But this isn't going to happen. They will get slaughtered, probably with Gordon still in post but if not someone else totally dreadful.