@RColvile: Last Week: A Thatcherite with a ‘heart’? This Week: Kier Starmer gets the Colvile back-handed endorsement?

Political Cynic contemplates @RColvile moral/political…

After last week’s cri de coeur :

Paying £250,000 a year for a child in care means nothing if we don’t show them love 

Robert Colvile 

Sunday January 29 2023, 12.01am GMT, The Sunday Times 


First paragraph :

It’s not often that a government publication breaks your heart. But when you’re reading about neglected children, heartbreak is the only human response. Take the official review sparked by the murders, by their parents’ partners, of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, aged six, and Star Hobson, aged 16 months. There are pages and pages of carefully footnoted policy recommendations. But there are also sections like this. 

Last paragraph:

But fundamentally this is not about economics. It is about the most vulnerable people in our society, and the most broken families, and a system that is not doing nearly enough to help them — that is in many ways set up to fail them, again and again. It is about children like Star and Arthur, and Victoria Climbié and Baby P. It is about damaged adults handing on misery to damaged children, who go on to lead damaged lives. It is about whether we say we are a compassionate society, or actually mean it. 

@RColvile  demonstrated that a Thatcherite with a heart, with compassion for ‘the lest of us’ exists… Note the headline that places the concern in monetary terms!

This week it was:

Headline: If Labour wins, it’ll have a proper fight on its hands: with its Whitehall chums


First paragraph:

Keir Starmer must be wondering what to do with his third wish. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the hapless group of also-rans he’s been stupid enough to devote his life to are united, disciplined and in with a shout of historic victory over the team in blue. Also, Labour is doing pretty well in the polls.

Then, just to remind The Reader that he is ‘one of the fellas’ this interjection:

Just like fans of Leicester and Liverpool before them, Arsenal’s supporters are in that precarious phase where delight and disbelief at an unexpected lead gradually morph into a conviction that your side can win the damn thing.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Mikel Arteta’s team will be overhauled by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who are just five points behind, especially with a few more results like yesterday’s.

Then back to business, in the same paragraph as his interjection, and further political elucidations:

But when it comes to the day job, Starmer can have a bit more confidence. The latest Times/YouGov poll puts Labour on 48 per cent, fully twice the Conservative total. There is still, as Tory strategists insist, a narrow path to re-election. But there is a broader one towards a wipeout of genuinely crushing proportions.

But then what? Labour is extremely keen to stress that it won’t be able to do everything at once. The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, is keeping a tight grip on the purse strings — leading to a slightly ludicrous scenario, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, in which her colleagues keep promising visionary public service transformation on a tuppenny-ha’penny budget. As if to prove my point, that very edition of the paper featured an interview in which Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, promised to “make a change in education . . . like the change that we saw post-1945 with the creation of the NHS”, but also admitted that it wasn’t actually costed yet, though she was sure you could find a few pennies behind the cushions.

Following this, the appearance of The Resentful Corbynites appear, yet the purges of those political actors continues in New Labour, Colvile wears the blinders of Thatcherite Privilege… along with other enumerated impediments to a possible ‘Age of Starmer’: Colevile nourishes a hope! adding ballast to this polemic, of a sort?

Even if Labour remains united — and despite his firm grip on candidate selection, Starmer still has a decent chunk of resentful Corbynites on his benches — many of the country’s problems are truly intractable. The NHS is struggling to cope not just with a pandemic-driven surge in waiting lists but also with the inexorable burden of an ageing population. Cost of living pressures are acute. And growth prospects are truly dismal. Indeed, the most alarming aspect of the Bank of England’s latest forecast was not the immediate prospect of recession but that it now thinks the economy can grow at only 1 per cent a year without overheating. That is a recipe for a grim and stagnant future.

@RColvile rambles on for another 705 words, without ever touching on the fact that Keir Starmer is Tony Blair’s Political Catamite : Colvile is the ever respectable Thatcherite, whose commentaries are aimed the Times Readership. A list of the Cast of Characters is instructive…

Brexit, Downing Street, Treasury, Boris Johnson, Department for Education, NHS, England, Department of Health,

A cogent Statistical Interruption?

But let’s look at the macro data. Since the start of the pandemic, public sector productivity has fallen by 7.4 per cent, versus a 1.6 per cent increase across the whole economy. Doug McWilliams of the CEBR consultancy estimates that this productivity collapse has cost the equivalent of £73 billion in annual spending — and blames the problem in large part on weak management of those working from home. 

This isn’t just a pandemic problem. Productivity can be tricky to calculate, but the best guess of the Office for National Statistics is that in 2019 public sector outputs — ie, the amount of stuff the state delivered — stood at 169 per cent of the 1997 level. But that was only because the inputs were 163 per cent higher. To put it another way, productivity over those 22 years increased by 3.7 per cent in the public sector, against 20 per cent in the private — and then the pandemic wiped out even those slim gains. 

The Cast of Characters returns :

Whitehall, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown,

This interrupted by this wan attempt at ‘word play’:

Tony v Tories, or Tony v Gordon, or even Tony v Labour, but Tony v government. 

The concluding paragraphs of Colvile’s ‘essay’ demonstrates that Keir Starmer, acting as Tony Blairs’ political catamite might be an acceptable… perhaps Tony Blair, echoing Mrs. Thatcher, might declare Starmer his greatest accomplishment? The Purge of The Resentful Corbynites is accomplished fact?

As one of the few Labour MPs to have run a large public sector bureaucracy, Starmer will be perfectly aware of this. That is why he has been spending so much time talking to his predecessors and is hunting for a new chief of staff with high-level experience of government. He also has high hopes for Labour’s programme of devolution.

But for much of the Labour Party the experience of power — if and when it comes — may be a rude surprise. As for the Tories, whether in government or opposition they need to do some deep thinking about why they have failed to tame the state.

Political Cynic

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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