One form of unintended consequences is: ‘A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended’ and this is precisely the issue Labour will face when back in government.
Labour introduced academies in order to bring much needed funding into our crumbling state schools – and look at the buildings our children learn in now. Labour introduced private tender into the NHS to drive up efficiency – and look at the reduction in waiting lists.
However, the perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended is the way this Tory-led government has picked up the ball, dropped by Labour at the last general election, and run with it in ways we could never have imagined. Schools forced to become academies, free schools established in anyone’s garage and an NHS being broken up and privatised.
Labour is currently undertaking a policy review, starting with a blank sheet of paper. Of course, we can’t start with a blank sheet of paper. We’ll be starting from the ill thought-out, hastily concocted and dangerous changes this government is hell-bent on implementing.
But how will Labour reverse the changes of this Tory-led government? And let’s be clear, reforming our services in a way that’s near impossible to unpick is the driver behind Cameron’s agenda. Thatcher and right to buy; Cameron and the NHS; Gove and our schools.
With schools no longer in local authority control, the NHS in the power of private providers and the state systematically dismantled, what can Labour do to put our society back together?
I haven’t got all the answers. In asking this question to many members I fear I’m not alone.
The question for Labour is: in the 21st century to what level do we feel the state can intervene to undo the decisions of a previous government? Do we go as far as renationalising Britain’s schools and hospitals, do we regulate the private organisation to the level where they might as well be state owned or do we end up just accepting the status quo after five years of disastrous government?
Of course, there are ways of managing the situation in the short term. But this is only a stop-gap aimed at slowing the flow of privatisation.
Government for Labour should be about setting a course in pursuit of social justice and fairness. I fear the next Labour government will be about unpicking the damage of Tory rule.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
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