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Text of a lecture delivered by former home and education secretary Charles Clarke today entitled 'Towards the Progr...
Text of a lecture delivered by former home and education secretary Charles Clarke today entitled 'Towards the Progressive Century'.


Towards the Progressive Century

'I wrote last week in the 'New Statesman' that in my view the Labour Party needs to focus upon the substance of policy and politics, and if at all possible to avoid tempting distraction into personality - and gossip-based leadership contests at whatever level.

I identified five fault-lines which in my opinion have opened up between the Labour Government and important sections of opinion which gave us, many for the first time, their political support in 1997 and 2001 and are now re-evaluating that commitment.

These fault-lines concerned the reform process in a number of areas, including local government; relations with business in general; the commitment to sustainability and green politics; support for constitutional and other democratic reform; a variety of international issues.

A principle political necessity for Labour, it seems to me, is to address those fault-lines and again seek support from those who have left us. And we can see daily that if we fail to do that, our political opponents will venture there with enthusiasm, in the case of the Conservatives in the hope that the 12 or 13 years that will by the General Election have passed since 1997 will have dulled many memories of their real philosophy and record.

And moreover, it seems to me clear that the ambition, rightly set from the outset by the Prime Minister, of making the 21st the 'progressive century' can only be achieved by continuing to make the case for change in very many areas of our national life. That is particularly important in our increasingly globalised world where change is in any case inevitable and formed by an enormous range of different forces world-wide, but where we have to do our very best to determine the nature, direction and extent of that change for the people of this country.

But achieving that ambition of long-term progressive government requires that we set out - clearly, openly and confidently - the way in which we seek to address that future, rooted in our own history and values and demonstrated by our actual practice in what has already been the longest-lasting Labour government in history.

In short if Labour government is to be more than an interlude between decades of Tory rule, more than the swing of a pendulum after which some Conservative 'natural order' returns, more than a tide which comes in for a few years only then to retreat inevitably, we have to apply deep thought as to the best way of achieving that and then focus on how to bring it about - because it won't just happen.

I am conscious that some colleagues believe that a call to debate is an evasion of the need to discuss substance or is simply 'navel-gazing'. I do not accept that. In fact I believe the reverse, that whilst there is, I agree, no need to debate the essential and fundamental values of our Party, there is every need both to assess our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and failures, in Government and then to achieve clarity about both the course we should follow in the coming years and the best way to regain the confident support of the people of this country for that course.

We will not succeed if some new Leader or Deputy Leader produces, like a rabbit out of a hat or Marilyn Monroe out of a birthday cake, a series of policies and pronouncements for us all to admire. While reticence was understandable before 1997 and is understandable for David Cameron now, it will not be understood for Labour after nearly 10 years in Government.

Therefore my purpose in this lecture, which I am grateful to the Policy Review for organising, is to offer my own preliminary thoughts on the political and policy framework which Labour should offer in order to build the kind of open, dynamic and resilient society which is the only way to flourish in a modern world of serious and persistent global challenges. Whatever view others may take of my particular suggestions, I hope that one effect of this lecture is to encourage my Party to address openly the whole range of policy questions which we face.

I believe that early in the Parliament is the time to have this discussion, and I would be of that opinion even if the leadership speculation we now experience were not so prevalent. For myself I shall continue to address these matters in more detail in a series of speeches and articles in the coming weeks and months.

My comments today will cover four specific areas and one overarching theme of political practice.

The four specific areas are Security, both international and domestic; Sustainability, and green policies; Opportunity and Enterprise, with social mobility and aspiration; and Democratic Governance, with constitutional reform and political propriety.

The overarching theme is that of the political and practical management of change and reform, which is fundamental and lies beneath each specific policy area.

In each specific area, as generally, it is critical that our approach is fresh, challenging and demanding. We have to understand and then outline the way in which Labour in Government can and will make a difference.

And in each area we need to fashion the implementation of our approach by building fresh and strong alliances of opinion which overcome the fault-lines to which I referred earlier.


I begin with security, which has dominated concerns in Britain over recent months. There is an international aspect to this, with which I begin, including the position of the European Union, and then I turn to domestic issues.

The most immediate threats we face are pretty obvious. They are posed by terrorism from a variety of sources, and by serious and organised crime, principally people-trafficking and drug-dealing which reaches down into every community in the country.

It is also pretty obvious that each of these threats can best be dealt with by concentrating our action, including strong international engagement, for example through the European Union. The focus on the global criminality and terrorism which threaten our security mean that we have to transform our way of thinking away from the idea that our main concern is invasion of our territory, or threats to it from another nation-state.

So ever stronger defences at the White Cliffs of Dover and ever-more-splendid isolation will not be enough to protect ourselves from the threats which we face. This is a truth which the Conservative Party, and indeed some in our own Party, have yet to grasp but the future security of this country depends on it.

And it will depend, particularly in the European Union, upon ever-closer practical working relations between Foreign, Defence and Home Secretaries. International and domestic security are increasingly closely intertwined and some organisational differences will become increasingly anachronistic.

That is especially true in dealing with the threat of terrorism where we need both practical police and security co-operation and a co-ordinated legal framework to challenge the promoters of terrorism.

Labour already understands the need for better international working and we are beginning to re-orient our practice. Some good progress, for example, was made during the British Presidency of the European Union.

But we have to go further. In this lies the answer to what has been a central dilemma during recent years, of how best we should see the development of the European Union, and of the UK's role within it. As the euro was created the UK stood on the sidelines and the efforts to create a so-called 'European Constitution' have run into the sand. Across Europe the sense of political stagnation is tangible, whilst in Britain the whole European debate, important though it is and divisive though it has often been, has come to a stop.

I argue today that the European Union has to seek to rediscover its momentum in promoting the security and democracy of the continent. That is after all the history of the European Union's greatest achievements, from its origins in healing the division between France and Germany, to its development to end fascism and military government in Greece, Spain and Portugal, and then to its most recent achievement of confirming secure democracy in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

This should now be taken further. Every part of the European Union should now give greater priority to taking more responsibility for promoting peace, stability and democracy, particularly in Europe itself and its neighbours. This may mean giving less priority at the European level to growth and trade, which may be better achieved under national leadership.

In summary I believe that the next stage of development for the European Union should be:-

to move up its internal agenda issues of security, including the fight against illegal immigration, serious and organised crime and terrorism and strengthening the EU's land, sea and air borders;

to accelerate EU membership for states in the Balkans, working with NATO and the UN and placing security as the central requirement for membership;

to strengthen EU relations with North Africa and the Middle East with a view to adopting a much higher profile and role, particularly in the promotion of democracy.

Within Europe this means more effective co-operation between police and security agencies, including joint operations, and better common use of security protections such as passports and identity cards. The first steps have been taken but there is an enormous amount more to do.

But the external boundaries of the European Union need to change too and I suggest that we should accelerate enlargement in the Balkans. This is the part of Europe where criminality is most strongly rooted and democratic government and institutions find it most difficult to flourish. It is the transit area for the overwhelming majority of land-based illegal people- and drug-trafficking into the rest of the European Union. As in previous enlargements the carrot of EU membership will be an immensely important inspiration for change in the applicant states. With NATO and the United Nations we will ensure that security is a requirement for membership and we will offer military support to achieve that if necessary. This change would strengthen our ability to contest the terrorism which continues to foment there.

Counter-terrorism also requires the European Union to create stronger security relationships with Europe's neighbours, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East but also in other border zones.

The summer disaster in the Lebanon and Israel highlighted the current weaknesses of the European Union. We all saw the difficulties, from France in particular, that there were in fulfilling the commitment to provide military support following the final Security Council resolution.

And in the same way that the very existence of the European Union has promoted democracy in Europe itself it should also commit to promoting democracy in the Middle and Near East. Before the events in the Lebanon, recent years have seen a significant extension of more stable and democratic government in the Middle East.

Obviously the war in Iraq has been massively controversial and has encompassed immense tragedy. However I do believe that it was right to intervene initially and it remains right to carry the project through, costly though it has been. The same is true in Afghanistan. The benefits of democracy and stability will ultimately reinforce our security and not weaken it.

And that too is the way to see our relationship with the United States. One of the most significant of Labour's political difficulties arises because many people believe that our Government is subservient to that of the United States.

I do not accept that analysis myself and never have. But I do accept that it is not desirable to live in a world with only one effective superpower, particularly where there is widespread lack of confidence in the judgement on some questions of its current Administration.

In our globalised world the old division of Europe or the United States has little to offer. It must be Europe and the United States co-operating to solve the problems which do exist. But this requires Europe to develop the capacity and take the responsibility to take action, particularly where inaction can be so damaging.

A stronger Europe would also make a hugely positive impact upon the other important long-term security issues we face such as the campaigns for trade justice, to restrict the arms trade and for environmental sustainability.

These security judgements, which will last 10 to 15 years into the future at least, must determine our Government's decisions over the whole range of defence and security issues. That is where we should focus our energy and resources. Despite the Chancellor's apparently definitive remark at the Guildhall last summer I have as yet seen no coherent case for deciding now to replace Trident. In fact I agree with the conclusion of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in June both about the need for full consideration of the options and about the need for clarity in defining our likely future security concerns.

Our resource and strategic allocation should depend on the conclusions of that consideration and should not be pre-empted. In short a convincing argument for taking the step which the Chancellor announced at the Guildhall has yet to be presented.

The international security situation is important but efforts there must be reinforced by our domestic security arrangements. Reform needs to continue to improve the effectiveness of policing and reduce anti-social behaviour, to reduce re-offending, and to improve confidence in the operation of our criminal justice system.

So policing needs to be strengthened at four levels. Most important at the neighbourhood level it is essential for us to implement the community policing proposals on which we were elected in 2005.

At a more strategic level it is essential to act upon the assessment by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary that the current 43-force arrangement is not, in his words, 'fit for purpose', and so leave whole swathes of the country insufficiently protected against organised crime and terrorism. At national level the Serious and Organised Crime Agency needs every support as it beds in, whilst, finally, the kind of international co-operation I have described earlier is essential. Whatever the politics, Labour must not shrink from the commitment to improved and more effective policing at every level.

Similarly our offender management system needs to protect us better against the most dangerous and raise the quality of rehabilitation. Reducing re-offending must remain a central strategic imperative as we improve the quality of the protection we offer to our communities.

A comprehensive strategy of the kind I have described is central to the country, to Labour, and to politics in this country. In 2005 Michael Howard shamefully exploited, on the basis of a manifesto drafted by David Cameron, the very deepest fears of sections of our population. Labour's medium and long term ambition has to be to deal with anti-social behaviour, violent crime and illegal immigration so that such fears cannot again be resuscitated. The answer is not a bidding war of intolerance but a coherent strategy backed up by effective and competent administration.


As with the security agenda which I have just outlined, I believe that our approach to sustainability and the environment comes down to pretty basic common sense.

And the common sense proposition which has to lie beneath all of our policy approaches has to be that we as a country cannot live beyond our means. It is true for the individual, it is true for the planet and it is true for our country.

About 20 years ago I heard Willy Brandt express this view in a wonderful speech in Germany where he said that 'the future is red-green'. This remains as true today as it did then. We need a green agenda and it must be bedded in social democratic values. That is the common sense view and we should make it happen.

In short we cannot indefinitely consume more resources than we produce. If we consume energy that cannot be renewed, we will, sooner or later, no longer be able to consume energy. Simple as that. And whether that happens sooner or later depends on how quickly we stop needing to consume energy which is not renewable.

Moreover the policy consequences of failing to achieve sustainability pretty quickly have been well rehearsed. At the level of the planet, we risk catastrophic climate change with massive impacts in every continent and consequent appalling hardship and conflict. At the level of the country we risk political instability as there is increasing competition for increasingly scarce energy resources, such as oil and gas, with all the dangers that implies.

This Government has made greater progress than any in history towards meeting these challenges, both by our active international stance towards agreements such as Kyoto and in our domestic policy. And it should not be forgotten that even those achievements were often opposed by those such as the Conservatives who now preach green politics.

We have sown the seeds of a red/green approach but we need to go much further.

Considerations of the environment and sustainability need to be evident in every government policy area. But I believe that there are three where there needs to be a particular focus - transport, energy, and taxation.

On transport first, we should recognise the opportunities to make real progress in towns and cities. In Amsterdam and Zurich about 75% of people walk, cycle or use public transport rather than the car compared to 35-40% in Darlington or Peterborough for example.

We need to concentrate on just two journeys - the journey from home to school, and the journey from home to work. Every day almost everyone in the country makes one or other of these journeys and the goal of government policy should be quite simply to reduce the number of such journeys made by car, and to increase the number who walk, cycle or use public transport.

The combination of building people-friendly and supportive urban environments which encourage walking and cycling, improving the quality of public transport, and relatively simple administrative changes such as staggering the times of the school day will make a difference. We already know the right policies to make real change, but we have hardly begun to implement them seriously. That is where we should be focusing our resources, time and energy.

Similarly the true long-term cost of using roads needs to be reflected, for example by spreading congestion-charging more widely and developing road-pricing for motorways. In addition there are other important transport questions such as construction of the strategic networks we need, influencing the economic conditions which encourage people to fly and accelerating the technical changes which will reduce the environmental negatives of using the car.

Secondly, on energy use, I believe that our two core priorities have to be significantly improved energy conservation and a dramatic increase in proportion of energy which comes from renewable sources.

There is an underlying pessimism about the possibilities of reducing the energy which we consume, but I believe that pessimism is misplaced. Most people would gladly reduce their consumption of energy if they knew and understood the best ways to do just that. Many measures are already set out in the Government's Energy review, 'The Energy Challenge' but they have to be put into practice.

Moreover, this Government has built more new schools, new hospitals and new homes than ever before. Now is the time to require that these new buildings are the most energy-efficient possible. The building regulations which do increasingly reflect environmental priorities need to be properly enforced and carried through.

So energy conservation needs to be carried through more rigorously and energetically.

We need similar vigour in researching, promoting and investing in renewable energy, for which this country has many natural advantages. Those obstacles which remain must be removed. Many other European countries are already performing better than us and are reaping economic advantage. Local energy generation has more potential than is widely appreciated, and the ideas behind emissions trading can be more widely extended as one means of building upon the already creative attitude of many businesses.

The Energy Review should provoke a well-informed national discussion on these issues which are fundamental to our future society, including the vital need for security and continuity of supply. Unfortunately the one aspect which has dominated public attention is the future commitment to new civil nuclear power generation.

The environmental arguments around nuclear power are by no means one-way. Nuclear power can make a major contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions, which must be a central environmental task. Moreover it is probably better, for a number of reasons, to operate new and modern nuclear power stations rather than those nearing or past the end of their expected operating life.

However for me there remain four central concerns about any decision to commit to a new cohort of nuclear power stations:-

First it still seems to me that we have not properly sorted out a safe and effective system of disposing of nuclear waste. Though it is true that new nuclear power would only add a relatively small proportion to the waste that already exists, it is going in the wrong direction.

Secondly, the cost of this disposal remains very great and I do not believe it is likely that this would be met by any private company. The state would eventually have to find the money, which might very well be better spent.

Third, while the nightmares of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are decades-old, and modern design has addressed the particular issues, safety must be guaranteed with total confidence because the consequence of failure is so great.

And finally the power of nuclear energy makes it a natural magnet for terrorist activity of a variety of types and we need to be absolutely certain that we can protect ourselves completely against that threat, the cost of which by the way also has to be met by the state.

So I am genuinely sceptical and I do not think that the Energy Review answers these concerns adequately. On the basis of the information I have so far seen, I am not convinced of the case for proceeding to a new generation of nuclear power stations in this country. I believe that investment in conservation and renewable energy offers a more reliable route to the energy sustainability which this country needs.

Finally on taxation, I now believe that the case for green taxation, which promotes sustainability throughout our national life, is unanswerable. Good progress has been made in some areas, including the taxation of fuel, but this needs to be taken further. The exact regime must be a matter for debate at any given time, but, for example, the case for increased tax on aviation fuel seems difficult to refute. In general the 'polluter pays' principle is important if our society as a whole is to move towards sustainability.

I repeat that for this country, there is no option but sustainability and at the political level I believe that there is a coincidence of attitudes, including from the other main political parties, which gives Labour the chance to seize a historical moment, harness those attitudes and lead this country decisively to an environmentally sustainable future. We should place green politics at the heart of our national life.

Opportunity and Enterprise

But a society can only be truly sustainable if it is really fair and just. Of course these values are at the core of the Labour Party's existence and if the idea of the 'progressive century' is to have any meaning at all it must imply a steady improvement in both fairness and justice throughout society.

Mobility and opportunity have proved one of the most intractable problems for social democratic governments over the decades, partly because of the time taken for any change to have an impact and partly because of lack of confidence about the best path to follow.

Education from birth is the staircase out of disadvantage and yet it is still the case that the quality of education varies dramatically across the country, from pupil to pupil and school to school. The only way we can bring about a more equal society is by improving the quality of education for every individual.

For centuries many have argued that opportunity is a zero-sum game. One person's wealth is another's poverty. One person's power is another's impotence. One person's chance is another's disadvantage. If you're going to make the poor richer you have to make the rich poorer.

One of the contributions of new Labour is to challenge those assertions. And it does so by stating that the whole society benefits from the success of individuals and communities within it and from the aspiration to success that goes with that. This is the foundation of the approach I have set out and has in my opinion to be the foundation of our future policies.

But it seems to me that there are six main weapons that society as a whole has if we are really to create greater opportunity, enterprise and to enable everyone to fulfil their aspirations.

These are:-

the fight to reduce poverty;

the efforts to create universal and universally excellent childcare with support for parents;

the determination to enable every child to start secondary school able to read and write well;

the efforts to bring together the world of education and the world of work;

the continuous need to fight social exclusion;

and the constant struggle against discrimination on grounds of sex, race, sexual orientation or disability.

This Government has already made great achievements in each of these areas, with the minimum wage and more people in work, the Sure Start programme for under-5s, increased levels of attainment for 11 year olds, the beginning of extended and healthy schools, changes in examinations and curriculum, with a renewed commitment to skills for young people and greater involvement for employers in the education system and changes in the law to empower those who face discrimination to challenge those who impose it.

Each of these advances was bitterly opposed by the Conservatives, and it is a bounden duty for Labour to continue to implement them. The programmes need to becontinued and developed so that the principles established are made universal.

And I hope that one of David Cameron's Damascene conversions, of which we have seen so many, will be to sign up to these means of making the changes I describe, rather than simply emoting the need for the ends, which of course we all desire.

And in each case Labour needs still more progress, still more applications of the approaches which we have so far applied.

That means continuing to support families, in particular parents, in our poorest communities.

It means really creating a childcare system, based on Sure Start principles, which is universal and exists in every community.

It means evolving the school curriculum to offer more variety in primary schools, including arts and sport, and in secondary schools following the principles set out in Mike Tomlinson's report and, above all, putting first the needs of every individual child, different and complicated as they are.

It means accelerating the engagement of employers, both private and public, with our education system, through basic support, the specialist schools programme and strong joint work for skills and apprenticeships. I hope that organisations like the CBI will start focusing on that rather than issuing press releases in August which demoralise our young people.

And we need to focus far more directly on looked-after children and the children of those in prison from whom a disproportionate amount of crime hits our communities. Despite the advances we have still not achieved the commitment to those with special educational needs which ought to make a real difference in their lives.

For those who continue to suffer discrimination, we still need some legal remedies. But the truth is that the over- legalistic approach is not in the long-term the most effective way to deal with these problems.

We need more than legal rights. We need, as already exists in so many cases, businesses and public organisations, large and small, which celebrate the advantage which they enjoy from their diversity and positively promote that. Government can and should encourage that change of culture.

These are the foundations which will build a society in which every individual can flourish.

But we have to go further still and open the avenues for every citizen to have decent chances to aspire to the highest levels in society. That is why Labour's determination to encourage fair access to university is so important.

That is why persuading great public services, like the civil service itself, to open its top levels to everyone who is properly qualified is so important.

And that is why all political parties which aspire to govern need to put into practice the steps necessary to be truly representative of the wider society.

The steps that I have set out promote both opportunity and enterprise. It is true that they are more a case of building on what we have already done than opening up new reforms altogether. But no one should forget how sharply they are contested and how important it is for us to carry them through.

Democratic Governance

I have outlined a serious programme for reform in our policies for security, sustainability and opportunity. I believe that very many people in this country would support at least the general thrust of a programme of the kind that I identify.

But they would also be sceptical about the intent and ability of government to deliver it because there is a problem in the relationship of trust between the people and politics in general, and the Government in particular.

To some extent this is common to all Governments. To some extent it is exaggerated by political opponents in politics and the media. To some extent it is the consequence of actions by this Government, whether good such as providing much more public information or bad such as over-promising in the early years.

But whatever the reason it needs to be put right, and this is of course the direction which the Government has followed. That has been the direction of important constitutional reforms like devolution to Scotland, Wales and London, with an elected mayor; like removal of the overwhelming majority of hereditary peers from Parliament, and the reduction in the Prime Minister's powers of patronage there; like passage of a Freedom of Information Act and incorporation into British law of the European Convention of Human Rights; and like requiring the publication of political donations and other measures.

It is an impressive and historically important list. But it still needs to be completed, partly to deal with problems that have arisen through implementation, such as the predominance of patronage in membership of the House of Lords or the failure to include loans in the Party funding legislation.

But it also needs to be completed because the major reforms which this Government has rightly and in some cases bravely implemented have let - I again say rightly - the genie of constitutional reform out of the bottle in which it was confined for decades, and so they need to be made complete.

So the process of Lords reform, on which the Government is now engaged, must be completed; we need a new legislative framework for the funding of political parties, including an increase in state funding for some aspects of political activity; better co-ordination and scrutiny of Government activity in each English region must be established; the operation of the Freedom of Information and Human Rights Acts must be reviewed to ensure that they are indeed operating in the way originally intended.

But I think that it is particularly important to reform the role of local government. We need a new partnership between central government and local government.

The role of local government is central to our national life and, though it has had many weaknesses, it rightly remains the only place where democratically accountable, strategic local leadership and responsibility can be exercised. The national government agencies which operate locally need to work closely with local government, but, more significantly, local government needs clearly defined responsibilities, clear sources of finance and a clearly defined relationship with national government.

My own view is that the creation of unitary local authorities, with the same boundaries as health and police organisations, needs to be completed across the country. It needs a financing regime which is fair and transparent and a local accountability which stimulates initiative, reform and engagement from local communities and commits local authorities to change.

There are of course also longer term issues, which include the need to make taxation - itself the biggest and most fundamental source of political contest - more transparent, for example through hypothecation of certain revenues, or the establishment of more resilient and accountable local taxation.

And the profound but difficult question of increasing the quality of journalism, and the establishment of a better, more honest relationship between politics and the media, needs to be addressed as John Lloyd is seeking to do.


I turn finally to what the political and practical management of change and reform, which I could describe as the very basics of politics for a centre-left progressive Party aspiring to long-term Government.

I have set out a substantial agenda which I believe many people would see as a fair ambition for Government. But the difference between a political party and an academic seminar, a journalists' think-piece or a conversation in the pub is that we aspire actually to put these thoughts into practice and to win support for our approach.

And we will of course be judged upon the way in which we make change, and the competence with which we govern. And that is why the way in which we make change is very important indeed.

It is obvious that reform is difficult. It cannot be done simply by a newspaper editorial or speech, a White Paper or a new law, necessary though these may be and important though a clear picture of reform certainly is. It requires the right structures, the right culture, an approach of partnership with employees and stakeholders, and a commitment to engage fully with the inevitable controversy. Each reform needs its own clear strategy and timescale of its own, which encompasses the whole process, so going well beyond the statement of an ambition to its thorough implementation. For that reason the entrenchment of large-scale reform takes time, energy and consistency of purpose and leadership which cannot be derailed by changes of key personnel.

Those are common features of any serious reform, and we have sometimes achieved them, at other times not. From my experience in two major reforming departments of state, I would suggest the following lessons for any reform programme:-

First, seek consistency from the three main organs of central government leadership: the Prime Minister's Office, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office. Each of these three agencies has rightly got tremendous authority across government and when they are well synchronised, excellent progress can be made rapidly, when not confusion and ineffectiveness can follow.

I remember a time when my Department, and it's senior Ministers and officials were plagued by simultaneous, and often conflicting demands from each of these. They ranged from creation of 5 year strategies, the spending review, the Gershon efficiency review, the Lyons office relocation review, the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit priorities on top of the regular reports to the Prime Minister's office on progress. Moreover on the political side detailed consideration was taking place of the appropriate manifesto commitments. Each of the reviews was in itself worthwhile, even desirable, but taken together and sometimes moving in conflicting directions, they made it more, rather than less, difficult to carry through reform effectively.

Obviously it helps where the main leaders of the Government are agreed on the reform to be carried through which is sometimes the case.

Second, a serious effort should be made to engage, align with and support the main pro-reform elements of the professions directly involved. Too frequently there have been characterisations that government thinks that 'consultants' or 'senior police' or 'teachers' are against reform, which suggested that 'reform' had to be something done to a resisting profession rather than what it needs to be - a co-operative partnership for constructive change. This is not a call for the kind of 'lowest-common-denominator' style which would, for example give the National Union of Teachers a veto on any constructive step. But it is a call for dialogue and engagement wherever possible.

Third, the main drivers of reform need to be clearly identified. Any reform needs advocates and implementers throughout the country, people who are genuinely committed to the success of the reform and will work to achieve it, setting out clearly its goals and advantages.

Fourth, the reform needs to be clearly articulated and explained, ideally in co-ordination with those from the service who support it and will carry it through. This needs to take place in Parliament, through the service directly affected and in a wide variety of local and national media.

Fifth, the reform must work together with other public agencies and departments as many issues really do run across departments.

Sixth, after nine years of government the need for pilots and new initiatives should be minimal. There certainly was a place for them, but now we should be in the mode of implementing carefully considered changes. There may of course be the need to phase in any change but that is just a question of timing.

Finally, we need less new legislation and more high quality implementation. As I said to the House when I was Home Secretary, I hoped then that there would be little need for further Home Office legislation in this Parliament, with a few well-publicised exceptions. I still believe that and think it is the case in other areas too.

These lessons are in some ways simple and straightforward. They need to be applied consistently, and they have not always been.

But what most certainly is the case is that change through conflict is not a good model. It may guarantee some media headlines, possibly even supportive media headlines, but at a massive cost in morale, engagement and support. Conflict may sometimes be necessary but it's not a good way to proceed, nor is it a guarantee of enduring success.

One final remark on reform.

Commentators often describe alleged divisions between pro- and anti- reform members of the Government, and it is true that some individuals are more cautious about reform than others.

But I think that there is a more significant division and that is the one between those reformers whom I would describe as 'traditional Fabians' and those whom I would describe as 'social entrepreneurs'. This description does have elements of caricature but it also contains truths which explain some of the policy divisions which have dogged this government.

The 'traditional Fabians' essentially believe that the key to change driven from the centre is to establish the right framework of national law, administrative and professional practice and central leadership. They believe that fairness and equality can best be achieved by use of central regulation. They distrust local initiative on the grounds that it is likely that those who are already better placed will use that advantage to reinforce their position. For these 'traditional Fabians', the working families tax credit is a classic example of success.

The 'social entrepreneurs' see the mobilisation of energy as essential, whether at the level of the individual or the organisation, for example a school or hospital. They support policy changes which encourage such mobilisation and see institutions like foundation hospitals and foundation schools as the means to positive change and are less worried that this will lead to increasing inequalities. A good example of this approach is the guaranteed annual capital allocation, or three-year budget for every school.

Personally I am nearer the 'social entrepreneur' end of this spectrum, but it is probably the case that any resilient reform needs a combination of both approaches and certainly any sustainable reform programme has to take both into account.


In this lecture I have tried to identify the main elements of what would be a programme which Labour could develop. There will obviously be many different views about these policies but, contrary to what some have said, it is only through discussion and debate about the substance itself that we can reach towards the right course to follow.

I am convinced that the kind of programme that I have described, together with the kind of approach to reform and change which I have set out, gives us the chance to repair our fault-lines and to rebuild our support from those who are worried about us. Moreover I believe that we have more than enough time to do just that before any General Election.

We do need to carry through an energetic and substantial programme in the remaining more than three and half years of this Parliament, and that needs to be reflected both in this Queen's Speech and the next.

And we then need to prepare a General Election Manifesto for 2009 or 2010 which can take our society forward in the ways that I have tried to describe.

But I would like to offer a final word of warning.

The debate about leadership elections and their timing, which is currently so preoccupying, will not of itself solve any problems for the Labour Party. It will be the nature of the debate, and its conduct, and the final conclusions which will be decisive.

This lecture is not intended to contribute to a leadership debate of that type.

Whether Tony Blair remains Prime Minister for another couple of years, or Gordon Brown succeeds him next week, or AN Other emerges to take the responsibility the issues will be the same and will all still need to be addressed.

And so I should make it crystal clear that despite some comment to that effect neither my article in the New Statesman nor this speech, nor another speech I am making tomorrow about identity are intended to put myself into any leadership race.

As I said in the article and I have said earlier today, my intention is to do what I can to encourage the debate about the future of my Party and this country which I think is so important.

I hope that I have achieved this today and I am grateful to you for coming.'

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