Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Tony Blair likes to portray himself as the Captain Kirk of public service reform determined “to boldly go? where no politician went before. But in fact he will be remembered as the Grand Old Duke of York, argues Peter Lilley in a Bow Group pamphlet published today.

    “Rather than creating a new legacy in public services, the prime minister is in large measure simply restoring the legacy he inherited?. Lilley spells out how Tony Blair spent his first term dismantling the Conservative reforms he inherited. But having led his troops up the hill to a more centralised, bureaucratic system, he is now trying to lead them back down again to restore precisely the more decentralised, diverse and choice driven system that he initially abolished or aborted.

    Lilley catalogues how in his early years: “in Health Tony Blair abolished what he derided as the ?internal market? in the NHS, scrapped GP fundholding, and deprived patients of the right to choose which NHS hospital treated them; in Education he scrapped Grant Maintained Schools, restored them to Local Authority control and abandoned the previous government?s commitment to give all schools a status similar to Grant Maintained Schools.

    “Now he is recreating what are virtually Grant Maintained Schools, relabelled Trust Schools, largely free of Local Authority control and envisages extending that status to all schools as John Major promised; he is restoring patient choice, recreating independent NHS hospitals as Foundation Hospitals, reviving GP Fundholding relabelled as Practice Based Commissioning and reintroducing an internal market in the NHS.?

    He illustrates how Blair?s Education White Paper echoes the language of Conservative Manifestos and Margaret Thatcher herself. Lilley points out that Blair is set to waste “the best part of the twelve years the electorate has awarded him ? performing a gigantic U-turn only to return to his starting point?.

    Lilley argues that this “immense U-turn has involved continuous upheaval that has been hugely costly to the taxpayer, disruptive to service provision and demoralising for people working in the public sector.?

    But he argues that: “the Conservative Party should support Tony Blair?s attempts to restore what he dismantled and get back on the path of decentralised, choice based reform. We will need to refine and improve in the light of experience whatever we inherit. But we will be working with the grain of the system not launching a further radical upheaval.

    Lilley warns against: “allowing ourselves to be associated with Blair?s rhetoric of seemingly endless radical reform. ? if we have succeeded in restoring the bulk of the reforms we introduced in the 1980s and 1990s we should not emulate the early Blair and ride off in a new direction. Our task will be to resume the path of steady improvement that our reforms make possible ? led above all by the people who run schools and hospitals. We should not seize the reins at the centre.

    “Conservatives exist to conserve and improve not uproot and overthrow. If we believe in choice, delegated power and localism we should have the courage to let them work.?

    For further information contact the author,

    Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP
    mobile: 077 20 29 79 56
    office: 020 7219 4577
    email: lilleyp@parliament.uk

    for information about the Bow Group contact the Research Secretary

    Sam Gyimah
    Mobile: 07881 931 794
    Email: sg@clear-stone.co.uk