The vision thing

22 June 2015

One of the main themes of the new Government is to be “one nation”.  That means two things – making the Union work, and more importantly for Reform, achieving economic growth in which all citizens share. The Queen’s Speech summarised it as, “helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged”.

Reform’s first paper on the 2015 Spending Review is published tomorrow (having published each key chapter last week). That paper also makes recommendations on public services and public spending with the aim of increasing opportunity, inclusion and prosperity together. The Foreword to the document begins, “Tony Blair’s governments reformed public services to give opportunity to those that needed it most. David Cameron’s first government sought to control public spending as the UK emerged from the financial crisis. The new Government has the chance to embed these reforms and to put the UK on a genuinely new path.”

I am very struck by this new commitment on the part of the Government. David Cameron spoke of delivering “the good life” as he launched the Conservative Party manifesto.  Last week Matthew Hancock ended a speech to Reform with, I think, the most detailed description so far of what Ministers are about:

 “The end is to build a Britain that we are proud to call home. Where we combine as no other nation can, the best of our traditions with the cutting edge. Where public services and free enterprise alike serve working people, offering hope and opportunity to those who need them most.  For too long the system has served those with the skills to work it, or with the money to opt out. We must say no more. So let us raise the banner of reform, driven by data not dogma, planning around the needs of people, not the boundaries of departments.  We seek reform to realise the potential of all our citizens, to unleash the talents of our nation’s children so that background is no barrier to success, to bring our country together, united on the principle that work will be there for all who want it and help for those who need it.  And we reform in the interests of all, but above all on behalf of those who rely on public services the most: the very old, the very young, those out of work, those who can’t work, those who have to give up work to care for a relative.  That is who we are striving to serve. We must not fail them.”

I’m not saying that this is exactly the right formulation. Tomorrow Lord (Gus) O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Society, will set out his own views on the “wellbeing” approach at the launch of the Reform document. I do however think that Ministers are right to set out this vision of inclusion and prosperity.  It defines the outcome against which their efforts can be measured. More on Reform’s own thinking tomorrow.

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