Labour remains hostile by instinct to solutions that do not involve heavy state direction. It is no surprise that when Labour's policies are tested by crisis they fall apart amid chaos and recriminations.
The Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, said he would "come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who has anything to do with the private sector". Just six months ago he said: "thankfully we have one monopoly provider, and that is the National Health Service, and as long as there is a Labour government in power that will remain the case." On Tuesday, in blind panic at the impossibility of delivering health improvements, he said he wanted to see the end of the NHS as a "centrally run, monopoly provider of services".
When their rhetoric rails against their own instincts, it is inevitable that they should suffer the political equivalent of a nervous breakdown. They have no basis of principle for their policies, so they have nowhere to go.
David Blunkett tries to turn the clock back to zero by blaming their failure on crime on his predecessor, Jack Straw. John Prescott said, "judge us on transport after five years". Five years come, and Stephen Byers says it will take another 10. If anyone personifies Labour's failure to hide behind plans rather than take responsibility it is Stephen Byers.
This whole approach is alien to Conservatives. We have never believed in new world orders or domestic blueprints. We have always been the practical party, because we have never tried to cut ourselves loose from our principles, but instead have expressed them through our policies.
Conservatives have been successful when we have articulated a clear view of the problems that Britain faces, and have found ways to solve them that rely on empowering people rather than pushing them around. "Trust the people" has always been a powerful Conservative rallying cry. It has never let us down in the past, and it will not now.
We choose to concentrate on the issues that make most difference to people's lives. Our efforts will focus on solving the crisis in our public services – the health service that makes people afraid to fall sick; schools that deprive millions of children of the opportunities a first-class education offers; a transport system that makes travelling in or between our cities an ordeal. And we will focus on the problems – and they include our public services – that are hardening the arteries of our economy, turning it from one of the most flexible and dynamic in the Western world into one of the most overburdened, conformist and bureaucratic.
We have a Government of control freaks. For Labour, control is not a means to an end, but an end in itself. They bombard our teachers with directives, destroying their ability to act according to their instincts as professionals and as individuals. They attach so many strings to taxpayers' money spent on health that hospitals have even less money to spend according to doctors' priorities than before.
The Prime Minister used to say that the problem with Old Labour was that it confused means with ends. The problem with New Labour is that it its only purpose is to stay in power. This government has impoverished politics. It has weakened all the institutions that could check or scrutinise its actions – the Lords neutered, the Commons ignored, the media alternately cosseted and intimidated.
I am determined that the next Conservative government will not just implement different policies that reflect our principles. Our whole approach to government will be fundamentally different. We will check the obsessive media manipulation, the suppression of debate, the erosion of constitutional checks and balances. We will stop burying bad news, adjusting targets, and double counting public spending figures. We seek power for a purpose, we will pursue policy based on principle, and this will give our government clear direction.Reuse content