Thursday, October 12, 2006


Yesterday's exchanges between Tony Blair and David Cameron in the House of Commons ('Question Time') were highly entertaining. Pure theatre, indeed. Cameron, mercifully blessed with a PR talent that has so far enabled him to avoid spelling out what the supposedly nicer Tories would actually do, laid into the government's shambolic presentation issues. And he actually managed to get an obviously rattled PM to admit, entirely inadvertently, that there are cuts ("er... changes") going on in local health services. Mr Blair, meanwhile, rehearsed his usual litany of statistics to prove that New Labour was spending more and transforming wider than any government in history. All great puppeteering fun. But let's not forget that when it comes to basic orientation (managing global capital, the war on terror, marketising society, preaching green and acting lean) these two stand shoulder to shoulder. And while investment in health and public services has increased, and the situation is neither as apocalyptically bad nor as gleamingly good in the NHS as either suggest, there are real causes for concern. Moreover, it is difficult to feel that the system is safe in either's hands when spin and point scoring seem to win out so regularly over the hard graft of politics. This is a side show on a perilously squeezed centre-ground that remains in danger of bypassing the real issues.

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