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Mind you, there’s a lot we could cut….

Maria Miller - fan of Surestart

Maria Miller - fan of Surestart

You don’t have to be a raving rightist to be highly suspicious of the effectiveness of government spending, and the cumulative impact on accountability and value for money arising from 12 years of government by people who very often really do believe that statist solutions are the only way.

There is something rather irritating about Matthew Parris – the prissiness, the smugness, the self indulgence of the wealthy man in late middle age with few responsibilities – but yesterday’s piece was interesting not least for the stand he took on the role of the state in our lives:

Let me, a lifelong Tory, spell it out.

I believe in the State.

I believe in a strong State.

I believe in the State’s core purpose: to regulate and arbitrate.

I believe in the State’s power to do good; to bring justice, security and order; to defend and protect its citizens; and to make their lives better.

I believe in the State’s duty to care for the needy; to ensure that the rich help the poor, and that the weak are helped by the strong.

And I believe finally in the State’s nobility as an idea; the inspiring power of the national ideal; the tremendous possibilities unleashed by collective action; and the love and duty owed by citizens to the State.

However, the point he’s making is that despite this, he feels we’ve gone too far.  For once I think I agree with him:

But the incontinent expansion of the State’s reach degrades its grip. It undermines legitimacy, lowers confidence and breeds disregard. Twelve years of new Labour’s flabby-minded growth in the public sector, and the bloating of its claims on individuals’ lives, have begun to rot the whole idea of something the Left ought to believe in, and the Right do: society, and the public good.

What surprises me is the caution of the Tories’ attitude towards public spending.  My only recent experience of the Tory frontbench was an event with the very likeable Maria Miller, shadow family minister.  One of the firms present had a problem with Surestart funded Children’s Centres, (which although employing similar staff to their private competitors paid much higher wages), and the point was made that surely Surestart was on the list to be looked at with a highly sceptical eye.  However, it became clear that Tory policy on Surestart was to start from the position that it was a good policy that needed supporting and improving.

I’m not sure that I particularly like being in agreement with the Taxpayers Alliance but surely there must be a substantial risk that funding Children’s Centres to compete unfairly against private competitors is a wasteful policy which needs to be looked at intently.  And incidentally, it will be interesting to see whether the Children, Schools and Families Committee get underneath what’s really going on with this particular policy.

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