Thursday, May 29, 2008

Phil Collins is wrong about the Fabian well

An interesting and potentially constructive and enlightening debate is developing between Phil Collins (former Blair speechwriter) and Sunder Katwala (Fabian Society General Secretary). Phil Collins is of the view that the Fabian tradition stifles choice and liberty and that we must accept that politicians cannot micro-manage society and the era of big government is over.

Though I think Phil Collins makes some sensible and timely observations I tend to side with Sunder and the Fabians. What Collins fails to accept is that history shows that centre-left governments invariably have to do more than just manage, they have to be more than competent. Labour governments need to persuade people that there is a task for government, that collective endeavour really is a strength as well as being a virtue - that collaboration can go hand in hand with competition. A new, more liberal Labour party (of the type Collins is espousing) needs not only to legislate to help rid our nation of some its ugly realities such as child poverty, endemic inequalities in both health and education, it also needs to clearly articulate why these areas warrant state action.

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