World Politics

Ministers need to be ready for a revolution

The Conservatives, in particular, recognised the need for a fundamental break from the post-war assumption that the state would care for every need of every citizen from the cradle to the grave. Even before the crash of 2008, it was clear that this paternalistic ambition was not sustainable, let alone palatable. Tory strategists believed the country was instead entering what they called the “post-bureaucratic age”, a clunky phrase that later morphed into the Big Society. The essence of this idea was to give people control over their own lives and get government off their backs. From schools and hospitals to policing and social care, the aim was to ensure that decision-making was carried out, as far as possible, by the individual or community. Instead of getting what we were given, we would get what we chose. To that end, the Coalition can point to some successes, notably in education. But in other areas, it has been less bold. Even the NHS reforms, which caused such political damage, have failed to confront the biggest question of all, namely the state’s monopoly of health care.

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