Wednesday 13 June 2012

Hutton, Tessa and Keynes

Will Hutton looked a bit surprised; he had just spotted me sitting at the back of the room in a seminar for students at Hertford College, Oxford, where he is Principal. He was hosting a session on the Olympics with Tessa Jowell MP ( who can be credited with brining them to the UK ).

I was up in Oxford for a few days staying with my nephew Alex who is doing his PhD at Hertford, and I thought it would be fun to pop in. And we had dinner on High table afterwards so had a good natter with both Will and Tessa. As I told Alex I knew Tessa before he was even born!

Will is a great raconteur and brain. We were discussing why Keynes was so out of fashion and agreed that in fact Keynes was right. It is madness for all major economies to deflate and cut spending at the same time. What the UK needs is major investment in growth. What we get is further spending cuts and more unemployment leading to further recession and rising spending on welfare. A self defeating circle of decline.

An interesting few days off. I even discovered an Oxford Church ( St Albans) with Stations of the Cross by Eric Gill; the very last commission he received.

Never really off duty I get an email from the office to see if I want to respond to a loony report from the ineptly named " Institute of Economic Affairs". About sock puppets. Even a primary school class could demolish the inane arguments in their latest pamphlet. Decide can't be arsed to respond to something so silly- and it only encourages them.

I met up with the new Cabinet Secretary on Friday evening. As I said to Jeremy Haywood as he ushered me into his office he is my 4th Cabinet Secretary ; wondering as I did so whether I sounded like the Queen talking about her 11 prime ministers! An urbane, smart and likeable person he holds an important position of influence and I have always found it good to develop strong relations with the top of the civil service. We spent a long time discussing where we have got to on opening up public services and expanding the role of the third sector.

I said we needed to add some vigour to this agenda as the impression has gained ground that it has stalled. ACEVO is working on some ideas and proposals to reignite the battle for sector delivery. The economic and social arguments for more sector delivery are so strong it is hard to understand why this is not expanding at a faster rate.

1 comment:

Dan Filson said...

Finding myself behind the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in the Treasury canteen queue, as you do, some years back just about the time Adam Smith was put on the back of the new £10 bank note, I leaned forward and said it was a pity that the first economist to be on the back of a banknote was Adam Smith (idol of the the Institute of Economic Affairs of whom you have little regard!) rather than Maynard Keynes. Not realising I was wearing my Labour Party hat as I spoke rather than very junior civil servant hat, he gave me what can best be described as a severe Gordon Brown glare. A few weeks later the world crisis broke and everyone in the then Government was reaching for their Keynes. Sadly the current coalition not only has not read Keynes but it has not passed page two of their basic economics primer. Ah well.