Sunday 16 May 2010

Frank Field's non-defection ... spin over substance?

Much is being made of the Sunday telegraph's report that Frank Field is to advise the government by leading a review on levels of poverty and "how poverty should be measured in the future" (which will be worth watching closely).

This, rather unimaginatively, wins him the crown of "poverty tsar".

Certainly, the Coalition does not seem to want to eschew Tsar-tastic headline grabbing now it is in power, though David Cameron recently described that as the biggest mistake of Labour in power.

But could this be a triumph of spin over substance?

Certainly Field's new Tsar status seems over-reported under the Mail on Sunday headline "Frank Field defects to be the nations poverty tsar - a report which begins by admitting the headline is nonsense.

Former Labour Minister Frank Field is to ‘defect’ to David Cameron’s new coalition Government by taking on the role of Britain’s ‘Poverty Tsar’, it was revealed last night.

The report makes an analogy with Will Hutton's role in conducting a review on fair pay and high pay in the public sector.

That suggests the Field role may well prove to be rather more analogous to many previous cross-partisan appointments than to a party defection where an MP crosses the floor.

Selecting well informed non-Labour MPs to look into specific issues for the government was a favourite approach of Gordon Brown's.

For example, John Bercow reviewed special needs education as a Tory MP, while John Mercer advised the government on security measures.

LibDem Matthew Taylor's led a review on the rural economy and affordable housing.

Brown even reached out to the Blairite Alan Milburn over social mobility and the professions!

This is a higher profile, more politically salient role.

Field certainly has much expertise in the area, having first coined the phrase "poverty trap" in his famous article with David Piachaud for the New Statesman back in 1971. His writing in the early 1990s shaped early new Labour policies around rights and responsibilities too. But Field's spell as welfare reform minister seeking to "think the unthinkable" was not a success.

1 comment:

Newmania said...

It was not a success because he was pulled down by Labour`s left.Labour went on to think the all to thinkable which consisted od running up debts to fund waste. John Bercow did defect in all but name thats why he is so detested by the Conservative Party.
Frank Field has also been sounding the alarm about immigration a subject New Labour have a shameful record on

He is a highly respected man and if he is ready to help the coalition this is good news . There are others I wouldlike to see involved ,Lord Adonis for one