Greetings from a beautiful Hampshire countryside hotel where I am due to make a speech to business leaders about leadership.
So out early to the hotel gym and how refreshing it was to hear on the news that the government is unveiling the next stages of public service reform.
The main focus for the TV people seemed to be the idea of cutting down on the time it takes for teacher training for some of the brightest and the best who have been affected by the recession.
We had the usual and rather depressing instant negative reaction from the teaching unions, and a rather good defence from Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne.
I had already scribbled my notes for the speech and ‘adaptability’ was number 3 in my list of ten rules for leadership. This falls under that category, adapting to one set of circumstances – recession – to make progress in another area of priority – education.
But whether teaching reform, nursing reform or some of the measures to reduce red tape, it was just so good to hear about health and education once more. These are going to be key areas of the political battleground for the future and it is time Labour did a better job of showing – first, that we have a record to be proud of, second that we have ideas for the future and third that the Tory policies (if that does not overstate the proposals they have bought forward) do not survive serious analysis and attack.
Of course the economy is key to what the government is trying to do. But we have to shake off defensiveness, stop being shy about the record (because that is key to winning trust for the future) and start exposing the Tory policies for what they are – half-baked, uncosted, and inconsistent with their economic approach.
There are some hospitals in our country with 90 per cent satisfaction ratings. Even North Korea don’t get that kind of support in polls. Likewise despite the torrent of negativity in the national media, almost all of whose editors use private education, standards and satisfaction in state schools are rising.
The Tories under Mrs Thatcher never tired of setting out the record and hammering the policies of their opponents. Even while setting out reforms for the future, it is time Labour did the same. I hope today was the start of a new approach.