When less is more

by Stephen Tall on April 27, 2006

From this week’s Economist leader on Labour’s ‘Black April’:

Mr Blair and his team have sought to do too much, often too fast, without thinking through the implications of the reforms they advocate. Their apparently uncontrollable urge to meddle in everything, constantly seeking to occupy the visionary high ground, saps morale in public services and makes it almost impossible to manage in the here and now.

Interestingly, one bit of government works rather well, thanks to one of Labour’s earliest reforms. Monetary policy may have done for Mr Major’s government but in the hands of the independent Bank of England it has been trouble-free. That is because the Bank has been given a clear remit — the inflation target — and left to get on with meeting it.

The lesson is to do more by doing less. It seems unlikely that Labour can stomach such a self-denying ordinance, but the danger of its Black April is clear. As the Conservatives know to their cost, once a reputation for competence has been lost, it is virtually impossible to regain.