Through the day it seems that Liam Byrne's intervention has paid off, in that it has forced an admission from the DWP, according to the Telegraph, that "No. 10 was not told about A4e fraud allegations". A spokesman for the PM is quoted as saying, “I don’t think we were aware. But it’s a police investigation. If the police are investigating private sector companies, I don’t think necessarily they report regularly to the government on how their investigations are going.”Richard Kay in the Mail asks, "Is David Cameron’s former ‘back-to-work tsar’ Emma Harrison already plotting her return?" He tells us that Emma Harrison "has been approached by maintenance firm Aspect.co.uk to advise on a boot camp for jobless youths. Boss Nick Bizley says he is fed up with a deluge of job applications from foreigners but very few from young British candidates, and wants to change attitudes towards work." Sadly, I can find nothing more on this.
The most interesting article of the day is by John Harris in the Guardian. It's always gratifying when the press catches up with what we've been going on about for ages. He says that Emma Harrison's biggest mistake was "not keeping her head down". He points out that she is not facing any reduction in her income and "may well be in line for a rather nice future: less heat and less work, but potentially even greater takings". Then Harris contrasts Harrison's high profile with that of Chris Hyman, CEO of Serco, a company which has much more outsourcing business than A4e. And he makes the leap which nobody on the supposed left of politics (certainly not Liam Byrne) has yet been willing to make. "For decades now, the introduction of the profit motive into public services has been held to be synonymous with dynamism, innovation and increased responsiveness to the 'customer'. There is, of course, plenty of evidence to the contrary, but the more zealous minds one associates with the rule of New Labour still believe it, and most Conservatives hold it as an article of faith." Quite. And he concludes: "Do not rely on senior figures in the Labour party to make the running on this issue: after all, it built a huge share of the shadow state in which these people make their money. There again, if the progress of the Emma Harrison story – as with the recent controversy about workfare – is anything to go by, these things no longer need the involvement of front-rank politicians to build unstoppable momentum. One thing is certain: though long buried, the tension between public services and profit is back – and this story is only just starting."
I'm currently reading a book called The Verdict by Polly Toynbee and David Walker, summing up the Labour years from 1997 to 2010 from a Labour-supporting but critical point of view. They manage to cover New Deal and the various measures to help the unemployed while totally ignoring the privatisation in 2006. John Harris is right. But I fear it may be too late.