Sharon Shoesmith, Baby P and ‘Joined-Up’ Children’s Services – another perspective

Today [30th Dec 2016] we have just been treated to a long, uncritical, bordering on indulgent interview with Sharon Shoesmith – the former head of Children’s Services in Haringey – on BBC Radio 4 PM programme. She was in charge at the time of the “Baby P” case.

During the interview Shoesmith was treated as if she was a social worker (she wasn’t) and an expert on child abuse (at the time it was far from evident she knew anything about child abuse).

The interview concentrated almost entirely on what had happened to Shoesmith personally and on her reactions. There were no questions about her personal responsibility for the service she led nor any exploration of the context – the merger of education and children’s social services which later proved to be problematic nationally.

Here is what I wrote about this back in Feb 2009. I hope it throws a bit more light than the PM interview did. Continue reading

A brief comment on “identity politics”

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking post Chris Creegan discusses the issue of “identity politics” and whether it has “gone too far” as some on the centre-left are now arguing. In the constructive spirit of Chris’s piece here’s my brief comment I posted on his site:


Whilst I understand, and sympathise, with your point of view it seems to me your argument elides two different things.

The first is recognizing the equal rights of people regardless of gender, orientation, colour, etc. this is a fight I have supported all my adult life.

The second is the practice of adopting group identities – “LGTB”, “Black”, “Latino” – as a dominant mode of self-expression. Whilst there may be an argument in favour of this – principally one of solidarity against oppression – it also needs to be recognised that THIS type of “identity politics” is a two edged sword. If the dominant dynamics of society is towards”group identity” don’t be surprised if groups that are much less  progressive start to emerge – national, racial, sexual – as a result.

As a white, male, heterosexual what “identity” can/should I have in a society of “identity” politics? Some resolve this by “identity by association” – white boys with dreadlocks and gansta talk for example. Or seeking out some tenuous link to an oppressed group – e.g. I had two Irish great grandmothers so I can become an Irish Republican? But others will be attracted to other, more dysfunctional, solutions. Look what happened in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia as ethnic and national identities took hold?

So I am not surprised that in combining a campaign for legitimate RIGHTS with a rather less defensible promotion of IDENTITY politics the former gets eclipsed by the latter. A classical progressive position would be to put all the emphasis on the former, and be very, very cautious about the latter?

Who Does Social Inquiry in the UK?

Our new initiative on Deliberative Public Policy has been launched as a separate blog and resources site. Here’s the first post.

ENGAGE Public Policy

Colin Talbot

16 Nov 2016

A lot of public policymaking is based on at least some form of social inquiry – how do Governments know what is going on in their societies and what do they want to do about it?

With academics and research Councils – especially the Economic and Social Research Council – obsessed at the moment with ‘impact’ of our research, its impact on policy has become a central issue.

Recent national controversies like the “Brexit” debate have – as a side issue – also focussed on the role of “experts”.

View original post 1,119 more words

The Invisible Hand’s Shadow

This article was originally drafted in 2004 but most of the argument is still highly relevant today.

WARNING: longer read

What links the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11th September 2001, the failures of the UK Child Support Agency, and outbreak of “foot and mouth” disease in the UK? The answer is simple – the shadow economy.

Continue reading

The ‘Managerial Revolution’ is Over: They Won?

[Originally published October 28, 2011]

“Income Data Services, which totted up pay, bonuses and various share awards, says the average FTSE 100 executive director pocketed a 49 per cent rise in the last financial year to bring their remuneration to £2.7m a year. Chief executives had to make do with a 43 per cent rise, poor lambs.”

James Moore, The Independent, 28 Oct 2011.

Continue reading

Democratic Regulation – of private providers of public services

Originally posted by  Filed Under: Whitehall Watch Posted: June 9, 2011


It is widely recognised, and mostly accepted, that ‘utilities’ provide a public service and not just private services, so it is legitimate to regulate them in ways that ensure the public interest. Continue reading

Corbynism: not ‘turning Labour into a socialist movement’, but turning a ‘socialist movement’ into Labour?

“I was there in 1984 standing alongside the miners,” [Corbyn] recalled, “and judging by the appearance of some of you, you were there with me. Welcome back!”

[Corbyn in August 2015]

The current Labour leadership contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith is being framed by Smith and his supporters as the ‘competent, pragmatic, socialist versus the ‘incompetent, ideological, socialist’ Corbyn.

What is fascinating here is that – for Smith’s supporters at least – they are both “socialists”.

(Interestingly, Corbyn’s supporters are more likely to view anyone they disagree with in Labour as a ‘Red Tory’ or ‘Blairite’ neoliberal).

In this article I set out to show that it is the chasm between the fantasy of Labour’s ‘socialism’ and the reality of its ‘social democracy’ that has opened the door to ‘Corbynism’.

I go on to argue that the ‘Corbyn’ project is not about turning Labour into a ‘movement’ but about turning a vague movement of ex-Trots, ‘socialists’, greens, ‘occupiers’ and others into a ‘new model Labour Party’. Continue reading

Boris Johnson and national security


The appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary took almost everyone by surprise.

Why has he been appointed? It’s hard to fathom without recourse to ‘Kremlin watching’ explanations about internal machinations in the Conservative Party.

I’ll leave aside the questionable decision to appoint as our primary international representative someone who cast aspersions on the motives of the President of the USA – our biggest ally – on racial grounds. Or who regularly insults his way around the world as our chief diplomat? I’m sure others will have lots to say about that.

The issue concerning me here is national security. Continue reading

Labour: Margaret Hodge offers a slim glimmer of hope?

Margaret Hodge has put forward an idea that may offer a very small glimmer of hope for Labour moderates.

She has suggested, as I understand it, that the PLP should hold “Primaries” for the leadership and then back one candidate in the upcoming leadership election. The assumption is that will be either Angela Eagle or Owen Smith who would go forward against Jeremy Corbyn. Continue reading