I think I need to lie down. I have just read David Blunkett's column in The Sun and to my utter horror agreed with him - not once but twice. He believes Hilary Benn is the best candidate for the Labour Deputy leadership, as do I, but his second point is rather more profound.
In a rambling piece about how John Reid is wrong to want to break up the Home Office Blunkett makes a wider point...
"...The alternative to politics is officialdom. And there is a trend in all three major political parties to believe that if difficult questions of reform need to be answered without damagaing the credibility of politicians, they should be taken out of their hands. Trouble is, you simply can't. Just because someone has been appointed to some agency to make decisions doesn't mean they don't have political views. It means they have kept their head down or - even more damagingly - they have never had to make a decision in their lives. It also means that when they get it wrong they can't be punished by the voters, like politicians are...What we need is quite the opposite - a transparent, open political debate, with decisions taken by politicans who respond to voters' concerns, knowing that if they don't their careers can be ended with the stroke of a pen at election time."
Blunkett is absolutely right. Whenever I hear a politician saying "we need to take the politics out of [insert subject] I reach for the sick bucket. All they are doing is abrogating responsibility for clearing up a mess. And surely that is what politicians are there for. It's something that the Conservatives are just as guilty of as Labour and the LibDems. Liam Fox made an announcement along the lines of "let's take the politics out of the NHS" a few years ago. Just the sort of language that may appeal to the centre voter. But it's wong-headed. We cannot leave NHS reform to bureaucrats. It's for politicians to lead the debate on big issues like the NHS. If they can't do that then they shouldn't be 'in the arena' at all. Politicians must lead the debate and lead public opinion. Delegating responsibility to unelected officials is an easy way out in the short terms, but all it does in the long term is store up problems.