The Samovar

Blair’s social contract
November 24, 2006, 6:11 pm
Filed under: Politics

The Guardian reports that Blair plans a new social contract.

A new contract between the state and the citizen setting out what individuals must do in return for quality services from hospitals, schools and the police is one of the key proposals emerging from a Downing Street initiated policy review.

Examples include an expectation that a local health authority will only offer a hip replacement if the patient undertakes to keep their weight down. Parents might also be asked to sign individually tailored contracts with a school setting out what the parents must do at home to advance their child’s publicly-funded education.

My first thought on reading this was that this was Blair’s way of responding to criticisms about how his government is changing the nature of the relationship between the individual and the state. His response being – bloody good idea, I wish I’d thought of that.

Less flippantly, what exactly does this proposal amount to? In principle, it doesn’t seem to amount to anything. The government already creates laws which bind its citizens, and is in turn bound to work for its citizens. In practice however, it looks like a way of creating new impositions on the citizen whilst not imposing any new duty on the state at all (see also here for a philosophical view).

But could something good come of this after all? On the face of it, it seems unlikely. I certainly wouldn’t trust any of our political parties to change the nature of the state for the better. Blair has already shown his authoritarian side, and Cameron…? Not a good idea.


1 Comment

Yeah, I’ve read as much as I can, and can find nothing that the state is planning to do in return. Just carry on as usual, collect our taxes as usual, and then make it even harder for us to get returns from those taxes.
There’s a difference between refusing to treat someone because you genuinely believe that in the long term it will cause greater problems (and there’s a seperate debate over that) and refusing to treat someone because they’ve fallen victim to that ailment we all know as human condition. The ‘responsibilities’ suggested seem like little more than vindictive cost-cutting.

Comment by Chris

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