Traducing Canute Watch: Frank Field

7 February 2011

Interviewed by the Times, Frank Field fails the Canute Test:

Mr Field said that it was not good enough for the Government to say there was enough money in the budget to maintain the existing Sure Start centres.

“The Government needs urgently to step in,” he said. “At some stage they are going to have to grow up, stop being King Canute and realise if they don’t do something about Sure Start they are going to be overwhelmed by the incoming tide of local authority cuts. We are in a difficult phase. They are keeping to their localism commitment, but now there is evidence on just how dangerous localism can be. I see Sure Start as the biggest agent of change for addressing poverty and increasing social mobility in this country, but some local authorities are cutting it in half, even though the cut in their budget is 11 per cent

… We are now into February, and it seems to me people are whistling while Rome burns and they are going to be losing options unless they [intervene] quickly and say to local authorities ‘Please don’t slash and burn in this area.’”

Canute, as Spectator readers know, offers us a lesson in humility. He commanded the tides to cease their progress to persuade his courtiers that he was not in fact omnipotent and not, therefore, capable of solving all problems.


In other words, Cameron’s problem is not that he’s too much like Canute (as Field suggests) but that he’s not enough like the Coolidge of the tenth century.

Note too, while we’re at it, that Field thinks localism is good except when it actually means local authorities decide to do things differently. Then, it seems, you must insist upon centralisation.

[Via Sunder Katwala]

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  • rndtechnologies786

    Good think.

  • Ron Todd

    Any proof that this shure start thing did any good ?

  • JohnHW

    Frank Field is the most over-rated dilettante politician of his generation, and was a disaster in his short spell in office in the late 90’s. It’s about time the myth was laid to rest.

  • nadezhda

    @Frank – agree that it’s lame. Just not “wrong”.

  • Patrick

    An incoming tide of cuts?

  • nadezhda

    Um, methinks Mr Field got Canute/Cameron right. That is, Cameron et al are playing (false) humble Canute, saying dearie, dearie, there’s nothing we can do to stop the tide. But, says Mr Field, in fact they can.

    Your “localism” complaint, however, is spot on. The better approach for Mr Field would be to call on the central government to put some sort of range on cuts to (central) priority programs in order to allow a mix of national and local preferences. Such “priority-sharing” schemes, if you will, would be especially justifiable where locals are relying on nationally-raised revenue.

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