David Cameron aimed a broadside at the Ministry of Defence today (and by proxy at Liam Fox).
“That department does seem to have had a bit of problem for leaks which is worrying when that department is responsible for security.”
On one level this is fair enough. Leaks are extremely unsettling for ministers and senior officials.
But at the MoD, the problem hasn’t been leaks. It has been a willingness to cover up uncomfortable truths. How else did it end up with a black hole of £36bn? Some more transparency — whether authorised or not — would only have been beneficial.
The coalition certainly believes this in principle. But when transparency makes life difficult for them rather than Labour, they struggle.
Take James Kirkup’s excellent scoop today. Fox’s reaction was to say that it was written by a “junior official” and that it had not “been authorised, requested or seen by an MoD minister”.
Which begs the question, why not? Why didn’t ministers see this well argued, plainly written and insightful critique of the most important defence review since the Cold War?
An intriguing ad was placed today on the w4mp website.
Chris Grayling on Wednesday launched a full-frontal assault on Labour’s flagship welfare-to-work programme. Whether you agree with him or not, his chutzpah has to be admired.
Remember these Flexible New Deal contracts — that he condemned as “costing massive amounts of money and delivering very little” — are based on the very same principles as the coalition’s replacement “Work Programme”. And those Labour “payment by results” contracts were also designed with the help of one Lord Freud, who now serves as a welfare minister.
Grayling’s case against them is worth looking at in detail, at least to examine whether the coalition’s break with the past is as clean as he claims.
But, before doing that, it is important to give some background and highlight a potentially worrying trend.
Although it is too early to make a final judgement, at this point the welfare-to-work providers are falling well short of expectations. On average, they’re missing the government’s target by around 50 per cent.
The big concern for the coalition should be that Grayling’s critique doesn’t really relate to these potential problems. If he’s right about providers seriously underperforming, the Work Programme — the great hope for moving people off unemployment benefits — is likely to fare just as badly.