by RAY FLEMING
MR Tony Blair's government is leaking all over. There seems to be a glut of books and radio and TV programmes in which people who have been close to him tell what it's like to work at Downing Street and reveal what was said at key meetings which once would have remained secret for thirty years. Does this mean that those with a story to tell think that the Prime Minister will be departing sonner than later and want to cash in on their inside knowledge while he is still in office?

On next Monday evening BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting the first of two programmes called Look Back at Power in which eight former advisors to Mr Blair talk about him to Steve Richards, The Independent's chief political commentator. Generally these advisers remain loyal and discreet but he consensus seems to be that the Prime Minister cannot resist “eye-catching initiatives” that will interest the media and give the impression of positive government activity where, in reality, there may be very little. An example given by one of the advisors is Mr Blair's sudden flawed announcement that the police could frog-march drunken yobs to the nearest cashpoint to pay an on-the-spot fine. Another advisor puts the dilemma in this way: “It is important to get the balance right between the media advisers saying we have to say something and the policy advisers saying we should say something when we have something to say.” Look Back at Power should be well-worth hearing because we are apparently due for another bout of “initiativitis” from Mr Blair in what will presumably be his final bid to achieve radical reforms in the public services. As so often in government, the problem is the gap between the political initiative and the provision of the human and financial resources on the ground to make it work. Perhaps some hard-working researcher will one day produce a list of policies announced by this Labour government which never actually achieved any positive result.

One of these may be yesterday's launch by the Prime Minister of a system of parenting orders and contracts designed to make “bad parents” more responsible for the behaviour of their children.

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