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12 April 2010

Labour manifesto exclusive: victory for Number Ten over Cabinet

Policy Unit insiders battled for radical public service reform ++ Plus update: Miliband's camp denia

By James Macintyre

The key public service reform element of the Labour party manifesto launched today was the result of a behind-the-scenes tug of war between Ten Downing Street and Government departments, Newstatesman.com has learned.

The presence in the ten-chapter document of plans for enhanced accountability in schools, hospitals and the police represents a significant victory for key insiders inside the Number Ten Policy Unit.

Newstatesman.com can name those insiders as Nick Pearce, the head of the Unit, Greg Beales, who advises on health, Gavin Kelly, Gordon Brown’s deputy chief of staff and Patrick Diamond who has been working with Ed Miliband on the manifesto.

Miliband himself is singled out for praise by insiders, who say that together the team saw off more conservative plans from the Departments of Health and Education, led by Andy Burnham and Ed Balls respectively, and the Home Office, headed up by Alan Johnson.

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Strategists say that Gordon Brown himself has in recent weeks become a strong “convert” to a “radical” agenda of public service reform — more so than some of his ministerial colleagues, it is claimed.

One insider said that with the radical plans in place, the Tories have been outflanked. “[Shadow schools secretary Michael] Gove’s policy of creating new schools within a limited budget must mean taking money away from other schools. We are now saying that there will be a machanism to get rid of bad school leadership instead.”

The source added: “This is a victory for the Number Ten Policy Unit over complacency. Along with Ed Miliband, they have done really well. Gordon is onside.”

UPDATE: A source close to Ed Miliband has just rung to emphatically deny that Cabinet ministers were anything other than completewly onside for the manifesto commitments. I should state here that the story above did not come from anyone in the Ed Miliband camp.