April 28, 2003

PETER OBORNE WONDERS:

It is worth pondering this contradiction, made sharper by the military victory in Iraq. It raises two fascinating questions. Why do British armed forces, with their meagre £25 billion budget, always deliver? But why do the NHS and the education system, though in receipt of unlimited amounts of public money, continue to fail? To put the problem in another way: how come the simple British squaddie — though underpaid, overworked and forced to carry out his or her duties in conditions of appalling danger — always rises to any challenge? But how come so many British schoolteachers, rather better paid, with far shorter hours and long holidays, endlessly whinge and — as the teachers’ union conference demonstrated yet again — block even quite sensible reforms?

But it’s the paragraph after this one that demonstrates just how big a challenge Blair faces.