It seemed such a good idea at the time. The government should retreat from owning or controlling great swathes of activity, allowing those running them to make good, long-term decisions, freed from the push-me-pull-you of everyday political pressures and short-term thinking. This approach, from the Thatcher era, was applied widely, from the nationalised industries that were sold off, to health, schools, financial regulation and much else besides.

It has not quite worked out as planned. It was just wishful thinking to suppose that the National Health Service or education could ever be far away from everyday politics, whatever bodies were nominally in charge. Both require constant injections of money, and every attempt to broaden their income base from general taxation meets fierce resistance followed by political retreat.