It was some time before I had any further contact with Blair. Then, in November 1994, he invited me to his office and asked if I would be willing to go on the front bench. This was not the first time I had been asked (I was by now very respectable). As long ago as 1992 John Smith had asked me to be housing spokesman and I had declined in favour of remaining on the Home Affairs Select Committee. Blair talked of ‘pepping up’ the front bench and giving it a radical edge. ‘So many of the left are …’
‘Impossibilists,’ I said.
‘I was going to say “conservative”. Their idea of being radical is to defend the status quo.’ An astute observation and one that was hard to deny. The Labour left at this time had few new ideas beyond repealing the Tory trade union laws (some of which were sensible and popular) and reversing all changes in the management of the NHS, regardless of whether or not they made sense.