The question and answer session showed a large amount of support for Tessa Jowell's proposals, but the question on everyone’s lips was, how do we put this idea into practice?
One member of the audience raised the point that this was not the first time such and initiative has been put forward and how was this going to be any different to previous initiatives. Tessa Jowell responded that this was about modern mutualisation, which is very much in tune with what the public want. The Minister for the Olympics admitted that in the past Labour may have avoided the topic for fear of being branded with the iron of nationalisation. However following the credit crunch she said the time was right to reopen the debate, reiterating the point that she is to be meeting the Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP and other ministers in the new year to discuss how some of the elements under their remit such as Sure Start, could be transferred into the hands of mutuals. Though making it clear that this was not a cure all solution, it was a compelling point and it should be given enough time for proper debate.
In the final moments of the lecture Tessa Jowell was asked a question about the role for possible mutuals in the BBC. The question was asked whether the BBC Trust would be turned into a mutual, and therefore result in ordinary people being elected to the board as is the case in other mutuals, as at present the BBC Trust board is un representative of its stakeholders, the British public. The former culture secretary said that she would have to decline to comment on that point as she was no longer culture secretary. However she stated that she was sure that the point would be addressed alongside a wider debate on the running of the BBC.
In conclusion Tessa Jowell’s lecture raised a point that both the Co-operative party and Progress have been pushing (see Progress editorial ‘A Mutual Moment’) for some time. As Jessica Asato, Acting Director of Progress, said in her introduction, ‘clearly great minds think alike’.