Back page: My week - John Knight rejects drunks and snake oil

MONDAY: They say a picture is worth a thousand words - well, let me, dear reader, tell you about the image you see on the right and how it all came about.

When the editor of Third Sector rang me to ask if I would write this column I accepted, unaware of the torture to be inflicted on me by a photographer who turned up with enough equipment to make a hagiographic biopic of the much-loved Stephen Bubb (the demise of his HR column is still being mourned across the sector).

I spent over an hour cavorting with this chap, repeatedly asking him how I should look. "Oh, just act normal," he replied. Well, really. For someone with a profound physical disability and unable to sit easily, this was a tall order. So don't judge a book by its cover, and if I look as if I have sat on a pile of nettles, do try to understand.

WEDNESDAY: I'm reflecting on the interview third sector minister Ed Milband gave to The Guardian, apparently playing down ideas that the Government is hell bent on dishing out huge bundles of public services to voluntary organisations.

I have always been uneasy with this direction of travel. I said as much in a subsequent interview with that same newspaper. The minister went on to say later in the same interview that the third sector had "a big role to play in imparting those strengths to the statutory services so that they can continue to deliver directly".

I am perplexed, however. This minister is a member of a Government that has parcelled out sections of public services - for example, education and the NHS - to the private sector. What does 'deliver directly' actually mean these days?

THURSDAY: I write this as the dust settles on the Labour Party conference in Manchester. I am not going to any party conferences this year. For more than 10 years, I have lived out of a suitcase for three consecutive weeks each year.

As a result I have endured grisly hotels, an increasingly overcrowded marketplace, drunks, purveyors of snake oil - and a budget spend that I found increasingly difficult to justify.

Despite the earnest protestations of the Prime Minister - "you'll miss me when I'm gone" - that the conference would reconnect with the public, it inevitably focused largely on the Blair-Brown circus. This corrosive irrelevancy continues to dominate political agendas and, apart from the debate about privatisation of the NHS, real issues were thin on the ground.

Where and when will it all end?

- John Knight is head of external policy at Leonard Cheshire.

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