Does it matter much if it proves true that one of Alan Johnson's staff facilitated the publication of knife crime data, this despite warnings by NHS statisticians that they were 'potentially inaccurate'? Senior Tories, including Andrew Lansley, think so.

I am not so sure. Statistics are always a tempting minefield for politicians. Governments make mistakes and voters mistrust them for it. Rightly so, I fear. "Lies, damned lies and statistics," is a Disraeli joke, 150 years old.

But it is trivial in the context of the global recession and related developments, accelerating£3bn of extra spending on capital investment – schools, roads, hospitals for instance.

On Tuesday Gordon Brown unveiled the latest attempt to sustain public service reform with promises to accelerate creation of academies and foundation hospitals, to push more power to frontline staff and personalise services and budgets.

Yeah, right. As with stats, voters are entitled to a wary shrug. Do we really need official websites where consumers can sound off about the service they received from GPs, hospitals or schools? Don’t ministers know that far too many interactive sites are often a playground for abusive, disaffected blokes?

But we got a more constructive glimpse of new official thinking in a little-noticed weekend speech by Liam Byrne, the young Cabinet Office thruster. The idea, he tells me, is to build on the recent New Opportunities white paper to create a more open, inclusive society.

That means devolving power from the centre, just as left wingers, syndicalists and the Co-op used to argue before state socialism, bossy Whitehall and its private corporate equivalents took over: the "Morrison Model" named after Peter Mandelson’s grandpa, Herbert.

In the modern choice era "you don't have to be big to be strong" if you unleash individual initiative and the power of the network, said Mr Byrne. When YouTube was sold for $1.6bn it had just 67 staff!

But choice isn’t enough and central government "letting go is not the same as walking away", said Mr Byrne. As in the banking crisis, the state retains a substantial role. He cited the new Care Quality Commission, opening for business on 1 April, as an example.

Another example of a modern government’s role popped up in Washington on Monday, just a week after some good news: it was announced that a British-Canadian project has found a way of using adult skin cells to make an almost limitless supply of stem cells. They could safely be used in patients, without creating either cancerous side-effects or the ethical dilemma whereby some Christians regard the destruction of embryos as murder.

This week the Obama administration confirmed it will overturn the Bush White House’s withdrawal of federal funds for embryo stem cell research - the quest for the Holy Grail that will allow us to create human spare parts.

The president's move was welcomed by scientists and condemned by the US religious Right. But before you cluck your tongue cast a glance at last week’s brief debate on this topic in the Lords. Liberal Democrat Lord Alton led complaints that ministers and official research bodies have been favouring embryo research, even though it had made no progress in terms of new therapies - unlike work on adult cells. Why so? Because there is money to be made via embryo research: discoveries can be patented, which they cannot with adult stem cells, said Baroness Shirley Williams and Lord John Patten.

They were wrestled down by the formidable Lord Narel Patel, one of the medical great and good, and by science minister Lord Drayson, himself a scientist. They explained that, actually, adult stem cell work gets a larger share of the research funds than embryo and that the latter is still in its infancy - far too soon for big results.

I could not help but notice that the three peers making accusations against science failed to declare that they are all prominent lay Catholics. In other words their "scientific" opposition may actually be theological.

"A shameful line of attack," murmured a scientific peer I rang. So it isn’t just those Yanks.