I’m winging it even more than usual this evening because I have lots to do, so apologies for this post being particularly loosely thought out—it’s coming straight off the top of my head out to the keyboard and it requires you lot to do the hard work for me. I’m not hopeful on either count. When I write two lighthearted lines here I get page after page of argument; when I invite people to participate in some serious political debate I get nothing. Here we go anyway.
Last week a clever and successful woman who I only know through ‘Blogging wrote me a long email about her journey from the Tories to the Liberals to her present and very longstanding Labour membership. She jokingly said in that message that “perhaps [people like us] should form our own party”. She set me thinking.
What kind of policies would be consistent both with Right-wing ideals and with the UK Conservative Party winning the votes of long-term, but independently-minded, Labourites like me—and possibly you? (I was going to call myself a long-term Right-wing Labourite, but a lot of my dream policies are comfortably to the Left of even the Respect Coalition. That made you jump, didn’t it?)
Your mission, dear readers, is to devise or choose policies that might make you even slightly more likely vote Tory. To play this game you have to be someone who has voted Labour in the past (or, if under voting age, intends to do so in the future) and the policies you suggest should be consistent with at least one strand of “Conservative” thought. I will interpret that broadly enough to include “one-nation” types, traditionalists, wets, Thatcherites, and even Portillistas—but not Heath-ite throwbacks.
Here are my suggestions to get you started (or to start a fight). I hope you’re not reading this, Michael Howard, because I would probably have some kind of blackout on my way to the polling station if you adopted my proposals and I was forced to vote for your lot on principle.
Bring back selection in schools, scholarships, and rigorous public exams; privatize the universities and let them set their own fees. All of these policies are completely consistent with a meritocratic, small government, free market administration that aims to target financial assistance to those most in need of it and those most willing to “get on their bikes”. (They should also appeal to traditionalists, too)
Get rid of the DTI and instead have a powerful, tightly-focused government competition department with the money to pay for bloody good lawyers. It would challenge cartels, monopolies, and the abuse of intellectual property law. This would be completely consistent with a belief in entrepreneurial and openly competitive British industry (and, incidentally, help the surprisingly Anglo pharma industry escape the creeping research and development paralysis caused by growing thickets of bad patents).
Legalize (that is make available under licensed prescription) all drugs. When the next recession bites you can bet drug-related crime will climb, but even in the present good times, criminalized drug users are a comfortable niche for blood-borne infectious diseases and drug sales fund terrorist groups. Oh, and druggies are not generally very happy people either.
Any of these—especially the first—would make me wonder if maybe it was time I started wearing stripey shirts, brogues and a Barbour. All three and I might even get measured up for a blue-rinsed bouffant wig and comfy slacks.
I’m off now. Do your worst.