June 6, 2005

SMALL TOWN ENGLAND:

New Model Tories call for radical surgery to keep their party alive (David Charter, 6/06/05, Times of London)

THE Tory party needs emergency treatment if it is to win power again, a wideranging group of rising Conservative stars will say today in an electric shock to their leadership. [...]

The group, as yet unnamed, met in secret to produce a pamphlet called Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party. It aims to create a policy debate alongside the process of choosing Michael Howard’s successor and is not endorsed by any of the leadership candidates.

The title consciously echoes Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army because of its association with overthrowing a remote and centralised system to bring real power back to citizens. It is organised around three key principles: localism, decentralisation and devolution. There is a scathing analysis of mistakes during the election as well as policy proposals for education, health, policing, local government, planning and constitutional reform. Much of it is dedicated to reconnecting government to local people with ideas for school vouchers, elected police chiefs and scrutiny of judges. [...]

“There has been a deliberate effort to ensure this is not seen as right-wing or left-wing but a debate across the party about the Conservative brand or personality,” one said.

However, some of the key themes were taken up yesterday by David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary and favourite to succeed Mr Howard. Declaring “the party must change”, he used an article in The Sunday Telegraph to emphasise the need to return power to people to choose schools or hospitals, and hold mayors and police chiefs to account.


What is it we Tories can do for Britain? (David Davis, 05/06/2005, Sunday Telegraph)
[W]e should not abandon timeless Tory principles that are universal in their appeal. Why should anyone believe us if we believe nothing ourselves?

It would be extraordinary if we appeared to abandon policies that have transformed Britain so successfully that even our political opponents pay lip service to them. The Conservative Party pioneered the approach of low taxes and free markets that has put this country at the head of Europe's economic league. To waver in our convictions or question our purpose in these respects would be to turn our backs on the future and to betray the nation's trust.

Modern Conservatism should embrace both approaches, where the party retains its integral values - a belief in the nation state, liberty and personal responsibility; a suspicion of big government - but focuses on helping people of every condition to break free of dependence, indignity and poverty.

Hope is missing from much of Britain at the moment. Too many people feel trapped in situations beyond their control with little chance of escape: parents, when they are unable to get their children into a good school; patients, when they have to endure the nightmare of waiting for hospital treatment; pensioners, trapped in their homes for fear of crime and disorder; decent people, dependent on means-tested benefits and discouraged from working and saving.

Many today feel powerless in the face of a system that seems to have forgotten them. Only the fortunate minority can buy their way to a better life. They pay more for their homes to move to a good school's catchment area or a better neighbourhood, or receive private medical insurance from their company. But most people have almost no control over vital areas of their lives - security in their neighbourhood, their own health, their children's education.

So much of today's political debate is utterly meaningless to people in this situation. The Government still talks as though millions of pounds more here, or extra government intervention there, will solve the nation's problems. It obviously hasn't. The cost to the taxpayer grows. The yield for the patient, the pupil and the citizen shrinks. We shouldn't be surprised.

That's the result of state monopolies. Our public services are now among the best funded in Europe, but we have far from the standards to match. And it is those least able to look after themselves who face the poorest healthcare, the worst schools and the highest levels of crime. What hope is there for these people? A modern political agenda must begin by recognising that ever more government is not the solution - it has become part of the problem.

People know better than politicians how to improve their own lives, if only they have the chance. We can give them that chance by reclaiming power from central government and placing it back in the hands of individuals and communities. That means allowing people to keep more of what they earn to save and spend as they see fit. A free economy underpins the free society, because it recognises that people not governments create wealth, and because it empowers individuals to say "no" to the busybodies and bureaucrats who think they know best.

But a Tory programme of empowerment has to go much, much further than that. So let's transfer to parents the state's power and resources to choose their own school, whether it's local authority or independently run. If socialist Sweden can fund parents to exercise school choice, why can't we? Let's fund and empower patients to choose where they are treated, irrespective of their means, whether it's in a hospital run by the NHS or the independent sector.

If Switzerland can guarantee the best healthcare for the least well off - with a radically decentralised system and a rich mix of private and public provision - why can't we? Let's give local communities control over their local police force through a system of elected commissioners. If the accountability of the mayor and police chief in New York can help to deliver big falls in crime, why can't it work here?

The growing divide between the people and political elites has clearly been demonstrated, first at home with the overwhelming rejection of the North East Regional Assembly, and most recently in the referendums on the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands. The results are a potent warning of the dangers of accruing power in institutions that are remote and unaccountable.

Building a stronger society means constraining the power of government and freeing people to make their own decisions. That is precisely the reverse direction to the path of bigger government and deeper integration that the EU has been pursuing. Britain must have the freedom to pursue a modern agenda in our own interests.


They may be dumb as a bag of hammers, but eventually even the Tories have to figure out that the historic successes of Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, John Howard and George W. Bush suggest a way out of the wilderness--a third way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2005 12:00 AM
Comments

the tory party is beyond redemption.

Posted by: at June 5, 2005 11:42 AM

The first plank in their platform should be withdrawl from the EU.

The second, restoration of the house of Lords.

The third, reinstituting the fox hunt.

The fourth, making a man's home his castle.

The adminstrative stuff can wait.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 5, 2005 10:23 PM

Restoration of the House of Lords? Robert, are you sure you don't secretly harbour regrets you won the Revolutionary War?

Posted by: Peter B at June 6, 2005 7:39 AM

First, restore the Church

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2005 7:49 AM

Robert:

Restore the House of Lords? It's still there, you know. You don't mean hereditary peers, do you?

Putting foxhunting as third on the agenda would be a bit bizarre. Maybe 1 in 1000 give a hoot about hunting, and they vote Tory anyway.

The Tories just need a couple of youngish, sound faces at the helm, and in the fullness of time the wheel of British politics will turn back their way...

Posted by: Brit at June 6, 2005 9:36 AM

is that the same wheel the Liberal party has its hopes of a comeback pinned on ? :)

Posted by: cjm at June 6, 2005 9:40 AM

Yes, but sadly for them it only has two spokes.

Posted by: Brit at June 6, 2005 10:15 AM

"Maybe 1 in a thousand give a hoot about hunting"

But presumably they might care about the rights of individual citizens regardless of whether they appreciate their specific "hobbies".

As long as an individual is not violating the reasonably defined rights of others then wouldn't you respect a political party that stands as a defender of that individual regardless of the whims of the majority? Perhaps Robert's point is that the other 999 might see a party that is their protector rather than a step'n fetchit for the majority.

Posted by: h-man at June 6, 2005 10:19 AM

H-man:

True enough, but we're talking about winning votes here. As a breed, hunters are just disliked by middle England.

A better platform for that libertarian stuff would be opposing Labour's proposed compulsory ID cards. That should be a vote winner.

Posted by: Brit at June 6, 2005 10:41 AM

"Restore the House of Lords? It's still there, you know. You don't mean hereditary peers, do you?"

Yes I do. It was a symbolic atack by Blair on British tradition. It needs to be undone.

As for the hunt, There were massive demonstrations against the ban, there may be a higher percentage who care than you think.

Oh yes, restore the Lord Chancellor to his full powers and status and the Law Lords as well.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 6, 2005 11:12 AM

Robert:

Fascinating to hear an American defend hereditary power over meritocracy, but believe me, running on a High Tory, pre-Thatcher, reactionary, elitist platform really is not the way to regain those lost middle-income votes.

Posted by: Brit at June 6, 2005 11:53 AM

i have never heard anyone talk of "rights" in the u.k. only of benefits and costs, and now problems with immigration and schools.

Posted by: cjm at June 6, 2005 12:08 PM

Hereditary power. Lords was almost completely powerless.

No party is worse off for running to the right.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at June 6, 2005 2:39 PM

Don't forget guns.

Posted by: Sandy P. at June 6, 2005 11:22 PM

guns and the death penalty, that should really get frankenreich's knickers in a twist.

Posted by: Sandy P. at June 6, 2005 11:24 PM

"...An' more baseball, free beef jerky and a day off for Innerpennance Day. Yep, reckon that oughta win it for them there Torees..."

Posted by: Brit at June 7, 2005 10:40 AM
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