<rant>Now, I’m a Tory voter, that is, a supporter of the Conservative Party, currently enjoying their annual conference. I’m a Tory because I believe in the markets, in individual freedoms, and that the state should interfere in peoples’ lives as little as possible. But the antics of the Tories at the moment are making me tear out what little hair I have left. Were I in a position of power and influence, I’d do the following, all of which I believe are in the spirit of Tory values of freedom, personal responsibility and lack of state control. Why the Tories don’t advocate these policies I can’t imagine. Not even the alliance with the Liberal Democrats explains these lacunae. Consider what follows as my Alternative Tory Manifesto. It is exhausting, but I’m sure not exhaustive, and is in alphabetical, that is, no particular order.
Banks. The problem with the banks – and yes, there is a problem, with regulation and oversight – is that the previous Labour government bailed them out with vast quantities of our money. In my view the banks should have been allowed to fail. The enormous sums made by some bankers can only be justified in terms of risk. If the state is there to bail bankers out, then that risk is reduced. The state already underwrites the savings of regular savers to the tune of around £80k, so bank failure shouldn’t really affect anyone very seriously, for very long. Bankers will pick themselves up, dust themselves off and find jobs in re-invented banks. That should be the Tory way. Unfortunately Gordon Brown put us in this mess (he called it ‘saving the world’) and there’s not a great deal we can do about it now.
Drugs. The proscription of various opiates is a relatively recent invention. In Sherlock Holmes’ day, opium dens were disreputable, but not illegal. Now they are. The ‘war on drugs’ is an abject failure, as is any attempt to proscribe any drug absolutely. Drug use should be decriminalized. Drug suppliers should be given amnesty if they submit to a rigorous process of licensing. Drugs should be supplied in the same way that alcohol and tobacco are supplied, with the usual health warnings, proscription on sale to minors, and loads of tax going to the government.
Europe. I like Europe. Europe is great. The problem is that the EU is corrupt and unaccountable, and until it is, we should not be shackled by it. It has never, ever, passed one of its own audits. The Euro was always going to be a disaster. The UK should secede from the EU.
Energy. Wind farms are lovely. But we should also harness waves and tides, and pursue nuclear power with vigor. Fracking might be fun, but it’s desperately short-term.
Foreign Aid. This is currently the focus of much brouhaha. In my view it should be streamlined to focus on where small amounts can have the greatest benefit – healthcare and education for women.
Gay Marriage. Supporting gay marriage is entirely in accord with Tory values of freedom and personal responsibility.
House of Lords. I have seen the HoL in action on various committees. It is an impressive sight. There is definitely a case for having a house of appointed Village Elders acting as a restraint on politically motivated Commons. Reform it if we must, but the members should not be political appointees.
Human Rights. When the Human Rights Act came in we were promised that it wouldn’t be used for trivialities. How wrong we were. It should be abolished.
Immigration. It drives me barmy that the Tories round here are obsessed with immigration. Well, so am I. I’m for it. The more the merrier. Bring us your huddled masses, and so on and so forth in like fashion. Immigrants are what made this country great.
Planning. According to the CEO of IKEA, the reason that there are no more than 18 IKEA stores in the UK is the labyrinthine process of UK planning law, subject as it is to incessant nimbyism and delay. Planning has got to be streamlined. The Tories are already trying to do something about this, but it’ll probably be stymied by Shire-county Tory nimbies (such as we have in Norfolk.)
Tax. It’s obvious. It’s staring us in the face. The best way to pull us out of economic recession is to cut tax and red tape. Reduce the income tax rate to a flat 25% for everyone. Take the low-paid out of income tax altogether, so reducing former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s labyrinthine system where millions of people are taxed and then have it given back to them via a complex system of tax credits. Reduce corporation tax. Abolish stamp duty on house purchases and financial transactions. Reduce VAT to 10-15%. Revoke Gordon Brown’s abolition of the loophole that lets company directors take dividends taxable at 25% – meant to penalise ‘fat cats’, but acts as a disincentive to small-business owners (a flat tax of 25% would render this at naught anyway, but let’s repeal it all the same.) There should be generous tax breaks to companies that encourage decentralization and telecommuting – thus reducing the strain on our dilapidated infrastructure as well as our carbon emissions.</rant>