Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the North West Hampshire Conservative Association at the Guild Hall, Andover, Sir George Young set out 10 points that he would like to see included in the next Conservative Manifesto.
"Today is a few days after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Callaghan Government. In those days, the political landscape had some large ideological mountains on it, that defined the territory occupied by the two main parties. Nuclear weapons, the role of Trade Unions, whether industry should be owned by the public or private sector.
Nowadays, the political landscape is pretty flat. Most of the mountains have been removed, as Labour disown unpopular policies. As a result, many people are either disoriented or bored. Politics is a minority pastime for most people, with turnout plummeting.
So I set myself a challenge before our meeting this evening. If there was an election tomorrow, what would I say that was first and importantly Conservative; secondly, what would I say that my opponents would not also say; and, third, what would I say that was popular – all with a view to reawakening interest in politics.
All three conditions are important. There is no point in campaigning as a Conservative candidate if your policies are not conservative. Second, there is little point in campaigning on Conservative policies if the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats all agree with them and are also campaigning on them; and, thirdly, it would be heroic but futile to campaign on distinctive Conservative policies, if they are not popular. Indeed, I seem to remember in the past we have tried that.
So here are ten policies.
First, there should be no further transfer of sovereignty to Brussels without a referendum. Spanish terrorists have changed the Spanish government. They may change this one, by setting off a process that has driven the EU Constitution right up the political agenda, and where the Government is on the losing side of the argument. It is absurd, when everyone is complaining about disengagement and the importance of involvement, to deny people the opportunity to vote on this country’s first ever written constitution. In 1997 Blair wrote “A greater use of referendums gives citizens a veto over proposals to change their system of government.” But he seems, conveniently, to have forgotten.
Second, we must restore to Parliament the powers it needs to hold Government to account, and create a more independent second chamber. Labour have weakened the very foundations of our democracy. The current weakness of Parliament doesn’t just disable me – it disables you and all those I represent. And it contributes to the feeling of cynicism, apathy and powerless leading to lower turnout. Related to that, we should stop Scottish MP’s imposing on England and Wales policies which their elected MP’s don’t want. On Wednesday, the amendment to the Higher Education Bill was only defeated with the help of Scottish MP’s.
Third, we will restore trust between government and governed. People believed what John Major and Margaret Thatcher said. They don’t believe Tony Blair. We will cut back on special advisers, renounce the obsession with spin and presentation, and restore to this country a professional, neutral and dedicated civil service at the heart of our administration. And Ministers will accept responsibility for what their departments do in their name, not pass the blame on to those who work for them. Trust will be restored if policies on asylum and immigration and competently administered.
Fourth, we will develop a British Foreign policy which will usually, but not always, co-incide with that of the USA, with a well-defined and sharply focussed view of the British interest. Americans are good and brave people who have committed troops to standing up to some of the most unpleasant regimes in the world. They are a force for good. But our relationship with them is now perceived to be one of automatic endorsement, instead of independent assessment. That needs to change back to the more evenly-balanced Reagan Thatcher relationship, rather than the less well-balanced Bush Blair relationship
Fifth, we will reduce, when we are able to, the interface between citizen and government by dramatically raising tax thresholds, and taking millions of modestly paid citizens altogether out of tax. We will simplify the incomprehensible web of benefits and tax credits woven by Gordon Brown and replace it with something the MP for North West Hants can understand and explain.
Sixth, we will raise the blevel of Inheritance Tax so ordinary Hampshire properties are not caught by this new stealth tax. We have a capital tax of 40% on anything over £260,000 – quite absurd given what has happened to house prices in Hampshire in the past seven years.
Seven we will reduce the threat to our countryside by giving to district councils the responsibility for determining the capacity to absorb new homes; and restore the freedom of countryfolk to engage in traditional country sports if the government has banned it.
Eight, we will give back to professionals – doctors, nurses, police and teachers -the freedom and the space to use their skills and not drown them with advice, nor handicap them with superfluous advisory and regulatory bodies.
Nine, we will restore the country’s appetite for savings and its confidence in the institutions that look after them. The savings ratio has halved, which is deeply damaging to our economy if savings and consumption get out of balance.
Ten, I will put an end to solicitors encouraging people to enrich themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens by suing public bodies. Of course, if someone is negligent they should be held responsible. But the resources of our education, health, police and defence services are being eroded by a growth of litigiousness imported from US that makes me angry. I agree with Libby Purvess who wrote a splendid article in the Times about this a few days ago.
This may not all be current policy, but I see no reason why it should not be.
Sir George went on to say
"I would preface my positive policies with some disobliging remarks about Labour who could have achieved so much with a large majority and sound economy but have achieved so little. No wonder people are disillusioned. Labour have let them down.
The average family is paying £5k more in taxation per year; but are the services that much better? There is too much waste and bureaucracy. Despite all the money, they haven’t made much difference.
There is more tax; more violent crime; more asylum chaos; more pension worries.
Only Michael Howard as Home Secretary cut crime and only he will get a grip on immigration.
We want to give choice in health and education that now only money can buy.
I am more optimistic than I have been for a long time. In a year’s time, Parliament may have been dissolved for the Election on May 5th. On May 6th, we could have a Conservative Government."