Andrew Morrision, who was a Conservative council candidate for Linn Ward in Glasgow in this month's council elections, says changes at Westminster are needed
In 1995, Cathcart Conservative Association made the ‘Declaration of Cathcart’, which was a ten point plan made during the height of the Conservatives unpopularity when we were last in Government. Controversial at the time, many of the points made in the ‘declaration’ have came to fruition and it is my belief that if what they said was taken on board earlier, we would be further ahead in the polls on where we are now. (See news clips in the film above.)
Let’s face it, we seriously misread the mood of the public by not supporting devolution when we were clearly howling at the moon during the 1990s. The ‘Cathcart Five’ spoke up against rail privatisation too, which was shown to be an absolute shambles in later years.
Following a poor election result for the Conservatives across the UK – I have put together some points which I believe a 21st Century ‘Declaration of Cathcart’ would consist of:
1. We must reconfigure our Comprehensive Spending Review to accommodate a deep cut in fuel-duty. Large swathes of the electorate depend on private transport to commute, for social, general domestic and pleasure purposes, and eye-watering prices at the pump is hurting us badly. It is not enough to say it would have been higher under Labour – what matters is fuel is more expensive under us as things stand.
The car is one of the hallmarks of conservatism – it represents for many people an expression of individuality and personal freedom. We must do what we can to help the motorist by either cutting the VAT rate on petrol and diesel from 20% to the lower rate of 5%, or by deeply discounting rates of fuel duty as a matter of urgency.
2. Many people who would, or indeed do, support our party toil on doing the right thing and playing by the rules often in an environment where people break the law on a daily basis. Ordinary people living in ordinary communities are plagued by the scourge of crime, and fear for the kind of future their children will have living in a society where criminals are allowed to carry on regardless. They worry about how to raise their children to take the right path where there are so many negative influences.
Failing to recognise how frustrated people feel about the drug-dealer in their community, or the gangs that terrorise the law-abiding majority only shows our leaders and cabinet as being out of touch.
Put simply, we need build new prisons to alleviate the shortage of capacity, and we need to start putting more criminals in them.
3. The majority of the British public are reticent about the European Union – it is a waste of our money, and we need to dispel the myth that it is only an issue only we in the Conservative Party love to discuss. The man in the street and on the door-step dislikes the EU as much as the majority of the Conservative Party dislikes it, and we need to hold that referendum on EU membership.
If the Leadership thinks that is one stage too far, we simply need to start overriding European Directives and the European Court of Human Rights when it suits our democracy to do so. Abu Hamza should have been extradited years ago and we should not have waited on the ECHR telling us we can do so. What sanctions could Europe actually take? Throw us out? Throw us out for making decisions the majority of the British public wish to see? They would miss our financial contributions far too much for that to happen but even if it, being expelled for protecting sovereign interests would be more popular than us making the conscious decision to leave.
4. We need to build more affordable family homes, and give more people the chance to own them. The idea that the Right-to-Buy made it more difficult for people to rent a house from the social housing sector is nonsense – the Right-to-Buy means fewer people have to rent a home from the state. The problem is a shortage of suitable housing and affordable mortgages, pure and simple.
Private developers have slowed down the construction of properties as there are fewer people with adequate deposits to get an affordable mortgage. If the Government were to give means-tested contributions towards deposits for private homes, say in the form of an interest-free loan, then we would kickstart the construction industry and give people the homes they want at a fraction of the outlay constructing new state housing would cost.
5. Our Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer being former-Etonians is not a problem in its own right, but we do need a broader mix of people in our Cabinet. If we had this, we would not have made so many own goals in recent months.
The curtailing of the age-related Personal Allowance (named the ‘Granny Tax’ by some commentators) was actually a very minor change with only a small financial implication, but taking a free-kick at one of our core demographics was only bound to lose us votes no matter how minor their financial loss would be. If their financial impact is immaterial at best, then why expend so much political capital on the measure?
There has been a notable gap between the Prime Minister and popular public sentiment since Andy Coulson departed the Prime Minister’s employment. There is a lot of talent on the back-benches at Westminster who could provide the Leadership with a bit of ‘grounded’ political nouse, and these people need to be brought into the Prime Minister’s inner circle to get the Cabinet back into touch.
You will note that many of the points raised above concern the Westminster government, not what we did during the course of the Local Government Elections. This is because I believe people voted based on what they see on the evening news, read in the tabloid media, and generally perceive and feel for themselves and defeat is by no means an indictment of the performance of our candidates and former Councillors.
The Declaration of Cathcart was unpopular amongst many Tories at the time, but the passage of time vindicated them. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have said above, I hope we can all agree it is about time we all started to speak what we feel, and not what we ought to say.