By Tim Montgomerie
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week in Birmingham I presented a ten step plan to deliver the first
Conservative majority since 1992. The plan is summarised on the new StrongAndCompassionate.com website. Parts one, two, three, four and five have already been published.
(Step 6) The next Conservative
manifesto must set out a long-term plan to safeguard both prosperity and
Britain’s social contract
At the last election no party really
leveled with the public about the scale of economic and social challenges
facing Britain. David Cameron’s advisers believe that if they’d been more
honest about the looming austerity the Tory performance might have been even worse.
Labour would have been able to run more scare stories about loss of benefits
and loss of government programmes. But are we all underestimating the wisdom of
the voter? Anyone who has been on the doorstep or who has staffed street stalls
knows that voters understand that these aren’t ordinary times. They know that
we have borrowed too much as households and governments for too long. They know
that the rise of the emerging world economies raises real threats to British
jobs and British wages. They know that problems that grew up over a couple of
decades aren’t going to be solved quickly. They also know that big challenges
aren’t going to be met by small plans.
Conservative Party should also look at the electoral mountain that it has to
climb. It isn’t going to win a majority without taking some big steps and some
big risks. A bolder economic plan – focused not on cuts but on delivering
long-term and sustainable prosperity should be at the heart of the next
election manifesto. Terry Leahy, the genius behind the phenomenal
growth of Tesco in the past twenty years, has said that if businesses focus on
profits, they risk failing. If, instead, they focus on looking after customers,
the bottom line will take care of itself. That is a philosophy that the next Tory
manifesto should follow.
We should be begin by
recognising that we no longer live in a world where Europe and North America hold
a near monopoly of the world’s money, skills and major companies. Now, other
countries, particularly in the Far East, are producing more graduates in
science, maths and engineering. Children in their schools are more literate and
numerate. These are young countries without burdensome welfare states and
ageing populations. They are instead investing heavily in fast railways,
high-tech universities and state-of-the-art power plants. The most
reassuring manifesto isn’t the one that ignores these challenges but has a long-term
plan to meet them.
That can only be half of the Tory manifesto
however. If the manifesto must convince people that there is a plan to create
prosperity it must also convince people that there is a plan for it to be
shared. Following ‘the 50% rule’ the manifesto must focus as much on the
purpose of prosperity as its pursuit. Economic solidarity doesn’t mean equality
but it does mean a degree of progressiveness in the tax and benefits system. It
means that as individual people and companies grow richer they help fund better
public services, decent pensions and adequate care for the vulnerable.
In the final report of this Majority
Project we will publish our own ‘shadow manifesto’. It will develop the themes
set out below, suggesting solutions to eight key national problems and the
ultimate goals of Conservative policy.
PROBLEM: AGEING INFRASTRUCTURE
The solution: Low
interest rates, planning reform, new tax treatments for investment and
long-term policy continuity.
The goal: World
class universities, excellent transport infrastructure and energy security —
all underpinning Britain’s long-term prosperity.
PROBLEM: BRITAIN’S HIGH TAX BURDEN
The solution: Long-term reductions
in dependency on government programmes and the creation of a corporate tax
system that turns Britain into an economic honeypot.
The goal: Lower, fairer taxation for job creators, the low-waged and for families
with children and caring responsibilities.
PROBLEM: UNEQUAL LIFE CHANCES
The solution: Public policies that help parents, teachers and job creators to keep people
out of the welfare state.
The goal: A
country where people look to families, education and employment as the three
routes to happiness and prosperity.
PROBLEM: CONCENTRATIONS OF POWER
Less red tape for small businesses to allow them to flourish, transparent
auditing of government spending and real choice of hospitals and schools for
patients and parents.
The goal: A
nation that empowers the little guy against the system – whether that little
guy is the small business, the hard-pressed taxpayer or the user of public
PROBLEM: EUROPEAN FAILURE
Renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU, subject to ratification by
the British people in a referendum; a British human rights bill to replace
European courts; and an open relationship with the rest of the fast-growing
world through trade and development policies.
The goal: A
nation where the British parliament is sovereign and where the British people
can elect politicians with the power to deliver real changes.
PROBLEM: INEQUALITY ACROSS THE UK
The solution: A
movement towards a federal Britain that includes devolution to England and the
replacement of the outdated Barnett formula, so that money is better
distributed by need, towards the poorest communities within each country of the
The goal: A
United Kingdom where scarce resources are focused on the neediest communities.
PROBLEM: INTERGENERATIONAL FAIRNESS
The solution: A retirement age linked to life
expectancy, fairer taxation of high value properties and means-testing of
benefits like the Winter Fuel Allowance.
The goal: The release of money for life-changing early intervention programmes,
high-skill apprenticeships and long-term care.
PROBLEM: ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
The solution: Protection
of local habitats, more planting of trees, greater recycling, encouragement of
clean technologies, limitation of immigration and spread of best environmental
practice throughout local government.
The goal: Greener,
cleaner local environments, and a more effective, more realistic approach to
climate change, avoiding heavy investment in expensive and immature