More Ronseal please
It may or may not be a good thing if parts of the Treasury move to the North, or the House of Lords to York – and whether this will address regional imbalances and decision-making geared to the South East.
But, one thing I do know: this is not what the public stop me on the streets of Harlow to talk about, or what the general election was about. Most people don’t care whether the Treasury is in Tyneside or Timbuktu.
What might really make a difference to how voters (new and old) regard us, is if our party has a simple but strong narrative as to our values and the policies that accompany them. How are Conservatives going to address the cost of living? What are we doing to help those who struggle? Will Tories mend those parts of society and community that are broken? What will the Government do for skills and apprenticeships?
I have always liked the Ronseal advert for it’s brilliant catchphrase, “it does what it says on the tin”. At the election, with the slogan, “Get Brexit Done”, we did exactly what we said on the tin. But, I just wish we, Conservatives, could be tinmen all the time. Yet, too often, we are talking about things that are esoteric and display little empathy and understanding of ordinary day-to-day anxieties of normal folk.
The same goes for misfits and weirdos. Sure, have a few super-intellectuals examining complicated things that my brain grade will find hard to understand.
However, I find that the best way to work out how to change ‘the system’ is to talk to those who have a direct role in what is going wrong. Such as the parent who waits over a year to get the right EHCP for their special needs child; the small shopkeeper strangled with red tape and unfair business rates; the would-be nursing degree-apprentice who can’t find the opportunities to get that qualification; the single parent living in ghetto-like permitted development housing; the self-employed white van owner, hit by ever-increasing motorist costs and the rage of the environmentalists.
Just imagine if these kinds of people were advisers to Number 10 and rotated on a regular basis. Not only would the experts find out what is wrong, but probably some decent solutions, too.
Since the EU referendum, petrol and diesel costs have risen by around 15 to 20p per litre. This price has not just impacted on motorists but businesses, food prices, bus fares and much more besides – all because of the increasing costs of transportation.
If the Treasury really want to flash multiple V-signs at the millions of blue-collar voters who lent us their vote, then putting up fuel duty – a totemic tax which is already amongst the highest in Europe and accounts for over 60 per cent of our fuel costs – would be a sure way of going about it.
Those countrymen and women who supported us this time round, might decide to make it the shortest political loan in history.
Let the people decide on the future of the BBC
In 2011, I brought through a Private Bill to the Commons to democratise the BBC. In short, the legislation would have allowed the licence fee payer (LFP) to take back control. Each LFP would be able to vote online for the Board and Director-General/Chair of the BBC, on the annual report and major spending decisions.
We are told that the BBC is “ours”, yet we have no say in how it is run or funded. In reality, this is all determined by ‘the Great and the Good’.
Soon, a new BBC Director-General will be chosen. Why should LFPs not have a say as to who is the best candidate and have a genuine choice of different, prospective director-generals to vote for? Of course, you could have a requirement that the candidates have a strong broadcasting background and no history of political activism – but at least LFPs would be able to decide on different visions as to the future of the BBC.
I think the time has come to bring back this Bill so that LFPs can determine the funding model of the BBC: keep things as they are, a voluntary subscription service, or just allow the BBC to have commercials as a self-funding service, like Channel Four.
When I proposed this in the past, I was literally told that LFPs would not understand the BBC and the complexities of voting. Yet the public vote for a new Government – a far bigger decision – every few years.
Letting licence fee payers have their say would take the sting out of a centrally-imposed decision about the BBC. We should trust the people. What’s the worst that could happen?