The book is an attack on the left and the right. He argues that libertarian individualism and centralised socialism are different sides of the same coin, distracting us from what matters most, civil society:
“Under the auspices of both the state and the market, a vast body of disenfranchised and disengaged citizens has been constituted. They have been stripped of their culture by the Left and their capital by the Right, and in such nakedness they enter the trading floor of life with only their labour to sell. Proletarianised and segregated, the individuals created by the market-state settlement can never really form a genuine society: they lack the social capital to create such an association and the economic basis to sustain it.”
Ultimately, he claims, Margaret Thatcher failed to create a “free, diverse and propertied society” although she did kick “down the rotten infrastructure of the postwar settlement”. She failed because she was a liberal rather than a conservative.
His book, now on sale, sets out the following policies*:
- Give employees ownership of public services;
- Scrap school catchment areas to enable real choice for parents;
- New small regional banks;
- New economic model for the poor;
- Scrap pensioner tax relief for the poor and redirect money into asset creation programme for the poor;
- Convert Government bank shares into investment vouchers for the poor;
- Transfer Council assets to local communities;
- Community Land Trust;
- Jobless to work as volunteers without losing benefits;
- Time-banking: Plan for volunteers to exchange skills with time as a currency;
- Adjustable business rates: poor areas given power to cut business rates;
- Small cheap loans for the poor;
- Child Trust Funds (CFTs) to be enhanced;
- Scrap Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to fund financial literacy classes in school;
- Support micro finance;
- Break up big banks;
- Create Necessities Price Index (NPI) to reflect true costs facing the poor;
- Mutualise the Post Office;
- Force banks to invest in social enterprises.
* Twenty policies were promised in the press release but only 19 were listed.