David Cameron, should he become Prime Minister, has an urgent and momentous task – to transform Britain from top to toe. The Spectator gives him some pointers
The key to great success is to follow great failure. David Cameron has this if little else in his favour if, as expected, he is Prime Minister in two months’ time. He may not have the majority he hoped for, but he will be able to command the government machine.
It is not difficult to see why the greatest Greek scholar of his generation, Sir Kenneth Dover, who died last Sunday, was a man who attracted controversy. His edition of Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds (1968) was the first to go into the same detailed explanation of its sexual jokes as of its textual cruces. Readers were appalled: surely you did not pick up a classical text to read about the relationship between erections and pre-ejaculation fluid? That it was the finest commentary ever produced on every aspect of a comedy featuring the controversial figure of Socrates seemed to pass people by.
The work begins
Subject: No time to lose
Date: Friday, 7 May 2010 14:28
From: David Cameron
To: Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet SecretaryDear Gus,The Queen has just invited me to form a government. I’m sending this on by BlackBerry in the car, because there is a degree of urgency. Our country has been badly broken by 13 years of bad government. There is, literally, not a moment to lose in fixing it. The Queen has asked me to govern for up to five years, and mentioned to me that her father saw our country win a world war in six years.
Chris Mullin MP offers prospective junior ministers a survival guide to the ‘foothills’ of governmentElection Day plus four. Your party has just won a great victory. Having handed out the big jobs the new Prime Minister is taking a well-deserved weekend off. It is now Monday and you are anxiously awaiting The Call. For the past two years you have been diligently shadowing, let us say, the Europe portfolio as a junior member of the Foreign Affairs team.
‘My appeal to the Home Secretary is most earnest. I believe that if ever there was a debt due to justice… that debt is one the Home Secretary should now pay.’
That was an impassioned plea by Sir Frank Soskice MP for the reopening of the Timothy Evans case. The home secretary’s reply was that it would serve no useful purpose. All very unremarkable. Except that the home secretary who rejected the appeal in 1965 was the same Sir Frank Soskice who had made it in 1961.
Apart from a loyal army and a strong police force, the primary requirements for political power are (a) legal authority, (b) taxation revenues, (c) organisational size and (d) permanent tenure of office. Politicians certainly do not have (c) and (d), and although they may have (a) and (b) in theory, those two have long been effectively appropriated in practice by the permanent officials. As a result a general election, which is presented as a choice as to which political party will run the country, is much closer to a contest between rival marketing consultancies pitching for the civil service account for the next five years.
If you really want to know how obtuse, how jaded, how downright bizarre Britain’s planning system is, you need only consult the findings of Lord Walker, the Supreme Court Judge who last week answered the question: should you show deference to local golfers?An odd question for sure, but one upon which rested the £55 million development of 300 homes on the Teeside coastline in a place called Coatham Common.
If the Conservatives win the next election, a majority of the Tory benches will be made up of members of the 2010 intake. We will be, in terms of numbers, the most significant intake for 60 years and will have huge influence on the party in years to come. So, what do I and my colleagues believe? We all share a commitment to people power and we see the potential for a new social covenant establishing that government belongs to the people and is the servant of the people.
A visitor returning to Britain after 30 years could easily be fooled — by the sight of privatised buses and by the replacement of heavy nationalised industries by hi-tech business parks — into thinking that Britain has been transformed from a sub-socialist society into a dynamic free enterprise economy. In some ways that may be true, yet paradoxically the public sector is actually larger relative to the rest of the economy than it was in the dying days of the last Labour government.
Unaffordable and unsustainable, Rupert Darwall explains why Labour’s worst stealth tax must be abolishedThe bubble has burst; there are no proceeds of growth to share and Britain’s budget deficit is, in the words of one central banker, truly frightening. Can Mr Cameron give voters a break, one which will leave them tangibly better off and is unambiguously good for the economy? Yes he can. The Renewables Obligation can claim to be Labour’s worst stealth tax.
Stephen Brien explains how Britain’s welfare system must changeWelfare dependency is one of the most pernicious problems facing modern Britain and its deprived communities. When William Beveridge was planning the welfare state, he spoke about the giant evil of idleness: not just a waste of economic potential, but of human potential too.The tragedy is that his welfare system has gone on to incubate the very problem it was designed to eradicate.
‘Drug addiction, alcoholism, criminal records, language difficulties, a lack of skills, depression...’ Anyone working alongside Britain’s long-term unemployed can recite a grim litany of social ills.‘Drug addiction, alcoholism, criminal records, language difficulties, a lack of skills, depression...’ Anyone working alongside Britain’s long-term unemployed can recite a grim litany of social ills. But when I speak to a welfare adviser in Tower Hamlets – one of London’s poorest boroughs – he emphasises a single factor, above all others, to explain the area’s endemic worklessness: ‘the benefits trap’ – the idea that you can be better off on benefits than in work.
Dear Treasury Permanent Secretary,Good news: the nightmare is over. We both know that Gordon Brown is one of the greatest economic vandals ever to have resided in Downing Street. And to make Britain competitive again will require hard work. We can start immediately, and without the need for legislation. I’d like the following to be in place by the end of our first 100 days.1) Please draw up plans for a two-year public sector pay freeze, and for a few billion pounds worth of immediate cuts.
How can a new government undo Labour’s mistakes? It should simply repeal everything, says Matthew ParrisAnd finally, we shall in our first Queen’s Speech be introducing a measure whose like has never been seen among the manifesto commitments of an incoming government. It will be known as the Blanket Repeal of Legislation (Failure of New Labour, 1997-2010) Bill.The effect of the Act will be to repeal en masse and at a stroke all new legislation brought in since the fall of the Conservative government in 1997.
Frank Field argues that a radical reform of Britain’s pensions policy could enrich both pensioners and the exchequerTen years of austerity must deliver the country a radicalism that ten years of abundance has failed to achieve. The Prime Minister’s economic war council must decree that the necessary budgetary strategy also forges a radical agenda. Every secretary of state should be instructed to bring forward one major reform which, while cutting the size of a departmental budget, also begins to transform the political landscape.
Unruly, bizarre and hungry for your money, Britain’s quangos must be stopped, says Matthew SinclairThey are our longest-running political horror story. And, under Labour, they have been ever more unruly, increasingly dangerous and always ready to suck the blood of taxpayer’s wealth. For several decades politicians have been discussing cutting the number of Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations (quangos).
David Cameron may have to rely on Nick Clegg to form a majority. But Julian Glover says that a deal should be simple – if they focus on areas where they already agreeIn late 2007 two fresh-faced, privately educated party leaders gave speeches setting out their philosophies. ‘We’ve always been motivated by a strong and instinctive scepticism about the capacity of bureaucratic systems to deliver progress,’ said one.
Nick Clegg’s office already has a Downing Street feel to it. Since becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats, he has had it redecorated so that portraits of old party leaders hang on the staircase up to his room, as portraits of former prime minsters do in No. 10. It starts plausibly enough, with portraits of Palmerston, Gladstone and Asquith. The gravitas is somewhat lost when we get to Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell.
When Nick Clegg assures us that he is a man of principle, he is telling the truth. He does have one deeply held principle: the ground of his political being. He believes in a federal Europe. Europe is not only his continent. It is his country.But there is a problem. Such views are not widely popular with the electorate. They are not even popular with Mr Clegg’s own MPs, who would like to hold on to their seats.
Although I have been a reader of The Spectator almost since I have been in short trousers I have rarely been as irritated by an article as I was by last week’s cover story, ‘Britain must be saved from the financial abyss’. Its author, Allister Heath, is by no means a lone voice: he speaks for a considerable number of vocal, if unrepresentative people in the City who believe a hung parliament would mean weak government and fiscal peril.
Ronald Searle, who turned 90 this month, talks to Harry Mount about being captured by the Japanese, chronicling the 1950s and inventing both St Trinian’s and MolesworthHigh in the mountains of Provence, in a low-ceilinged studio at the top of his teetering tower house, Ronald Searle is showing me the simple child’s pen he uses. As he draws the pen down the page, the ink thickens and swerves; a few sideways strokes, a little cross-hatching, and suddenly the famous Searle line comes to life: part Gothic, part anarchic, part comic.
Down at that self-proclaimed centre of ‘tolerance and harmony’, the East London Mosque, they’ve been holding some pretty tolerant and harmonious meetings lately. On 9 July last year, for instance, there was the half-day conference on ‘social ills’. One of the ‘social ills’ — with an entire session to itself — was ‘music’, described by one of the speakers, Haitham al-Haddad, as a ‘prohibited and fake message of love and peace’.
It’s unlikely that birds of prey have anything to do with the decline in garden songbirds, says Rod Liddle, and anyway, what right have we got to play God with wildlife?But oh! The crewel sparrer’hawk
E spies im in is snuggery,
E sharpens up is bleedin’ claws
An rips im aht by thuggeryanon, 19th c.
There was a fearful commotion outside, in the garden, a screeching and frantic flapping, the sound of water being urgently displaced, of aggression and terror.
What if we win office, but nothing changes? What if, instead of running a new government, triumphant Tory ministers discover that the machinery of government runs them? Making sure that does not happen requires a strategy. Opposition may be a time for tactics, but how we fare in office will hinge on having a robust, coherent plan. We must have a strategy to make government properly accountable to parliament, and parliament to the people.