Introduction to the book
Through an interesting and varied life I have learnt a simple truth:
With the Government over the past ten years we have had the latter in large doses, combined with a fierce attachment to targeting, a fondness for short term, off-the-cuff solutions and a willingness to spin and deceive the people with (at best) half truths and the rhetoric of self justification.
Centralised control has demonstrated complete lack of confidence in the common sense and energy of people to manage anything without the ‘nanny state’ to direct them.
The growth of the over complex and pervasive benefit and tax credit systems and the huge over reliance on means testing has ground out the human spirit from our lives and made too many of us dependent on the state for our very subsistence, while removing much incentive to self fulfilling work.
This has involved an inescapable necessity to increase taxation – even before the current credit crunch has taken it to unprecedented heights – and the employment by government of large numbers of civil servants to make sure all their complicated rules are adhered to. Poverty is still widespread – particularly among children and young people – and social mobility has been stifled.
The vast amount of money poured into the great departments of state has been absorbed to a large extent by increased wages and pensions but has not had a proportional effect on the quality of the services provided.
What has been lacking is straightforward, honest leadership with a clear vision of how to improve our future and the transparency to encourage and inspire people to believe in it.
So the simple question is: How do we return from our present abyss to the heights of confident achievement? The answer must include: clear leadership with a strong vision of where to take us, empowerment of the people as individuals, simplification of most aspects of our lives, the introduction of transparency at every level, basic good management, plus encouragement and incentive – instead of the endless culture of punishment and the erosion of freedoms.
So I guess the central theme of my book is Self Reliance.
Just think of what it would be like to wake up one morning in a few years time and find that:
- Parliament had been reformed so that ministers had time to devise policy and do their jobs. Public sector organisations were independently and efficiently run and the Civil Service reorganised to administer our government in a professional non-political manner.
- Members of Parliament had real jobs and real authority, independent of the Whips or anyone else.
- The House of Lords was elected and, through a reformed committee system, was working side by side with the Commons to ensure effective legislation and enlightened government.
- There was no more spin or deceit. Freedom of Information and transparency in nearly everything was the rule.
- Democracy at home had been devolved to local control, where citizens had a strong voice in managing their own schools, hospitals, community centres, prisons and police.
- Young people were being treated as individuals worthy of support, with activities and skills that encouraged them to become strong members of society.
- Youth unemployment was a thing of the past. Communities were running their own affairs and were full of confidence. Serious incentives to work were re-established for all.
- British industry was encouraged to take large numbers of apprentices, to support its growth and aid its recovery.
- We treated our prisoners humanely and looked after their pastoral, health and educational needs in a way that enabled many of them to rejoin their communities as contributing citizens.
- Drug dealers no longer terrorised estates and ruined the lives of many young people. Burglaries fell by 60%. The huge sums spent on petty crime and hunting down dealers were spent on rehabilitating those who had become dependent, to become contributing members of society.
- Means testing had been much reduced and in most areas eliminated completely. The whole of British society was free again to work and contribute to its own prosperity with low marginal tax rates. Poverty reduction was taking place of its own accord – with a vengeance.
- The income tax system had been hugely simplified and tax thresholds were at a level where half of us paid no tax at all. Britain’s economy was growing faster than its historical rate.
- The benefit system was massively simplified so that ordinary people could understand and operate it. So that it applied to fewer people, and was administered by a caring government department with a local office that was staffed by local people who you got to know personally (like your doctor), and who sorted out your benefit exactly to meet your entitlement, with a single monthly payment to your account.
- All the endless form filling, discussion, and arguing about the complexities of benefit entitlement, was a thing of the past and more than a million government and other employees were back doing constructive jobs creating wealth for the nation.
- Cheating and fraud against the state was greatly reduced.
- Pensioners, instead of facing poverty, would receive a pension that at least kept them above the poverty level, with virtually no means testing.
- For every new law or regulation that was passed at least one (but preferably more) were removed form the statute books.
- The ‘nanny state’ was being dismembered with enthusiasm. The amount of surveillance and snooping by numerous authorities was being reduced to more civilised levels, by panels of legal tigers.
Achieving this would surely be worth the effort!
It can’t be done overnight. But with determination and the right agenda it could certainly be done within the span of two parliaments.
I suspect no one in authority will remotely comprehend the enormous power and energy that would be unleashed in this country by the combined huge increase in the tax threshold, the virtual elimination of means testing, the radical simplification of the benefit system and the re-introduction of strong incentives to work through the reformed tax credit system.
Would that I were wrong!