09 October 2007

Pick'n'mix Politics

Having forced the Conservatives to reveal some of their trump cards last week (in readiness for the election that never was), the Government is being accused after today's pre-budget report and comprehensive spending review statement of "stealing" Conservative and LibDem policies — notably, on raising the inheritance tax threshold for married couples and those in civil partnerships, on reforming aviation duty so it is paid per plane rather than per passenger, and on reviewing loopholes for non-domiciled tax payers. However, if all our elected representatives have our best interests in mind, then surely we want the Government of the day to draw upon the best ideas from across the political spectrum and it doesn't matter who gets to implement them?

Except that "pick'n'mix" politics is unlikely to result in a stable economy and strong society. In order to achieve that, one needs a coherent vision and clear objectives. Only once core values have been identified and principles and beliefs clearly defined, is anyone in a position to evaluate how effectively any given policy fits into the overall scheme for the nation and what contribution any particular set of policies might make towards stated goals.

So, if your vision recognises marriage and the family as a means of fostering strong local communities and family-based support networks, it makes sense to introduce transferable tax allowances between spouses — on income tax, not just inheritance tax. However, it would also make sense to exempt the main family home from inheritance tax — and makes no sense to have a conflicting tax credit system that penalises couples who want to get together or who are struggling financially and want to stay together!

The reason I supported David Cameron in the leadership contest two years ago is that, whenever he spoke, he appeared to be presenting an overall vision for the country rather than piecemeal policies. He has spent the last two years first defining the aims and values of his party (in "Built to Last") and then conducting wide-ranging policy reviews. Now that each of the policy groups has reported, the Conservative leader is in a position to evaluate their many proposals against his broader vision for society.

In contrast, Gordon Brown repeatedly tells us that he has a vision but has so far failed to tell us what that vision is, which begs the question as to whether he really has one — or even understands the need for one. Ultimately, it is this that means Labour's "plagiarism politics" will fail to transform the breakdown in society and the slowdown in the economy — and why, to coin a phrase, it is time for change. Sadly, it seems we're going to have to wait two or three years more until we are given the opportunity to effect that change.


MikeC said...


The Pick'n'mix article is superb. Fantastic distillation of key themes of vision and ideology, and an unpacking of why David Cameron's policies hang together, and Gordon Brown's don't.

Anonymous said...

Plagiarism - As a marker of examination papers for GCSE I am always on the look-out for instances of plagiarism. Hopefully I will not find any if all the rules have been followed.

Occasionally I come across it when moderating the course work completed by pupils.

When found the culprit has marks deducted and may even FAIL the examination.

Watch out Gordon - you are being examined all the time - by the Electorate! They will not allow you to get away with it for much longer.

Retired Teacher in Oxfordshire