Sunday, May 02, 2010

Cameron finds some balls

Encouragingly, it seems that David Cameron may actually have found a pair of testicles down the back of his shiny Kamerun sofa. Either that, or he has realised that it is not merely us bloggertarian cranks who are seriously concerned about the erosion of the civil liberties in this country and—in a last, desperate throw of the dice—has decided to raise the issue. Finally.
DAVID CAMERON has unveiled a detailed blueprint for the first days of a future Conservative government as the polls suggest he is on course to win the largest number of seats in the general election.

In a Sunday Times interview, the Conservative leader revealed the four pieces of legislation that would dominate his debut Queen’s speech.

Cameron also promised that on “day one” Tory ministers would each be paid 5% less than their current Labour counterparts.

“We have got to get started straight away,” he said.

Well, yes, cutting the pay of politicians is always an excellent thing to do. Although, as Guy Herbert at Samizdata points out, this now restricts the amount by which Cameron can practically cut public sector pay to about... well... 5%.
A 5% cut in ministerial pay, and freezing it for the life of a parliament, is easy populism. "Slashing" the BBC calls it. However, in practice it is trivial; and, much worse, it puts a ceiling on what can be done to tackle the deficit. Ireland has already cut all public sector salaries—by an average of 13.5%. Had he said ministers will be paid a third less, and hinted at serious cuts in other public sector salaries over £60,000 (representing impossible wealth to most voters), then he could have been populist with room for manoeuvre. But now Cameron will be very hard put to do as much as freeze the wage bills of the bureaucracy. Even though ministers are arguably underpaid, getting much less in real terms than their Victorian forebears, it will be impossible now to cut the salary of any signficant public sector interest group by more than 5%. Protecting the NHS forces greater cuts from every other department just to stand still.

A promise to cut just made cutting nearly impossible. That is a terrible mistake.

Still, never mind—let us plough on and see what else Dave has to say...
The centrepiece of the Tories’ Queen’s speech, to be held within the next month if the party forms a government, would be a “great repeal bill”.

This would scrap ID cards, home information packs and dozens of rarely enforced criminal offences introduced by Labour over 13 years.

Yay! Finally. I wonder if this Great Repeal Bill is modelled at all on Douglas Carswell's crowd-sourcing wiki of the same name? Douglas certainly seems to think so...
The idea of a Great Repeal Bill—first proposed by Daniel Hannan and myself in The Plan two years ago—has now been taken up by David Cameron, who has announced it as a priority for the next government ("The centrepiece of the Tories' Queen's Speech ..." no less).

With so many unnecessary laws and regulations passed by the government over the past decade, which ones should we repeal? Our suggestion is that we involve those most suffocated by all the red tape - the people.

Last July, I asked people to help draft the Bill. Rather than just leave it to the wisdom of those in SW1, I suggested that we "crowd source" for ideas to include in the Bill.

The Great Repeal Bill isn't just an opportunity to get rid of overbearing rules and regulation. It's a chance to practice wiki-politics and direct democracy in the age of the internet.

I doubt that Carswell's effort in its entirety will be enacted—I can't, for instance, see the European Communities Act 1972 being repealed. However, there are a number of notable outrages against the British people included on that list—not least Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 (known as the "death of Parliament Bill"), European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 (which gives force to the Lisbon Treaty), Terrorism Act 2006 (28 days detention), Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (makes illegal the possession of "violent porn"), Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (allows the government to declare a dictatorian martial law on the flimsiest of pretences) and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (and all amendments thereto, also withdrawal from all treaties relating to the control of drugs). There are lots more, but the repeal even of the above would remove some of the worst excesses of the Labour government.
Cameron also wants his education reform plans to be put into law by the end of the summer so that the first new “free” schools could open in time for the new academic year in September. “In terms of education, we don’t want to wait around,” he said.

Good. Although, it has to be said that there are a significant number of problems with the Conservatives' "free schools" plan—mostly centring around the utterly crucial areas of permission, selection of pupils, the allowability of profits and payment for pupils—and I seriously doubt that any "free schools" will be seen for a few years yet.

As regular readers will know, education is one of your humble Devil's enthusiasms—apart from anything else, I know what a good (and broad) education looks like.
A Conservative government would introduce a bill to create elected mayors in every big city and legislation to jump-start enterprise, including plans to improve broadband services.

Meh. This will be part of Cameron's localism agenda but we will see just how effective this is.

Generally speaking, all of this is good news—especially on the civil liberties aspect. Let us see if David Cameron does actually implement all of this. Of course, it may not be possible with a hung Parliament.

On that subject, quote of the day goes to Alistair Darling—quoted in the same article.
Amid growing signs of turmoil in the Labour camp, Alistair Darling, the chancellor, yesterday insisted that a hung parliament posed no risk to the recovery.

“It’s utter tosh that it’s bad for the economy,” he told The Sunday Times.

“Take Germany. They have had a hung parliament since the second world war, and they manage to organise themselves.”



Jiks said...

Oh. My. God.

Is there some hope that the Tories might actually do something useful? Please let it be so and not just spin.

MatGB said...

Carswell claiming credit for the idea?

Interesting. I know I suggested years ago that the best way for the Tories to win was copy the Lib Dems, but Carswell came up with the idea in 2008. Nick Clegg proposed a great Repeal Act in a speech to conference in 2006.

That's what became the Freedom Bill campaign, and is part of the central plank of LD policy.

Nice to see good ideas picked up by others; some credit'd be nice.

(Was changed to "Freedom Bill" as studies showed "Great Repeal Act" meant nothing to most voters; I blame the schools m'self).