12 POLICIES TO BUILD A ONE NATION CONSERVATIVE PARTY
Many on the Right will not like the idea of a new consumption tax on the very wealthy but the prize is lower income tax on low earners. Many won't like the idea of the State building more homes again - as Tory prime ministers once did. But if the only alternative is ever higher housing benefit bills? Similarly a higher minimum wage will appall many free market purists but something must be done to reduce taxpayer subsidy of low wages. The Left will also dislike many of the proposals below. The suspension of futile green policies. A greater emphasis on the family. Renegotiation of Britain's relationship with Europe. A reduction in the power of public sector unions. The dozen draft ideas won't suit any current political party perfectly - and major realignment may be necessary - but, if delivered, great prizes are within reach. More social mobility. Higher pay for the losers from globalisation. More investment in infrastructure, especially in the north. A more representative House of Commons. And, crucially, more families with a warm, affordable home of their own - and a stake in their communities.
A FIRST DRAFT OF A GOOD RIGHT MANIFESTO (FOR BRITAIN)
MORE HOUSEBUILDING, MORE HOME OWNERSHIP
1. A Harold Macmillan-sized, state-supported housebuilding programme to cut the future cost of housing benefits and to rebuild the idea of a property owning democracy again (Blog for the Chartered Institute for Housing). The homes should be designed to the highest environmental standards in order to secure long-term energy efficiency. If Simon Wolfson is correct the return on converting greenfields in prosperous parts of Britain into new garden cities will more than pay for itself in the decades ahead.
HIGHER TAXES ON EXPENSIVE PROPERTIES AND LUXURY GOODS, LOWER TAXES ON THE LOW-WAGED
2. Freedom for local authorities to levy additional council tax bands on high value properties with a requirement that the overall tax burden does not rise (Mark Field MP article) and the introduction of a super consumption tax of the kind recommended by entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates – at least until the deficit is eliminated. We must all be in this together. Additionally, in the longer-term, a progressive consumption tax could fund lower income tax for lower earners (Background Forbes article).
HIGHER WAGES FOR LOWER-PAID BRITONS
3. Above-inflation increases in the minimum wage to encourage employers to invest in a more highly skilled workforce - every year until there is clear evidence of any negative impact on job creation (Background reading (£)).
ABANDON PLANS TO RAISE THE INCOME TAX THRESHOLD AND TARGET ALL SPARE FUNDS ON INCREASING WORK INCENTIVES THROUGH THE UNIVERSAL CREDIT
4. As the Resolution Foundation has recommended the most pro-poor way of using limited funds is to increase the allowances within the Universal Credit - rather than raise the basic threshold for paying income tax (85% of the benefit of which will accrue to the 50% highest earners). This will be more socially just and do most to increase incentives to work.
A RENEGOTIATION WITH EUROPE THAT CUTS ENERGY AND FOOD BILLS - AND PROTECTS THE INTERESTS OF THE LOW-PAID
5. The Common Agricultural Policy inflates food prices. EU-wide energy policies inflate household gas and electricity bills - as well as disadvantage UK manufacturing industry - without cutting global emissions. Unqualified free movement of labour benefits employers and the wealthy at the expense of the lower-paid (Professor Robert Rowthorn's analysis for Civitas). All of these issues should be at the heart of the creation of a more socially just European Union. (More from the Global Warming Policy Foundation paper (PDF) on the need to suspend regressive green measures).
MORE INVESTMENT IN NORTHERN INFRASTRUCTURE TO CREATE A MORE BALANCED ECONOMY
6. All proceeds from the exploitation of shale gas within Northern England to fund expanded Northern infrastructure (See ConservativeHome manifesto).
OPEN UP PRIVATE SCHOOLS TO THE BRIGHTEST PUPILS FROM LOWER INCOME HOMES
7. "All private schools, both boarding and day schools, all of which are charities, should be forced by law to accept 25% of their intake as scholarship boys and girls, funded by the State on a means-tested basis" (an idea proposed by Matthew Parris (£)).
A WISER STATE, FOCUSED ON LONG-TERM STRATEGIC NEEDS
8. New fiscal rules that put investment in infrastructure, science and long-term research at the heart of state spending and which protect it in lean times. Plus stronger "equivalence tests" to reduce the pay, perks and pensions premium enjoyed by most public sector workers but which also provides Whitehall with the freedom to pay more to reforming civil servants.
GOVERNMENT SPENDING THAT IS MORE FOCUSED ON THE MOST DESERVING CORNERS OF THE NATION
9. The abolition of the Barnett formula and its replacement with a new needs-based assessment that will favour poorer parts of the UK including Wales, Cornwall and seaside towns (CapX background article) and reductions in the benefits enjoyed by better off pensioners to reduce the deficit and fund early intervention programmes (Graham Allen MP's website).
FAMILY HUBS TO REPLACE CHILDREN'S CENTRES AND MEASURES OF SOCIAL PROGRESS TO BE PRODUCED ALONGSIDE MEASURES OF MATERIAL GROWTH
10. A movement towards measures of poverty and also to support services that are focused on underlying causes of disadvantage including family breakdown, addiction, indebtedness and social dislocation - and not just the narrow obsession with redistributing income that is currently dominant in public policy (Christian Guy of the Centre for Social Justice introduced this idea in The Independent).
REFORMS OF POLITICAL FUNDING THAT CREATE A MORE COMPETITIVE CAPITALISM AND A MORE DYNAMIC PUBLIC SECTOR
11. A reform of political donations so that there are strict and low limits on the extent to which the privately wealthy or unions can create crony forms of capitalism or a privileged status for public sector workers (See point 8 of this CapX piece). There should not be direct state funding of political parties but small donations could be encouraged by charitable relief.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR PEOPLE OF LIMITED MEANS TO ENTER PARLIAMENT
12. Introduction of a £1 million bursary scheme to help people of more diverse backgrounds to become Conservative MPs (The cost of becoming a Tory MP has been estimated at an average of £40,000 (£)).