What now? Priorities for a Conservative

The Tories are back in government. And it’s time to get radical.

For the first time in 18 years the Conservatives are back as the sole party of government. This is a golden opportunity to change Britain for the better. Already, attention is beginning to focus on what the new government will do next. I’ve come up with a few suggestions, in no particular order.

Some are undoubtedly already being considered. Others are probably wishful thinking. As ever, all views expressed are my own. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of the article, or on social media.

Privatise the BBC

The Beeb was once a treasured national institution. But it has in recent decades become a sort-of televisual wing of the Guardian. BBC bias is well documented, with the corporation frequently behaving like a cheerleader for multiculturalism, climate change alarmism, the EU and higher public spending. A Conservative government would be unwise to leave such a powerful enemy in place.

In any case, a nationalised broadcaster in an age of digital media is an outdated relic and the licence fee is plain extortion. You cannot operate a television without paying it, even if you have never watched a BBC programme in your life.

The BBC ought to be privatised wholesale. Shares should be sold at discount prices. As many of us as possible should be brought on board as shareholders. The Corporation has many assets – it’s world-beating dramas and documentaries for instance. The best parts of it would undoubtedly thrive in the private sector.

Editor’s note: The appointment of John Whittingdale to DCMS makes at least a step in this direction more likely!

Redraw constituency boundaries

Boundary reform is likely to be near the top of the agenda for a new Conservative government, having been blocked in the last Parliament by the Liberal Democrats.

Labour need far fewer votes per seat because they tend to win in smaller urban seats. The Conservatives won a higher percentage of votes in 2010 than Tony Blair’s Labour Party did in 2001 and 2005. Yet Labour won majorities in those elections whilst the Tories were forced to seek a coalition.

Real boundary reform would lock Labour out of power for a generation. It is absolutely vital the government get it right this time around.

English votes for English laws

It is blatantly unfair that Scotland has it’s own Parliament but also sends MPs to Westminster. The Scottish Nationalist landslide is a colossal threat to the future of the United Kingdom so neutering Alex Salmond must be an immediate priority.

Scottish voters rejected independence last year, but Nicola Sturgeon’s party swept the board north of the border. There is clearly an appetite for more devolution.

Giving Scotland full control over tax and spending decisions ought to mean offering the same deal to the English. This would be popular in both countries. It would allow the SNP to indulge in their socialist fantasy economics whilst ending the subsidy from England.

Eliminate the deficit and start paying down debt

Britain’s national debt currently stands at £1.5 trillion. We pay £52 billion a year just to maintain the interest on that debt.

The deficit – the amount by which the government overspends every year – is currently £90 billion. At the height of Labour’s spending spree in 2010, it stood at £154 billion. George Osborne has made real progress here but far more needs to be done.

The Coalition managed to cut the deficit in half from a high of 10% of GDP – the highest in peacetime history – to 5%. Reducing the deficit is not paying down debt, however. The interest bill will continue to devour our taxes until the national debt begins to fall.

Repeal the Human Rights Act 1998

Britons pioneered the concept of liberty under the common law. 2015 marks the 800 year anniversary of Magna Carta. Yet supporters of the Human Rights Act persist in the absurd pretence that we had no freedoms prior to 1998.

Under common law freedom, you are free to do whatever you want provided the law does not expressly forbid it. In continental-style ‘rights’-based systems, the state tells you what you can do and all other actions are forbidden.

Furthermore, the European Convention on Human Rights (incorporated into law by the Human Rights Act) allows all sorts of public interest limitations on essential liberties like free speech and expression, whilst encouraging nonsense claims by the likes of Abu Hamza.

Throw it on a bonfire.

Ignore Leveson and Hacked Off

One of the most shameful trends in British politics in recent years has been the pandering of Labour and the Liberal Democrats to Hacked Off and it’s band of irate celebrities.

Press freedom is essential to a free democracy because it allows outsiders to challenge the powerful and inform people of issues those in power would rather we forget about. Leveson’s proposed state backed regulator – driven by third party complainants and ‘representative groups’ with an axe to grind – would have been the death of Britain’s free press.

With both pro-Leveson parties receiving a drubbing last week, press regulation can be safely put to bed for now.

Ditch expensive green policies and get fracking

Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act – passed in 2008 when the hysteria over global warming was at it’s peak – is easily the most expensive law ever passed by Parliament. The government’s own figures at the time estimated a cost of £18 billion a year, totalling £734 billion by 2050. More recent estimates put the total cost at £1.3 trillion, almost as much as the entire national debt.

The law commits the UK to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent, despite CO2 emitting fossil fuels powering 70 percent of our electricity. The drive to cut emissions at all costs has already added hundreds of pounds to household bills and driven millions into fuel poverty.

Hysteria over global warming (statistically irrelevant since the end of the Major government) has also driven a dishonest and increasingly-desperate campaign against shale gas. Tapping into the UK’s massive reserves could slash energy costs as well as reduce carbon emissions, but green campaigners want to ‘leave it in the ground’.

A Conservative government ought to stick two fingers up to the naysayers and make it easier to extract shale gas. The rewards – both economic and political – could be immense.

Get Britain building by eliminating planning restrictions

British planning laws date from the 1940s and have no relevance to an era of inflated house prices, high demand, and restricted supply of housing stock.

Housing was one of the big issues of the 2015 election campaign, with many young people and families struggling to break into the housing market. Owning your own home is a deeply conservative act that gives you a stake in society. A Conservative government should do everything it can to encourage this.

That means taking on the restrictive laws and obstructive planning departments who hold up new housing developments. It does not mean carpeting over the Great British countryside: new laws could ensure local brownfield land is built on first.

Hold an EU referendum

The European Union is a deeply undemocratic project. Unelected EU bureaucrats and foreign politicians determine 65 percent of our laws, and EU law overrules British law.

The UK is subject to the EU’s ‘four freedoms’ (goods, services, capital and labour) and we have no independent trade policy outside the Single Market customs union. We pay a net £12 billion for this privilege – after the EU has given us some of our money back as a rebate.

David Cameron hopes to renegotiate our relationship with Brussels, and those of use who favour withdrawal should at least be willing to let him try. But nothing less than a wholesale revolution in our relationship with Europe will do.

It was absolutely the right thing to promise a referendum as this issue goes to the heart of who we are as a people: a confident sovereign nation or a province in a greater European superstate.

Proper tax reform – lower, flatter taxes and fewer loopholes

The British tax system is a mess. At over 11,000 pages we have one of the world’s longest and most complicated tax codes.

The basic income tax rate of 20 percent is really more like 40 percent when you factor in both employees and employers national insurance contributions. VAT is a tax on the poor because poorer families tend to spend a higher proportion of their earnings than rich or middle income families.

Corporation tax is really a tax on employees wages and on shareholders profits. Shareholders get hit again by taxes on dividends, and by capital gains tax.

Taxes on fuel make it more expensive to run a family car or a mobile business. Taxes on alcohol and tobacco unfairly punish those who enjoy a drink and a smoke.

Loopholes in the system allow big companies and wealthy individuals to pay far less tax than the rest of us – which understandably makes people angry. There is a strong case for eliminating tax loopholes and using the savings to cut overall rates of tax.

There is a moral case for lower, flatter taxes too. The money you earn belongs to you. Not to some privileged group some politician thinks deserves the money more. You.

Some taxation is necessary to pay for things like defence, police, courts, and a basic welfare safety net (i.e. far smaller than the all encompassing welfare state we have now). In return the government must spend our money efficiently and not waste it.