Al Gore is fond of suggesting that the Chinese word for "crisis" consists of the characters for "danger" and "opportunity." As with so many other things he says, he's wrong about that (see here), but it strikes me that in the depth of this severe political crisis, there is a genuine opportunity for the conservative movement in Britain. We can capitalize on the anti-politician sentiment most effectively if we adopt, explain and push a series of policies that reduce the power of politicians and their opportunity, not to put too fine a point on it, to rob us blind.
Cometh the hour, come the men. Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan, both sea-green incorruptibles who have come to public attention recently, have already outlined the perfect policy response in their book The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain (and, incidentally, have used a genuinely innovative print-on-demand service to publish it). Just try these ideas on the doorstep and see what response you'd get:
- Clean Up Westminster by abolishing MP's perks, binding MPs by the same laws as everyone else and decreasing the size of HMG and the House of Commons.
- A Return to Law, Order and Accountability with directly-elected sheriffs, local control of police and local control of prosecutions.
- Supremacy of the (Reformed) Parliament, by scrapping the HRA, withdrawing from the ECHR and reserving certain powers exclusively for Parliament.
- Independence for State Schools, by scrapping the National Curriculum, granting parents rights to take their children where they'd get a good education and getting HMG out of classrooms.
- True Localism, by avoloshing QUANGOs, granting real powers to counties and replacing VAT with a local sales tax to fund it.
- Putting Patients in Control, by allowing people to opt out of the NHS and into private insurance, reatining a strong safety net and incentivizing prevention rather than cure.
- Neighbourhood Welfare to secure social justice; fighting poverty and allocation of benefits to be local.
- A Great Repeal Bill to get rid of burdensome and costly red tape, provide a mechanism for continuous repeal, and introduce sunset clauses on new laws.
- An Independent Britain, with foreign policy controlled by Parliament and replacement of our current relationship with the EU by a genuine free trade zone.
- Introduce Direct Democracy with the right of citizens to propose laws directly, referenda to block bad new laws and local referenda established as a new way of thinking about democracy.
I can't imagine many areas where this plan would not be applauded if it was put to the voters directly. What is clear to me is that the pre-financial crisis political consensus has been swept away by the financial downturn and the utter barrage of revelations about just how bad Parliament is. The public is demanding radical action. The conservative movement has the blueprint for such radical action, and also some - like Douglas and Daniel - who possess the credibility to advance that platform with the voters.
Can we put two and two together? If we do not take this opportunity now, the public will look elsewhere for radical action.