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I'm very interested in the notion of 'And theory', but surely it will be exposed as a front for typical Tory themes at the next General Election. For example:

I want to Make Poverty History AND I want a quota on immigration

I respect civil partnerships AND I still support Clause 28

I want to be a compassionate conservative AND I still think Peter Hitchens and James Q. Wilson have got a point.

I want a strong defence AND I don't care who I sell arms to.

John Moss

It really is time to try to reverse the old "safety net" theory and this is the way to do it.

Too often the safety net idea is translated - by unthinking conservatives - and presented - by opponents - as devil-take-the hindmost. Here's your welfare cheque, your council house etc, now get on with it. This is not only plainly a recipe for disaster socially, but also political suicide.

I believe that if you reverse the thinking behind the safety net theory, you end up with education vouchers - to use the easiest example so as not to bore you stupid. Every child gets a cheque, their parents get to take it to the school of their choice, irrespective of who runs that school, or how much they charge.

A safety net conservative stops here. They believe everybody will respond to this state largesse and automatically become committed, caring parents engaged in the school's life etc etc.

Obviously, they're wrong. Some children don't have parents, in extremis. Others have parents who you positively would not want to be engaged in school life. Others have special needs. The list goes on.

So thinking it through, an Education Voucher works for those people who already do OK. It probably helps a good number more people to do OK as well and, yes, the competitive spur will improve standards.

Great, say the safety-netters, we can leave that and move on. Wrong, say I. Now the people who are failing are even more visible than ever before and the state can do even more for them to address their problems as individuals, precisely because they have liberated everybody else and aren't wasting time and our money on trying to deliver for everybody.

To give it an "And". An Education Voucher for every child and even more help for those who really need it.

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