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If you think we have trouble now, just wait until last week's looters are having their own kids

By Tim Montgomerie
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Guardian readers have a double treat this morning. They have John Redwood on page 37 explaining why right-wingers DO care about inequality. On page 34 they've got me explaining that the Coalition is a model of reasonableness. Both of us attempt to convince Guardian readers that Tories aren't two-headed monsters.

John Redwood writes:

"I have spent much of my life in politics working with colleagues, writing and thinking about how more people in our country can get good jobs, receive good education, and enjoy a better quality of life. Like all members of the main political parties I support taxing the rich more to help pay for the lifestyles of the worse off. I am a softy when it comes to more public money and facilities for the disabled."

My own message to Left-wingers who think Conservatives are slashers-and-burners (as well as hangers-and-floggers) starts like this:

"The coalition's cuts equal the EU average and their speed is very similar to those signed into law by Barack Obama. They rely on a ratio of cuts to tax rises that fits with best OECD practice. For a Conservative such as myself the most striking thing about the coalition is its acceptance of huge parts of the Blair-Brown settlement. This is a Conservative-led government presiding over the highest tax burden since the end of the second world war and the smallest standing army since Victorian times. The departments most protected from cuts are the health and international development budgets. Whether it's the minimum wage or a variety of pensioner benefits, the coalition has accepted a significant shift of the political pendulum."

I then go on to the meat of my piece. I agree with what Iain Duncan Smith says in the latest edition of The Spectator. "It is not possible to have watched or experienced any of these riots," he tells Fraser Nelson, "without realising that we’re in the last-chance saloon." He goes on:

"This is our warning. That wasn’t the crisis, but the crisis is coming. We can’t let this go on any more."

This is Cameron's moment to define his premiership; to allow George Osborne to do the heavy lifting on the economy so that he can focus on his social mission. I share Paul Goodman's concern that he won't see it through but I'm not willing to give up. Throughout this week we've been publishing policy ideas that the government should consider. Today, Blair Gibbs of Policy Exchange looks at the importance of community policing. Yesterday Jill Kirby looked at actions to strengthen the family. Previously Samantha Callan recommended investment in early intervention. Early intervention is, for me, the priority. We need to act now to ensure the children growing up in the nation's 120,000 most troubled families have some kind of chance of succeeding. If you think we have trouble now just wait until last week's looters are having their own kids.

Iain Duncan Smith and Labour MPs Graham Allen and Frank Field have produced many interesting ideas on early intervention but they have no money for them. In a time of fiscal crisis we can't just spend more money. In The Guardian I suggest we make two tough choices. Tough choice one involves means-testing the poorly-targeted Winter Fuel Allowance. 80% of the WFA goes to pensioners who don't suffer fuel poverty. If we means test we can channel £2.2 billion into schemes that might help the most vulnerable families.

My second idea will be more controversial for Conservatives but we need to start to rebalance the tax system. We need to tax wealth more and income less. Ultimately I want to cut taxes but that option is currently off the table. We should therefore be finding ways of raising some taxes which have less impact on job creation and cutting taxes that are most likely to increase employment. That's why, in my Guardian piece, I recommend that we have some kind of new tax on high value properties and, for example, accelerate the raising of the income tax threshold and take more low paid people out of the tax system.

I don't suspect either of these things will happen. Cameron won't undo his election time pledge to protect pensioners' benefits. Tories seem to dislike wealth taxes more than they dislike income taxes. But if we don't do uncomfortable things we won't have the resources necessary to even begin to tackle the kind of problems that erupted on our streets last week.

> Read my full Guardian article.


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