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Don't dismiss Bone and Hollobone entirely - a good idea is not always the same as a popular idea

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By Mark Wallace
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Lord Ashcroft's latest polling tests the more than 40 proposals put forward by Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone in their Alternative Queen's Speech (the full list is here).

He rightly points out that, in the national scheme of things, the idea that the platform is a mass vote-winner which would swing the General Election is mistaken.

I'd add that plenty of the ideas are simply wrong - banning the burka would be a gross violation of individual liberty, and it is absurd to say that sexual impropriety in the workplace is only wrong if it goes far enough to constitute a criminal offence, for example.

However, it would be an error to take the poll as a reason to reject all of the backbenchers' proposals out of hand.

Polling is important, but we must remember that a good idea is not always the same as a popular idea. Nor can national polling always show the local electoral benefits of specific policies. 

Take the proposal to repatriate control of British fisheries from the EU as an example. Half the population may have no opinion on the idea, but it is undeniably the right thing to do for reasons of ecology, economy and parliamentary sovereignty. While it's never going to excite the whole country, it could even prove a vote winner as a targeted message in specific marginal seats - particularly the seaside constituencies I wrote about recently.

Often in politics, good policies only become vote winners after they have been implemented. When they are mere concepts, the inevitable uncertainty about how they will work in practice allows scaremongering to cast doubt on them - but once they show results, people come round to supporting the party that took a risk that paid off.

Polling technology wasn't as fast, and the pollster market wasn't as crowded, in the 1980s as it is today, but I wonder how Mrs Thatcher's policies would have performed under similar scrutiny. Her radicalism was justified, but it was such a drastic break from the preceding decades of managed decline that I suspect what Lord Ashcroft terms the "Meh Factor" would have been quite high.

In the end, she implemented those policies because they were the right thing to do - and the electorate showed their appreciation at the polls once the positive results became clear. Bone and Hollobone are no Thatcher, and their Alternative Queen's Speech is no Right To Buy, but both they and at least some of their ideas deserve a fair hearing.


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