Conservative Diary

Alternative Queen's Speech

16 Jul 2013 18:34:46

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

Election Map
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.

21 Jun 2013 10:18:24

The Alternative Queen's Speech - the full list of 40 rebel Bills

By Mark Wallace
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Today's Telegraph reports that, having camped out in the Public Bill Office for several days, a group of Conservative MPs have tabled a raft of Bills intended to form an Alternative Queen's Speech. The backbenchers involved are all familiar rebel faces - Chris Chope, Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and David Nuttall.

Bone describes the move as "an attempt to show that it is only the Conservatives who are on the common ground of British politics and represent the views of the electorate'".

Getting their Bills tabled first was no mean feat - apparently Hollobone drew the short straw and did the night shifts, sleeping outside the Office on a camp bed for four nights running, an experience he described to me as "strange, but an interesting view of what goes on at all hours".

The Telegraph writeup states that 42 Bills have been tabled, but the official Order Paper only shows 40. In fact, 43 were put forward but three have for one reason or another not made the cut - some of which will be appearing elsewhere as Ten Minute Rule Bills.

Continue reading "The Alternative Queen's Speech - the full list of 40 rebel Bills" »

7 May 2013 06:58:28

Tomorrow will see the Queen's Speech. So here again is the Alternative Queen's Speech.

Screen shot 2013-05-07 at 07.50.52
By Paul Goodman

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The Queen's Speech takes place tomorrow.  Harry Phibbs wrote about its contents over the weekend.  Last year, this site published an entire alternative Queen's Speech, and I thought it would be worth listing its measures in full:

  • British Bill of Rights Bill - "In all but the most exceptional circumstances, human rights cases brought in or against Britain should be decided in our Supreme Court, not Strasbourg."
  • Rail Improvements Bill - to plan for long-term investment in existing railways, rather than spend the same money on HS2.
  • Make Prison Work Bill - to ensure that foreign nationals serve sentences in their country of origin, and mentally ill criminals be sent to mental health professionals or social services.
  • Affordable Energy Bill - to cut electricity generation subsidies, facilitate the extraction of shale gas away from settlements, and promote more competition amongst suppliers.
  • Anti-Congestion Bill - to require local authorities as highways authorities to make reducing road congestion a requirement of their highways strategy
  • A Double EU Referendum Bill - to propose a Mandate Referendum for renegotiation followed by an In/Out Referendum, offering In on the renegotiated terms or Out.
  • Double Devolution Bill - to balance permitting the Scottish Parliament to set and collect most taxes with English votes for English laws at Westminster.
  • Finance Bill - to reduce the top rate of tax to 40%, take more people out of the 40% rate, and reduce Capital Gains Tax to 20%.
  • Trade Union Members' Bill - to make strike action legal only if 50% of a union's members take part in a ballot, and give union members more discretion over political levy donations.
  • Lords Reform Bill - to reform the Upper House after change has been considered by a Royal Commission.

A few of these ideas have been taken up by the Government.  For example, there seems to be overlap between its Queen's Speech proposals and the Fairness to UK Taxpayers' Bill - including the restrictions on state pensions for people based abroad floated today.

More cannot be enacted within the framework of the Coalition.  I have my doubts about one or two of the measures above - such as the double referendum bill, to which I'll return later this week - but many of the measures, such as the Electoral Integrity Bill, are badly needed.