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Simon C


On point 2: Energy & the pensions time bomb are problems facing the nation, not the Party! It is certainly a problem for the Party if it has nothing to say on those issues (Letwin & Rifkind are the current spokesmen - bring on some ideas, gentlemen, please!)

Flat Tax: As I understand it, George Osborne is working on the case. He has been off to Estonia & only last week uncovered evidence revealing that the Treasury had been censoring its documents on the subject. Go, George, Go! (Pun on his initials intended).

War on drugs: Agreed this would be a great idea - but this is very old rhetoric now - which politician is not in favour of a war on (at least some) drugs? How could the existing law be used better? What new law, if any, is needed? What about Letwin's drug rehabilitation policy - which many of us thought rather good?

In our enthusiasm for more ideas, we should not buy into our opponents' misleading critique that the debate, and the conservative cupboard, are idea-free zones.

But you are right: the ideas need to be about our country's future, not our party's, and we need to find someone who has it in him to persuade the country that he should be the next Prime Minister.

I am off on a training course for a couple of days & may have limited 'Net access - looking forward to seeing more suggestions/developments when I get back. As the Matt cartoon said this week: "I had to rush back - couldn't bear to miss any of the excitments in the Tory leadership contest."

Quite looking forward to Trent Bridge too, though, on Thursday.

Oberon Houston

I appreciate your efforts to get folks to create some coherence around their views and coalesce some vision of what the Country should expect from a Conservative Government. I also note your point that “Blog till you drop” won’t get candidates to brush up their act, however I would urge folks to continue contributing, and possibly emailing MPs as well, I am certain that it does make a difference.

So, anyway, in response to Simons request, and given a freshly invigorated passion for practicing what I preach, I am going to try to articulate my little attempt of “The Vision I have for the Country (under a Tory banner)” this evening and will post tomorrow! (whereupon, I will deflate slowly as you lot start picking it apart and moaning that its ‘a bit rubbish’).

Selsdon Man

An arms sale ban to repressive regimes is a good idea. However, can we campaign on it after the previous scandal that made Robin Cook's reputation?

As for the War on Drugs, we have tackle the demand rather than the supply. That's Mr Willetts idea applied to narcotics. The supply side approach has failed - street prices are lower than ever and consumption is on the rise. Prohibition does not work and benefits organised criminals. It also takes police away from dealing with violent crime - on the increase too.

Drugs are a menace and we need a new humane approach - education, treatment and rehabilitation. There is also a huge role for community and voluntary organisations to provide these services.


On your three points first what do you consider a repressive regime as most countries in my eyes could full under this catergory and then what for the industry.
Secondly on the flat tax it would depend on which way they reduced the figure ie top down or bottom up.
Finally what drugs, are we talking about what is know legal with what is illegal?
I think the main thing a candidate should say is wether they would serve in a cabinet if they didn't become leader. Anyone who doesn't answer this isn't in my view worth looking at as leader as we don't need another Heath, twenty six years of bitching on the sidelines stopping the chances of someone else being able to not only do good for the area but also the party and country?


Peter: on the arms trade I would start with the nations mentioned in this Indy article. Yes, Britain's arms industry might be damaged but there are other costs to be borne in mind - not least how we end up fighting countries we once armed. Many opposed William Wilberforce's campaign against human slavery on economic grounds. Sometimes morals trump material interests - or, at least, they should. I do not believe that all arms sales are bad - just those to repressive regimes.

On flat tax I am unpersuaded but interested. On drugs I think both soft and hard drugs are dehumanising.


No problem with that list mate but how far do you go as can't think of many countries out of Europe that you could really sell to that you couldn't make a call that you selling to a repressive regime.
To me a flat tax be good if it was bottom up(getting rid of at least the bottom rate straight away) but maybe inheritance and captial gains tax going would be a better bet and cost less to do.
Finally total agree that drugs do what you say but can we play God as I'm sick to my eyeballs of what people say I can do ie ID cards, guns and even jokes.


As for the Clarke/Cameron fight while the Clarke group of supporters in 2001 has either been reduced by no longer being MPs anymore or gone over to other candidates it still seems that Ken will get more votes than David on the part that David hasn't pulled in(except Boris) anyone from that group as a listed supporter.

Wat Tyler

Ed- with your background, I'm sure you're more of an expert than me, but I don't know...stopping arms sales to repressive regimes as our number one big policy idea?

I'm probably a heartless self-centred brute, but it doesn't really resonate with me. And what I wonder is distinctively Tory about such a policy? We know Labour tried and- once they applied it to the messiness of the real world- failed. And while I'm not sure about LibDem policy, I'd be surprised if they didn't have some kind of "ethical" approach to this.

Personally, I think the consumer choice/competition agenda for public services is a pretty big idea, along with localism (including real fiscal decentralisation), and the Willetts (and indeed your own) ideas on reducing the demand for welfare.

Or have I missed something?

(And while we're on the subject of reducing the demand for welfare, can you suggest a good summary of these stats everyone talks about on how marriage reduces social problems)


Peter - there aren't many 'safe' countries outside of Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan but those countries account for the VAST MAJORITY of arms expenditure. British Aerospace has wisely decided to gear more of its R&D to the US military's needs. The British arms industry probably isn't going to prosper by tailoring its products to serve tin pot dictators but to developed western nations.

I'm not sure, Wat, that the arms sales idea should be our "number one big policy idea" but I do think it's the kind of big idea that we need to achieve breakthrough with younger and values voters. It may or may not be LibDem policy but if it's right we should embrace it. We don't have to oppose everything other parties stand for! Our chance of winning a future election lies in combining the choice/competition and other 'core' ideas that you mention with compassionate/broader policies on the arms trade etc. I can't see why there is anything "distinctly Tory" about selling arms to countries that might well use them against British squaddies in the not too distant future!

PS Wat - I'll work on that "good summary of these stats everyone talks about on how marriage reduces social problems" but I recommend Jill Kirby's 'Broken Hearts' in the meantime - available from the Centre for Policy Studies.

James Hellyer

Perhaps it's because banning arms sales to an oppressive regime isn't distinctly Tory that it would be a good idea. Beyond being the right things to do (unless you think selling ground attack aircraft to Indonesia is a *good* thing, in which case I despair), it neatly subverts popular expectations of Conservatives.

Most people would assume we would side with the merchants of death, because that's the sort of people we are. Why not prove them wrong?


Thanks, James, for putting the argument in a more persuasive way than I did!

A post that began with a mention of Ken Clarke's tobacco trading to the developing world ends with a focus on an even more deadly trade. Both are unfortunate faces of capitalism that Tories would do well to turn away from.


"On drugs I think both soft and hard drugs are dehumanising" Ed.

Do you think the same way about alcohol and cigarettes too? The only difference between these two substances and drugs in my opinion is that they raise tax revenues whilst drugs don't, but does that make the use of them more right?

On selling arms to other Countries - surely the best answer to self interest is only sell those arms that are inferior to the ones used by your own troops (whom by some accounts in the Media have been very poorly equipped). Isn't there also an argument that if you sell the weapons you know who has got what and where and what they are capable of? The most recent damage felt in the UK has been caused by a few plastic containers, chemical cocktails and metal shrapnel.

James Hellyer

"Do you think the same way about alcohol and cigarettes too?"

Alcohol and tobacco are indeed dangerous drugs. They are legal. They are subject to duties. However our society has conspicuously failed to control and manage their consumption. I do not find that a compelling argument for legalising other dangerous drugs, which doubtless our society will also fail to control and manage.

"On selling arms to other Countries - surely the best answer to self interest is only sell those arms that are inferior to the ones used by your own troops..."

So inferior weapons can't be used to kill either our troops or other innocents?

The issue here is not that we sell weapons to a Saddam who may one day use them against us, it's that we sell "training" aircraft to Indonesia, for example, that are then used as ground attack aircraft in East Timor. Is securing a few jobs really a justification for effectively being accessories to torture and murder?

Mark O'Brien

Statistics on marriage and the family (the figure is the increased risk against children in traditional families):

Children of lone parents more likely to leave school at sixteen - 60%

Sons of lone parents more likely to have sex before sixteen - 80%

Daughters of lone parents more likely to have sex before sixteen - 50%

Daughters of lone parents more likely to become mothers before eighteen - 60%

Children of divorced parents more likely to become teenage mothers - 100%

Fifteen year olds from lone parent families more likely to smoke - 100%

Fifteen year old daughters of lone parents more likely to drink heavily - 90%

Fifteen-year-old sons of lone parents more likely to have taken drugs - 100%

Fifteen-year-old daughters of lone parents more likely to have taken drugs - 25%

Teenage children of lone parents more likely to have taken drugs - 50%

Sons of lone parents more likely to truant from school - 270%

Children of lone parents are more likely to be excluded from school - 325%

Eleven- to sixteen-year-old children of lone parents more likely to offend - 25%

Young men from lone parent families more likely to offend persistently - 25%

Some of these variables have other factors which affect the increased risk, such as sex or level of education, or the socio-economic status of the individual in question. But these figures for the most part show a clear and easily explained correlation between the breakdown of the family and social problems our poorest communities are suffering.

Others might rebut that a lot of this is down to poverty, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Even the poorest in our society are much better off than they were when Queen Victoria was on the throne, whether they take their money for their own hard work or not, and yet these problems have accelerated massively at probably the same rate as the decline in the institution of the family.

This is real. These are not abstract ideas. I have often written in comments on this blog about how there is 'a wealth of statistics' to prove my points about marriage and the family, and these are not the only ones available. But they go a long way in explaining the situation in the most depressed communities (as if the testimony of millions of people on the dole or minimum wage wasn't enough).


Tim, problem I have with that is are we putting all our eggs in the one basket by doing that. As we have done with most other trade by keeping it within the EU what happens when the next draft of arms sales say to the US stays either in the US or to another country instead of the UK.
I know that maynot be popular to some but as shown by Longbridge all the good work we could do in a city could be destroyed in one afternoon and for what for a policy that doesn't add up if we don't stop all trade to a particular country.



I'm not saying that the US should be our only arms customer. There's a risk with any commercial strategy but a deep US-orientated strategy is a risk worth taking for two main reasons:

(1) The special relationship we have with the USA means that it is likely that we will continue to be close to them. The US needs a partner in overseas military operations and sharing of equipment/ technologies/ suppliers between our two countries helps the partnership work. Both countries have a strategic interest in reasonably integrated arms industries.

(2) It's a risk worth taking because, for all the reasons discussed above: it's morally wrong and short-sighted to sell weaponry to undesirable governments. They use it against their own people, pass it on to even more odious groups and they might use it against us in future.


All I can say is that what you saying is fine in theory but we be still relying mainly on the US(as Europe and Canada fuel itsself) which means anything can happen when a Democrat is in power over there and a Conservative other here. I feel we should not sell weapons to Russia, China and Israel fullstop but other countries should be done on a year by year bases.


Your main worry, Peter, seems to be the commercial risks associated with a change of political leadership in America. My main worry is the security risks of a still more extremist administration in Saudi Arabia etc. I think we've argued ourselves into a stalemate!


Okay Tim.

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