Wednesday, 24 September 2008

This is your Britain, Mr Brown

As Brown frotted the morbid rump of a once substantial national party yesterday, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released its latest Viewpoint, penned by Policy Exchange's previous Director and Boris' current Policy Director Anthony Browne. The Rowntree Foundation is a wealthy body that has been looking for a purpose ever since we ceased pushing small boys up chimneys; it generally publishes rather concise but dull bits of liberal research and keeps itself to itself. So Browne's assault on Statism, Welfarism and Socialism is something of a departure for the Foundation. It's really worth reading.

Browne catalogues the plethora of ills that remove all doubt in any sane person's mind that ours is indeed a broken society. Gordon Brown's denial, as much to himself as to the nation, that there's anything wrong at all with the UK is exposed as dangerous delusion. The rise of violent crime, of family and community breakdown, the loss of morality, the bleeding away of social capital and the atomisation of our nation are all ruthlessly catalogued by Browne. One paragraph has been picked up by the papers in useful summary:
Perhaps most corrosive of all is the welfare culture, from the benefits system to social housing. It exists for a very good reason – to fight destitution – but it has unfortunately led to mass dependency, with people expecting the state to look after them, rather than state support being a last-resort safety net. This debilitating dependency mentality trickles down the generations, with children failing to learn the benefits of being financially self-sufficient from their parents.
Social housing, although very necessary, all too often becomes a trap discouraging social mobility. Incapacity benefit gives a financial reward to people for thinking of themselves, and persuading others, that they are unwell, rather than encouraging them to do their best
It's not hard to correlate this social corrosion with the inexorable rise of the central State over the last thirty years, the neutering of local and intermediate institutions, the explosion in the number of children growing up without their biological fathers, the pernicious 'rights' culture.

At the same time Direct Democracy launched Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell's 'The Plan' (HT Conservativehome), the latest in a series of publications taking Localism forward. Direct Democracy's policy manifesto is:

I - Decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect
II - Decision-makers should be directly elected
III - Citizens should be as free as possible from State coercion
IV - Local authorities should be self-financing
V - Policing should be brought under local democratic control
VI - The State should fund, rather than administer, education
VII - The State should fund, rather than administer, healthcare
VIII - Taxes should be simple, fair, transparent, efficient, competitive and low
IX - The supremacy of Parliament should be guaranteed over ministers, judges, officials and foreign treaty obligations
X - Candidates for public office should be selected from the widest possible base

In fact, the coincident publication dates could not have been more fortuitous; Browne catalogues the many problems the nation faces, Hannan and Carswell propose the solutions that would go a very long way to tackling them.

Gordon Brown's inane posturing, empty rhetoric and clumsy empathy may sound good to a few comrades, but I think the country knows in its heart that it's Direct Democracy's Local Britain, not Labour's Leviathan central State, that we need right now.


Blue Eyes said...

Mr R I was going to do a welfare post but you have done a better researched one than I was going to do! Keep up the good work!

Newmania said...

Quality stuff R , my sense was that in the cols light of day Brown was s=tiing back into his comfort zone . Mc Shane was saying as much in code in the Guardian today.

Everyhting sounds like tax tax tax. I am convinced that tax is the key and that this speech was an admission , in effect that the election was lost

Nick Drew said...

The supremacy of Parliament should be guaranteed over ministers, judges, officials and foreign treaty obligations

over judges ? I grant you the rest enthusiastically, (and the US Congress had better think carefully as it considers Paulson's wretched schemes)

but surely the only acceptable supremacy over judges is via legislation (and a decent appeals system), else we are truly in the banana republic and in big trouble

Candidates for public office should be selected from the widest possible base

How - by quota ? what does this possibly mean as a manifesto item ? candidates will always come from the 'candidate class' - look at any club or residents' association

Raedwald said...

Nick -

Parliament has supremacy over judges at the moment, so nothing new there - the courts can't challenge, question or alter legislation passed by Parliament and enacted by the Crown, although they can 'interpret' sloppily drafted Acts.

However, judges quite rightly can challenge ministers and the government and hold them to account - governments are rightly subject to law and legal challenge.

As for number X - yes, I have the same feeling. It's as if the conversation went

"What's number 10, then?"
"We haven't got 10. We've got 9"
"You can't just have 9. There's always got to be 10. It's an immutable law of nature or something"
"Oh OK then. What about ... banning large rucksacks in confined spaces?"
"No no, too specific. We need something more general....."

Nick Drew said...

the great fleets of symphonies come in 9's

(Brahms excepted)

(OK, and Tchaikovsky)

Willy Wombat said...

'frotted ' now there's the rub.

Off topic, but once upon a time I was a representative of my University on University Challenge (the Paxman days).

There was a practice round which included a round on art 'techniques'.

Describing montage and collage passed quietly until the next, 'frottage' whereupon the good Mr Paxman and myself 'corpsed'.

Mac the Knife said...

"IX - The supremacy of Parliament should be guaranteed over ministers, judges, officials and foreign treaty obligations"

No, no, no and a million times no!

Supremacy of the Crown in Parliament yes, but if one thing has been demonstrated to the point of forensic dissection; it's that Parliament can't be trusted any longer.

It's power must be rigorously circumscribed in future in order to protect our constitution and common law.

Please, I simply can't afford this amount of piano wire every few years...

TheFatBigot said...

Actually judges can challenge legislation if it is inconsistent with the Human Rights Act.