Conservative economic policy

Yesterday the party officials kindly sent me their latest views and summaries of statements by front bench spokesmen, to read before appearing on Any Questions.

I was pleased to see in the document an emerging view that an incoming Conservative government will not necessarily keep to future Labour spending plans. The more out of touch with financial reality Labour’s plans become, the more important it is that the alternative offers something better.

Conservatives have to have courage. Labour always lie, and say we want to cut schools and hospitals. I know of no elected Conservative who has ever wanted to do that. None of us came into politics to give our constituents worse education or health services. We do need to tell the public that there are many other expenditures undertaken by this government that are wasteful of undesirable, starting with ID cards and unelected regional government.

The official party line includes the following – the wish to save money on:

“The cost of social failure. Family breakdown, unemployment, durg and alcohol addiction – these social problems rack up the biggest bills for government, so we’ve got to get them down.

“The cost of unrteformed public services. Massive top-down state monopolies cost more and deliver less, so we need to improve the running of public services through more choice, competition and non state collective provision.

“The cost of bureraucracy itself. All bureaucracies have an inbuilt tendency to grow, so we need to call a halt to the wasteful spending and inefficiency we have seen under Labour”

Exactly. Conservatives have to show they can deliver more for less. That should not be difficult when you look at the rambling Labour public sector, with its armies of box tickers and management consultants, and its fields of quangos and state owned banks.


  1. rugfish
    November 15, 2008

    Sound principles if you ask me.
    The whole nation is tightening its belt so it follows they will accept that government does so too.

    I like the idea of no ID cards, and I expect our new government to take a bacon slicer to waste as opposed to producing more of it.

    Two other areas, other than the welter of saving produced by kicking Quango's and bureaucracy into the mud, would be a delay or a cancelling of the aircraft carriers he's ordered for no rhyme or reason, a stop on the Heathrow runway which will more likely lay idle in the all but bust tourism industry, the handing out of private contracts to build the new high speed rail – which should extend to the forgotten cities of Leeds, Newcastle Glasgow, and a re-think on the NHS computer, cronies in government buildings without any electoral mandate, and the myriad of government contractors who seem to have a tendency to stuff our personal data down the back of seats when travelling.

    Add something into the mix to re-invent our manufacturing industry slightly, like a new environmentally positive auto industry and I think we should have it made.

    I'd also guard against 'bashing the unemployed and benefit recipients' who need encouragement and training opportunities and not a big govertnment cosh like Labour are doing which by television advertising is implying that the hundreds of thousands thrown out of work by their hands are "benefit thieves". Because if that doesn't take the biscuit I don't know what does !!!

  2. Brian Tomkinson
    November 15, 2008

    This approach to saving taxpayers' money is correct and if properly articulated would command public support. Your party must have access to enough brains to be able to put this across in a clear and simple way that people will understand and Labour will find hard to lie about – Mandelson, Campbell et al aren't that good.

  3. […] Tax cuts are important, but Cameron will have to decide whether Osborne should stay in his post (though, as Iain Dale rightly points, out it’s a critical few weeks for him), and the Tories should craft a careful and coherent policy on the economy and taxation.  But they should certainly reduce people’s taxes so they have more money in their pocket.  John Redwood has highlighted some very encouraging shifts in Conservative economic policy.  […]

  4. FatBigot
    November 15, 2008

    The lack of apparent alternatives to Mr Brown's continued massacre of the economy has worried me for some time. "Wait and see" has its place because no one can put forward a serious alternative plan until it is clear what the government is doing. But the time has now surely come for a comprehensive alternative strategy to be put forward.

    Mr Brown should not be allowed to continue peddling the lie that all was wonderful until America made a mess. The cry I hear regularly is "where has all the money gone?" A detailed and systematic attack on 11 years of throwing money down the drain is needed and will, I am sure, fall on receptive ears. Vague attacks on "waste" and "bureaucracy" won't cut the mustard, it must be detailed – how many millions went on a committee for this, how many millions on a consultation exercise for that.

    Yesterday we heard a senior NHS administrator say that a restriction on spending will hit patient services. He must not be allowed to get away with nonsense like that. It must be made clear that those who manage the NHS's money must find savings among the paper-shufflers and will be removed from office if they do not do so.

    Self-perpetuating bureaucracy is an albatross around the neck of our economy. Everyone knows it and people want it thinned drastically. It is a win-win approach for the Conservatives because it establishes that public services will not be affected yet Joe Ordinary on £20,000 will know his taxes will no longer feed bloated levels of unnecessary administrative windbaggery.

  5. Jonathan M. Scott
    November 15, 2008

    I agree absolutely with your post. Saving money on these three aspects (particular given the human cost of social failure, e.g. the tragic murder of little Baby P) is crucial. Scrapping Labour spending plans is important, particularly in developing tax cuts which will allow people to keep more of their own money – also vital in these tough economic times. And stopping the tax rises on business (e.g. CGT, 1p rise in corporate tax etc) is a 'must do'.

    We know that the tax and benefits system, through the poverty trap, disincentivises many people from entering employment.

    The logical conclusion of current Labour social, economic and fiscal policy would be to disincentivise more people from working, and perhaps more worringly from starting a business and creating jobs.

  6. Robert Eve
    November 15, 2008

    Just think how much we can save if we leave the EU.

  7. Nick Gulliford
    November 15, 2008

    I'm so pleased you agree with your 'Exactly' that, "The cost of social failure. Family breakdown ….. these social problems rack up the biggest bills for government, so we’ve got to get them down."

    Ian Duncan Smith and Graham Allen have come up with a cross-party proposal for 'Early Intervention' [] including:

    "Relationship and parenting education with all individuals, couples and families entitled to draw down money from a personal ‘budget’ to access pre-marriage, antenatal, and parenting (of 0-5s, 5-11s and teens) services. Additional streams also available for lone parents, prisoners, military and foster/adoptive parents."

    To what extent do you agree this proposal will – probably over a generation – improve couple relationships and reduce the number of family breakdowns?

  8. mikestallard
    November 15, 2008

    I really do not know why the Conservatives who entered the Party Conference fresh with excellent new ideas and full to bursting with a desire to pull us back from the brink have disappeared somewhere.
    Come on people, get out there! Have faith.
    Read the blogs – we are all right there behind you. We really do want to know the way out of this quagmire and you really do have the ideas which it takes. We are getting more and more angry.
    The next thing must be to reduce the huge, unnecessary government wastage which Mr Brown has encouraged under the "schools'n'hospitals bit. We all know that it is really wasted on 30 pages of Guardian advertisements.
    It is not fair to tell us to stand out in the cold when the government is sitting there warm and cosy looking forward to its huge pensions.
    So, less of the Spectator Lunches and booze ups, please, and a little more proclamation of the Truth!

    November 16, 2008

    We're a pretty down-to-earth bunch of folks here and we gnash our teeth whenever we hear a minister – often the Prime Minister – boast of how much of OUR money he/they are going to spend on any particular project or 'initiative'. It's as if that alone guarantees success and shows what an excellent job is being done on our behalf. Bravowe're supposed to cry!

    Why don't politicians do what we business blokes and housewives do? We work out what needs to be done, then we cost it and then we decide how much to spend. By doing it the other way round is it any wonder there is never an underspend and that departments and contractors use every penny pledged?

    We have a motto that we would like to see the Conservatives adopt; one that cries out to be used when shadow ministers are put on the spot by scaremongering talk of 'service cuts'…

    "It's not what you spend it's the way that you spend it
    THAT'S what gets results"!!

  10. TaDa
    November 16, 2008

    Reducing the cost of social failure is a worthy ambition but I doubt there are any real policies to bring it about. The policies required are too radical or long term for either of the electable parties to implemetn.

    The breaking up of state monopolies has not always been successful. Our energy and water requirements are now predominantly foreign owned and poorly invested in and our rail network appears to cost as much privatised as it did under state ownership. Not all privatisation is wrong – but it is not always the answer and when it does go wrong please put your hand up up and admit it!

    Oh and the quest for reducing bureaucracy is started by every government (regardless of colour) and always fails – what will the next conservative government do differently to the last to reduce it?

    Reply: This government renationalised Rail track and costs shot up as a result.

  11. Dr Dan H.
    November 17, 2008

    Here's an idea for you: try to break the link between breeding like a demented rabbit and milking the benefit system. A lot of the trouble we have at the minute from disaffected youth and so on is down to the benefits system rewarding the lowest paid and benefit scroungers for breeding, which leads to a surfeit of mostly unwanted children.

    So, freezing child benefit to allow fiscal drag to cut it might work (the benefit-milking classes are generally too thick to understand fiscal drag, as Gordon has exhaustively proved) and would not get the Tories labelled as the Party That Hates The Poor; the resulting cut in costs could then be fed back as an increase in the tax-free allowance, as could completely abolishing the Tax Credits system.

    The net effect should be to reduce the outgoings on welfare payments, preferably doing so without explicitly cutting the payments (to avoid the remnant Labour party heckling) but by shifting boundaries and utilising fiscal drag. This trick worked for Gordon Brown very well; no reason why the Tories shouldn't use it too.

  12. Bazman
    November 19, 2008

    Nice one Dan. Why not just tax the poor more for being poor as an incentive to get rich as well as cutting benefits. Lets face it everything that ever happens is caused by oneself. Except if you are rich, then it is always someone else. The mind boggles as to this way of thinking. Maybe as a Doctor you could sterilize them too? The dole pays £60.50 a week for a single person. Give up work and live a life of style Dan, millions do.
    The Conservatives have only ever understood the cost of social failure in terms of cutting benefits to the undeserving poor and really stretches credibility to ever think they will get it.

  13. mikestallard
    November 19, 2008

    Bazman: I have been on the dole myself, and I never joke about it: it is abject poverty. You really are a second class citizen on the dole. Have you ever been there?
    Many, many Conservatives have been on the dole.
    Our problem, here at the grass roots under the Labour Party, is that we see our Grammar School costing £10,000 p.a., (State Comprehensive in Special measures) our BUPA hospitals well beyond our reach (NHS Hospital 20 miles away with MRSA probs), Old People's Homes costing the same as an expensive hotel, and the Police nowhere to be seen (I saw one the other day marching through the street dressed as if for Baghdad). If, for instance, my Mum needs to go into a home, I have to sell my house and throw myself onto the State for a roof.
    We realise that the Labour Government has betrayed the poor, because, you see, we actually ARE the poor!
    So let's have no more claptrap about how "The Conservatives have only ever understood the cost of social failure in terms of cutting benefits to the undeserving poor".

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