A modest programme to save Gordon Brown (and Britain)
BBC Newsnight's blog has invited answers to the question:
If there was just one thing that Mr [Gordon] Brown could do to help restore his public standing, what would it be?
Most replies so far have suggested his immediate resignation and elections. Here's my offering, lightly edited:
NOT resign and NOT call a general election now, which would condemn us to at least five years of Tory misrule and probably 10. Instead, use the time remaining to him to do at least one of the following things (preferably all of them, but we're only allowed one):
1. Abandon 42 days detention without charge, admitting that there is no sufficiently widespread agreement to it: and repeal the Control Orders legislation.
2. Increase (a) the threshold for income tax enough to take 5 million people out of tax, and (b) marginal income tax rates on all incomes over £100,000 a year, increasing steeply thereafter to penalise all outlandish salary increases and bonuses above the rate of inflation; impose a windfall tax on the oil companies and other bodies which have made huge profits from increased world commodity prices without lifting a finger to earn them; promise that public sector pay will keep pace with inflation and that tax policy will ensure that the private sector bears its share of the burden of pay restraint.
3. Pull our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by Christmas.
4. Abandon ID cards and the monster data-base that goes with them.
5. Reduce the prison population by at least two-thirds by removing all those who ought never to have been sent there and substituting various forms of community service combined with treatment; change sentencing policy to ensure that no more than a third of those currently jailed are imprisoned in future; remove the power of magistrates to send offenders to prison; abolish prison sentences shorter than three years; abolish indeterminate sentences; return privatised prisons to the public sector.
6. Cancel the renewal of Trident and the order for aircraft carriers.
7. Announce a 20-year programme for full devolution of all internal affairs to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, with a full parliament and executive for each, the Westminster parliament and government becoming federal institutions responsible mainly for foreign affairs and defence, on the Australian, US and German models.
8. Declare that British troops will never again be involved in military action overseas unless Britain is attacked or an attack on Britain is imminent, or else with the explicit authority of the UN Security Council.
9. Abandon the party list system for elections to the European parliament and substitute a Single Transferable Vote system.
10. Complete reform of the House of Lords by making it a wholly elected chamber with limited powers (as now) elected on a different timetable from the Commons by a form of Proportional Representation, in preparation for its eventual conversion into a federal Senate.
And a bonus, not-too-serious proposal: 11. Issue an invitation now to Senator Obama (only) to make a State Visit to Britain within three months of taking up office next January as President.
Of course we also need urgent action on the environment and global warming, on alleviating world poverty and global inequality, on housing and immigration and the treatment of asylum seekers and reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy and discouraging the rebirth of American protectionism and resistance to siren voices demanding cuts in oil and petrol prices (while compensating those least able to afford them) and massive cutbacks on the money being squandered on the London Olympics and stopping private companies and government bodies ripping us off by making us pay through the nose to telephone them on 0845 and 0844 lines about their own failures and defaults, and the retirement from public life of Messrs. Straw and Hoon and Ms Blears, and a few other things that I have temporarily forgotten. But we can't have everything, I suppose.
I'm not unduly optimistic, though.