A proposal for the Clarke-and-Milburn show (with update 2 March)
This evening, 1 March, I offered to the new Labour open debate forum set up by those two dodgy ex-Cabinet ministers, Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn, a pithy 10-point programme for a new Labour leader willing to take risks to re-energise a disillusioned Labour Party and to attract the attention and approval of an equally disillusioned electorate — especially, perhaps, the bits of it inhabiting Middle England, wherever that is. At the time of writing, a couple of hours after I posted my proposals on their website, the Clarke-Milburn moderator is still presumably mulling over the pros and cons of passing it for public exposure. In case it gets binned in the CC-AM thinktank out of a loss of nerve by its censor-in-chief, here's what I offered. It's not so revolutionary, now, is it? —
Here's a 10-point policy manifesto for a new Labour Party leader that would revive the enthusiasm of a now deeply disillusioned party membership (including the thousands who have left it but who might return after Mr Blair's departure) — and a programme that would also attract widespread support in Middle England where the next general election will be won or lost:
1. Renationalise the railways.
2. Abandon the plans for a National Identity Register and ID cards.
3. Begin the process of establishing an English parliament and executive with the same powers and functions as the Scottish equivalents.
4. Set up a Royal Commission to recommend measures for rationalising devolution arrangements throughout the UK (following the setting up of an English parliament and re-establishment of power-sharing in Northern Ireland) having as their final objective a federal United Kingdom with a written federal constitution.
5. Establish a second chamber of the Westminster parliament wholly elected under a form of proportional representation, one-third of its members retiring by rotation every four years. No party lists, no bishops, no members appointed by party leaders. Functions and powers to be unchanged pending report of the constitutional Royal Commission (see (4) above).
6. Phase out foundation hospitals and government funding of faith schools. End contracting out of hospital cleaning services and bring them under the direct control of ward managers, as one of several essential measures to bring MRSA and C-Difficile infections in NHS hospitals under control.
7. Replace Control Orders by measures enabling the criminal courts (including judges and juries) in exceptional circumstances to hear limited and specially sensitive evidence in closed session so that terrorist suspects may be put on trial with due process, ending restrictions on anyone's liberties without trial.
8. Phase out tuition fees for higher education institutions and substitute generous tax concessions for all donations to them; restore means-tested grants to all qualifying students.
9. Introduce road pricing by road tolls and/or congestion charges in areas where traffic congestion imposes costs on society, but abandon any plans for vehicle tracking systems. Increase fuel duty rates as the fairest way to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles.
10. Announce a 9-month programme for withdrawing all British forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Initiate discussions in the EU of establishing a standing peace-keeping force, including contributions by EU governments, under the auspices of the United Nations for deployment by decision of the Security Council.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Can such a programme really be too bold and radical for a party that claims to be centre-left? (I fear so. What do you think, Comrades Clarke and Milburn?)
Regular visitors to Ephems may detect the sound of hoofs on a keyboard when they read this. It's just a couple of my best-loved hobby-horses galloping along trying to keep up.
Update (2 March 07): My contribution to 2020 Vision, whose text is above, has now appeared on the Clarke-Milburn website — several hours after it was posted, but better late than never.
I have now posted the following further message on the 2020 Vision website:
>>I am posting this comment as the only way to change my settings so as to remove the fatal tick from "Notify me of follow-up comments", in the hope that this might staunch the torrent of e-mails I'm now receiving containing the text of each comment posted here since my own of yesterday. (My advice is to delete them all in your server's e-mail web-page or from a website such as mail2web, where they have already been downloaded, rather than wait for hours while your own PC downloads them into Outlook Express or Thunderbird or whichever e-mail system you use.) Much easier to read all the comments on the 2020 Vision website, if you have the stamina for it.
Since it's impossible to reply to any individual comment (as you can in a blog as distinct from a website — see below), the check-box for receiving "follow-up comments" is misleading, pregnant with unintended consequences and redundant. It should be removed.
While I'm at it, though, I might remark that this unstructured comments system is hopeless. The comments inevitably address thousands of different policy issues (or in some cases none at all); they are far too numerous for anyone of sound mind to plough through them all; the delay in putting them up while some moderator, or censor, decides whether they merit it means that hardly anyone takes up or argues the points in an earlier comment; there seems to be no separate website address for any individual comment (as there is on most proper blogs), so it's anyway impossible to refer back to a specific comment to distinguish it from hundreds of others — you can only 'search' for a name on the current page; so posting a comment is like bellowing into a telephone that isn't plugged in. No replies, no counter-comments, no dialogue or debate at all.
However, there's the beginning of a discussion in an interesting comment on my earlier contribution to 2020 Vision here and in the comment that follows it. Proper blogging works better.
I doubt very much whether Comrades Clarke or Milburn will spend the necessary hours every day reading page after page of largely unrewarding comments, and it's hard to see what criteria a paid reader could use to single out those worth passing on to them. The 2020 Vision project should, I fear, be aborted.