The First Five Years

Rational, purposeful management can be applied both to routine operations and to improvements.  There are many problems to be solved – to make improvements – but  there will be priorities.

The main strategic initiatives – those that will most impact on all of our lives – are summarised in this section.  Fuller detail is given in Making it happen (5) Strategy – Policies and Programmes for a 13 Department Government.

1.      We will change permanently the way politics and Government are done.  Initiating this change is our first priority.  We will eliminate ya-boo politics and constant policy U-turns and introduce professional management to Government.  We will make ministerial appointments apolitical and on merit.  And bring the Civil Service Code more into line with the UK Code of Corporate Governance in giving greater independence to Permanent Secretaries (as CEOs) while ensuring that all major decisions are approved by the Minister, Cabinet or Parliament.  The Civil Service employs many of the country’s finest brains and we will unshackle them from chaotic political management so that they are freed to perform – as agile as agencies are at present.  In particular we will introduce a culture of continual improvement and transparency so that departments routinely up their game without Government intervention.

2.      We will introduce an annual report which will allow citizens to judge Government performance on improving the well-being of the population.  The power of this simple idea lies in the facts exposed – if we determine what makes people lastingly happy we can encourage more of it and we can help people avoid what makes them unhappy.

3.      Whatever position we inherit we will have to regularise relations with the EU.   If we are still in then we will use an agency like YouGov to determine the consensus option upon which the british people generally agree  – hard exit, various types of soft exit or to remain.  We’d expect the consensus to form round either an exit with a Canada-style free trade agreement, the development of a two-tier Europe where we and other second tier countries revert to the 1975 Common Market or simply remaining in but with an emergency brake on immigration and a commitment to reform.  We’d also test whether there was an appetite for a new referendum on this.  It would then be easy to negotiate with the other 27 countries because all the soft exit options are reasonable.  And even easier in the unlikely event that the consensus was on hard exit or remaining.  If the position we inherit is that we are out or on an irrevocable path towards exit we will ensure that the UK maintains good and effective relations with the EU.

4.      Over 5 years we will dramatically simplify the tax system so that it is simple, clear, unavoidable and universally accepted as fair.

5.      Over at least 10 years we will significantly reduce the cost of Government, from the present 50% of Gross National Product.  Savings will be achieved from efficiencies and continual improvement, clear goals and transparent performance reporting, organisational structure changes and  restructuring of functions.  This will ensure the continued and enhanced provision of essential services while putting some spending decisions into the hands of consumers rather than Nanny State..

6.      Because Government spending and debt are so high we cannot immediately adopt normal Keynesian methods of cutting taxes and increasing expenditure to stimulate the economy.  We will therefore adopt non-fiscal methods to boost consumer confidence and stimulate the economy.  These include the initiatives described below on adult illiteracy, foreign aid and training.

7.      We will make the safety of our citizens the most important task of Government and will address various threats to that safety:-

7.1       We will merge the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Ministry of Defence so that diplomacy will be our primary approach to foreign threats although military power can be mobilised through the same management structure if required.

7.2       We will make continual reductions in the levels of crime, terrorist threat and illegal immigration by adopting rational, consistent and persistent approaches to each.  And we will address the reasons why people become criminals in the first place

7.3       We will tackle the problem of Islamist terrorism and inter-community strife by involving the moderate Muslim community in measures to improve integration.

8.      Our criminal justice system is good – ranked 12th in the world.  But we can do better.  Too many crimes go unpunished while at the same time too many innocent people suffer a miscarriage of justice.  It is impossible to avoid mistakes but we will conduct a root and branch review of the criminal justice system to determine where it can be improved.

9.      The Human extinction threats – nuclear war, meteor strike and global warming – require international action and we will take steps to enhance the UN initiatives on these.

10.  The UK is committed to giving 0.7% of our GNP in foreign aid.  We will change our approach in two main ways.  First we will channel all our aid to a single country in order to raise its living standards to those of, say, Thailand within 20 years – and encourage other donor countries to adopt the same approach.  Second we will send our own people, typically those who are young, unemployed and in need of a set of skills to help in the infrastructure building and other works.  To be able to make a real difference to the lives of those less fortunate is a huge character builder – similar to those unemployed in 1939 who fought in the war.

11.  Our programme includes important reforms upon which there will be several possible approaches.  It is fundamental to our proposals that the electorate is engaged in considering these options and we need to ensure that they are properly informed.   To ensure honesty and balance in debates – but also in media reports and advertising – we will consider introducing a simple but powerful law to make it illegal to mislead.   In the rare cases where a referendum is necessary the campaigns will be orderly and informative with an absolute ban on the sort of hype we saw in the Brexit campaigns.    In particular referendums will be multiple choice so that voters can indicate second and third preferences.

12.  Our National Health Service is much-loved and performs reasonably well in international rankings.  There is a continual tension between the cost and the quality of the service with sometimes rancorous debate on efficiency and the demands made upon staff.  The 2012 Lansley reforms have not worked well.  We will test the consensus to settle once and for all the question of what kind of NHS we want and how we pay for it.  In the short term we will formalise the Accountable Care Organisation arrangements that the present government is feebly pursuing.  This will be a temporary expedient to allow small and agile IT developments to be co-ordinated and to put extra money into preventative medicine to reduce the demands on the NHS in the medium term.

13.  We will house the homeless.  It is unacceptable that anyone has to sleep rough in a country as rich as the UK.

14.  It takes a village to raise a child.  And we have largely eliminated the village-like communities in which we all used to live – even in towns.  We will tackle the decline in quality of life by bringing back strong, supportive communities as a mainstay of people’s lives.

15.  Our Welfare State, introduced largely just after World War 2, has been very successful in supporting people through disastrous periods of their lives.  It provides a wonderful safety net.  But over the decades it has grown in complexity, size and cost and is now often criticised for being ineffective or even counter-productive in creating a climate of dependency.  We will now make the decision on where to draw the line between standing on your own two feet and relying on Nanny State.  We will review all the options and encourage a national debate to settle once and for all what kind of Welfare State we want.

16.  We will reform the benefit system.  The actual reforms we make will depend on the outcome of the debate on the Welfare State.  But we will make it simpler and clearer.   It is likely that we will consider a trial of Universal Benefit Income.  This would remove means testing on benefits and instead pay a basic income to everyone but tax it from those that do not need it.  Everyone will be better off because this is cheaper and more closely targeted than the existing system.

17.  We will beef up the unemployment service to ensure that each long-term unemployed person is given an individual assessment of the skills he or she needs to acquire in order to secure a fulfilling job.  And we will provide incentives for employers to take on and train unemployed people.  We will aim eventually for zero long-term unemployed.

18.  The ranks of the unemployed and the prison population contain a far greater proportion of adult illiterates than the population in general.  And adult illiteracy is a huge failing of our education system.  We owe it to these people urgently to give them these basic life skills.   Within 100 days we will set up a programme to match 1m adult illiterates with 1m volunteers to teach them to read to the standard required for the Daily Mirror.

19.  The education system has been a political football for the last 50 years.  We have a system whose working hours are totally out of kilter with the rest of society, which only keeps going by making huge and untenable demands on teachers, which fails adequately to engage parents but which, yet, produces decent, if not fantastic, results.  We can do better.  We will commission market research to identify 5 structural options for the education system.  We will appoint a team to campaign in a national debate for each option – to spell out the details and the benefits, but also to be honest about the disadvantages.  We will determine the consensus solution.  And will then implement it possibly over a number of years.

20.  Our land use is chaotic with many agencies controlling different aspects.  We will merge the Department of Transport and various other functions into the Department of the Environment to create a new department specifically tasked with managing the land as a source of amenity and pride for our citizens.

 

There are many areas where we do not propose to take action within 5 years because we do not consider there to be any severe or urgent problem.  These can always be addressed if the view on priority changes.  Examples include reform of legal migration rules, action on population growth, further reform of the second chamber, alternative voting systems, review of devolution of powers to both the countries and regions of the UK and more.

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11 Replies to “The First Five Years”

  1. I share Roger’s view of the prospectus, a lot of which I would heartily endorse.

    I would also enjoy a cup of coffee if Neil is entertaining!

    I am puzzled by the 3-month time span between this and the last comment – has the prospectus not been generally circulated in the meantime?

    1. Tim – Thanks for the encouraging comments. The three month gap is largely due to the snap General Election – we were anticipating 2022 for the next, but now it looks like 2017 or 2018 it’s time to get organised.
      A cup of coffee would be great – shall we make that an offer for all new members?

  2. I’m someone who can hardly bear to watch the news these days as I find the state of British politics so depressing. This sounds almost too sensible!

  3. I will say more elsewhere when I get more time. First impression is where is the passion, where is the one big idea that will get people enthusiastic. Changing the structure of the civil service education or the NHS are not bad ideas they just won’t get people queuing up at the ballot box. You need one big idea one unique policy that is both bold and deliverable.

    Brexit is something most people care about realistically it will be over and done with before any new party can make an impact.

    1. Good question Ron. For me the one big idea is the sheer pace of rational reform that is possible when you (a) take the ya-boo out of politics and (b) empower the Civil Service to make minor reforms/improvements without a Minister interfering or trying to take credit. The Centrist Reform Party? Or is that 3 ideas rather than one? And anyway I want to add in the focus on well-being too! But what do others think?

      1. Rational reform is not bad thing in itself. It is not a vote winners. Nobody is going to march down Whitehall chanting “what do we want rational reform, when do we want it now”.

  4. Greetings! Veгy helpful advice in this particular
    article! It is the lіttle changes tһat wіll make tһe greatest changеs.

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    1. Thanks Hugh. We certainly feel that it might improve the political debate if all parties were to be a bit more thoughtful and specific about what they intend to do when in power – and to split it between the low-hanging fruit and starting the major reforms. Politicians are too often constrained by what they can do in 5 years so they end up just making things more complicated.

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