Saturday, 6 March 2010

If I were Prime Minister

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Quick, quick: name me a single Labour or Tory policy. Ten seconds: go.

I'm not going to be cruel and ask you about the Liberal Democrats.

Bet you can't.

No one can. I inhale politics like oxygen, and I can't. Actually, hold on: I know one Tory one. They are going to restore the teaching of history in schools. Hurrah! And they are going to stop the ID card scheme, which I think is probably a good idea. (It is too expensive and no one can say what it would actually achieve.)

As for Labour, I think nice Ed Miliband is going to do something good for the environment, because why wouldn't he? He is clearly a well-brought up fellow.

Everyone is going to do something about the deficit, but no one will say quite what, or how. It appears to be the difference between cuts now or cuts later.

I know it's a bit unfair. The starting gun has not yet been officially fired; the manifestos are still being polished. Maybe, in a couple of weeks, with their dazzling policies, they will surprise us.

I keep thinking that it's all very well, getting grumpy with politicos for not putting enough meat on the bone, just expecting them to fix everything with their magical political wands, while I sit back like an armchair general, with no ideas of my own. Maybe the political class should set up a special website where the public could send in their own prescriptions, and each month the best one would be chosen. I admit it might be too tempting for the green ink brigade, but why not get the righteous citizenry involved in their own polity? It's positively Athenian.

Here is what I would send in:

Simplify the tax system. I would strip out all the complex allowances, put in place three plain bands, and close the loopholes which allow some of the richest British companies to pay no tax at all. I would get a kick-ass task force, a sort of fiscal band of Jack Bauers, to collect the outstanding £11 billion of revenue. Eleven billion, going spare. Let us just contemplate that for a moment. I would put extra VAT on luxury items, like yachts and Bentleys and Damien Hirsts, so that everyone would know the new Russians were doing their bit.

I would find the twelve cleverest women and men in Britain, put them in a room and not let them out until they worked out how to teach the children to read. (My scariest statistic: 63% of working class boys of 14 have a reading age of 7. I know statistics are suspect, but even if this is slightly true it is a national scandal.)

I would institute prizes for everything, especially all areas of scientific achievement. The scientists need cheering up, just at the moment. The tiny cost of the prize money would pay for itself many times over with the boost in innovation and advancement.

I would institute a golden rule of no jargon, ever. If any of my minsters are heard using management-speak on the Today Programme, the whip would be removed. I would ban obfuscation. Sometimes, politicians really can't answer the question, for reasons of national security or party unity or because a policy is not quite worked out yet. The sight of them weaselling about under Paxo's pitiless gaze is what makes people tired of politics. I would tell them that if they don't want to answer a question, they should just say so. Imagine that. There would be dancing in the streets.

I would damn well make sure that the armed forces have proper houses to live in. If you expect someone to fight and die for their country, the least you can do is give them a roof that does not leak. It can't be that hard.

I would forbid any political operative to ever again use the expression: 'for the many, not the few'. The great test of a political slogan is to imagine whether anyone would ever advocate its opposite. Are there really people running around saying: 'Yes, yes, for the few, not the many'?

I would recruit a vast national army, composed of everyone who is an expert in their field. I would send them into schools and hospitals and universities and prisons and communities, to talk and lecture and advise and hold workshops and open days and I don't know what. The point would be to rouse, encourage, enlighten and support; to show what is possible. It would build a new sense of national unity and communion. It would give the successful the great gift of feeling they were giving something back; it might offer the children and the unemployed and the old a new, hopeful perspective. It would be a like a great voluntary brains trust version of national service.

I thought of it because, every year, in my little village, I give a writing course as part of our arts festival. I do not get paid for it, but I come away vastly richer, because my students arrive, tentative and unsure, and leave bursting with confident creative thought. (I wish I could say this was because of my great genius as a teacher, but in fact it is because all they needed was someone who could show them a little attention and encouragement.) Imagine if we got all the writers to do that? And the actors and inventors and entrepreneurs and professors and musicians and painters too? Imagine the galvanising effect.

So there we are, my darlings, vote for me, and we shall all eat cake.

Picture of the day is of the late, great Michael Foot, who died this week. His manifesto was described as the longest suicide note in history, but he did care passionately about ideas and ideals, and everyone who ever met him said he was a tremendous gentleman. He was one of the last brilliant orators in British politics; backbenchers still speak wistfully of how, when he stood to speak, members would rush in from the tea rooms and the bars to hear him.



  1. Stand for Parliament - please!

    I do have a real genuine love for and interest in politics but I'm getting increasingly worn down and apathetic by it all at the moment. I'd love some honest, idealistic people with common sense to get involved and not endless lawyers and career politicians.

  2. I'd vote for you! As would most of my friends and family! Thanks for expressing those hopes and dreams that I share too in such an intelligent, honest way.

  3. Oh, I would vote for you. It saddens me that we have no-one left who I believe cares one iota as much as Michael Foot did about what happens to people as a result of the decisions they make at Westminster.

  4. We need YOU on Question Time in place of that complete waste of space and National Embarrassment, Carol Vorderman.

  5. What I would like to see - and this does exercise me greatly - is a change in the green policy. So yes, it's all very well telling the man on the Clapham omnibus that he will burn in the fiery pits of hell if he doesn't recycle the correct waste products in the correct bins that are collected once in a green moon; but it would be nice if the gigantic companies in the City and Canary Wharf could be told to switch their sodding lights and computers off overnight. The hypocrisy makes me itch with rage.

  6. Ah, you are all so lovely. Let us begin the revolution this moment.

    And Jo - you could not have struck more of a nerve. As I dolefully screw in my dim energy-saving bulbs, I wonder how that can make any difference when the corporations are cutting down the forests and filling the landfill and polluting the rivers and no one seems to take the blindest bit of notice.
    Sorry, little Michael Moore moment.

  7. I did enjoy this post! And it does seem odd that, whilst the Government looks at building a third runway at Heathrow, it also produces TV ads showing cartoon cats and dogs drowning because someone left the upstairs light on...

    Anyway, I've discovered that who we vote for determines the weather. Please have a look at my not insane at all research here:


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