Tim Montgomerie, the Conservative activist and columnist for the Times, has launched a new project this week called The Good Right . It is a 12 point programme championing a “compassionate conservatism” which Montgomerie believes should be electorally successful.
And he has a point.
Many of the ideas will not appeal to those on the Right. Point one calls for a “Harold Macmillan-sized, state supported housebuilding programme”. Point two calls for the introduction of higher taxes on expensive properties and luxury goods, in return for lower taxes for low-income workers. And a higher minimum wage, put forward in point three will infuriate many free market purists.
But Montgomerie’s aim is not to bring every part of the Conservative party on board with his vision.
He seems to recognize that these firm and clear proposals have the power to reach out to two significant groups of voters. 1) More traditional Conservatives who have become increasingly frustrated with elements of Cameron’s modernizing agenda and 2) disillusioned Labour voters fed up with Miliband and a party that is hopelessly out of touch with its working-class grassroots.
The rejection of green policies (with reference to a paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation), a renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe and the significant emphasis on the family will appeal to both groups of voters.
It remains to be seen what impact the project has on Conservative policy after 7 May. As for Labour, in a week where a top party official has quit for UKIP and Ant and Dec have announced that they don’t know what the party stands for anymore, the hope must be that this project has been launched too late.
1) More housebuilding, increased home ownership, with focus on Garden Cities.
2) Higher taxes on expensive properties and luxury goods.
3) Above-inflation increases in the minimum wage.
4) Increasing the allowances within the Universal Credit – rather than raise the basic threshold for paying income tax.
5) Renegotiating our relationship with the EU to cut energy and food bills and restrict free movement in order to benefit low-paid workers in the UK.
6) Ensuring that all proceeds from the exploitation of shale gas within Northern England fund expanded Northern infrastructure.
7) Forcing all private schools, both boarding and day schools, to accept 25% of their intake as scholarship boys and girls, funded by the State on a means-tested basis.
8) Refocusing state spending to prize long-term goals, including investment in infrastructure, science and long-term research. Reduce public sector pay, benefits and pensions to a state of equivalence with the private sector.
9) Fairer spending – by abolishing the Barnett Formula and instead allocating spending to regions and localities across the UK on the basis of need and reductions in the benefits enjoyed by better off pensioners to reduce the deficit and fund early intervention programmes.
10) Supporting services that challenge the main causes of disadvantage including family breakdown, addiction, indebtedness and social dislocation, rather than just focusing on income redistribution.
11) Imposing strict limits on political donations. No taxpayer-funding for political parties, but charitable relief on small donations.
12) Introducing a £1 million bursary scheme to help people of more diverse backgrounds to become Conservative MPs.