Monday, October 06, 2008

The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain

Cranmer recently received an email from Daniel Hannan MEP, inviting him to the launch last Wednesday of the book he co-authored with his political and ideological soul-mate Douglas Carswell MP. Sadly, owing to the lack of a corporeal state, His Grace was unable to accept. But he has now read the tome, and is delighted to share his thoughts with his readers and communicants.

The Hannan-Carswell (or is in Carswell-Hannan?) essential thesis is that the country has gone to the dogs and we need a revolution. Not of the Glorious or the bloody kind, but some sort of via media which will shake up the mechanism and practices of government. Mr Hannan says: ‘The government has taken more than £1.2 trillion in additional taxation since 1997, yet still fails to discharge its primary functions competently. Our schoolchildren compare dismally with their contemporaries in other countries; our healthcare system is likelier to kill its charges than any other in the EU; we have the highest prison population in Europe and one of the highest crime rates; we have lost control of our borders; our transport infrastructure is overloaded. The state is running at capacity. It has taken too much on. It literally cannot assume additional responsibilities and carry them out efficiently.’

Indeed not. They do not wish to see the next Conservative government tinkering at the edges - doing the same sorts of things as New Labour but ‘more efficiently’ or ‘sharing the proceeds’ - but engaging in reform of such constitutional magnitude that its effects and provisions are, like the Act of Settlement, likely to be ‘for ever’.

According to The Plan, this means a wholesale shift in power ‘from the state to the citizen, from Whitehall to elected councillors, from Brussels to Westminster’. And it is all possible within a single legislative session of Parliament. Some of the ideas include:

• Scrapping all MPs' expenses except those relating to running an office and travel from the constituency
• Selecting candidates through open primaries
• Local and national referendums
• "People's Bills", to be placed before Parliament if they attract a certain number of signatures
• Placing the police under locally elected Sheriffs, who would also set local sentencing guidelines
• Appointing heads of quangos, senior judges and ambassadors through open parliamentary hearings rather than prime ministerial patronage
• Devolving to English counties and cities all the powers which were devolved to Edinburgh under the 1998 Scotland Act
• Placing Social security, too, under local authorities
• Making councils self-financing by scrapping VAT and replacing it with a Local Sales Tax
• Allowing people to pay their contributions into personal healthcare accounts, with a mandatory insurance component
• Letting parents opt out of their Local Education Authority, carrying to any school the financial entitlement that would have been spent on their child
• Replacing EU membership with a Swiss-style bilateral free trade accord
• Requiring all foreign treaties to be re-ratified annually by Parliament
• Scrapping the Human Rights Act and guaranteeing parliamentary legislation against judicial activism
• A ‘Great Repeal Bill’ to annul unnecessary and burdensome laws

They desire to restore power to the individual, and, where this is impractical, to the lowest feasible level of government. This is the subsidiarity principle which is supposed to be at the heart of the functioning of the EU, but which has never (as far as Cranmer can see) been exercised. But there is already broad agreement across the parties that power rests with ‘the lowest feasible level of government’; the problem is that not everyone agrees what this level should be. Even as David Cameron talks of restoring authority to local councils, he simultaneously announces the restoration of weekly refuse collection and capped council tax for two years.

Mssrs Hannan and Carswell will have just as hard a job persuading many citizens of the rightness of this plan as they will have their fellow Conservative politicians. Many of Cranmer’s readers and communicants may regret that this is not the Conservative Party’s next manifesto, but most will understand why it cannot be.

The Plan may excite and envision, but it does not take account of the zeitgeist, nor of the pathologically-centre-left media. It is not subtle. In a postmodern world in which the distinction between political parties, newspapers and pressure groups is blurring, communication that is be effective has to be in the vernacular, even if that vernacular is imprecise and obfuscational. We may not like such language, but our focus has to be on ends. Does one any longer go onto the streets and shout ‘Repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, or you’re going to hell’? It may be the gospel, and it may be true, but the approach is offensive and yields no results. The gospel which leads to conversion is the gospel which incarnates patience, relationship and love. It is rather like ‘banging on’ about withdrawal from the EU instead of constructively and more subtly engaging in the need to ‘repatriate’ certain aspects of lost sovereignty. The latter will lead to the former, and so the media never have to be presented with the ‘alarming’ stumbling block of withdrawal at all. Even the yellow and black cover looks like a caricature; it might as well be red on white, for people do indeed judge a book by its cover.

The Hannan-Carswell plan may be a most attractive gospel, but it is written in Greek – not the gobbledegook of the inaccessible political realm, but the direct and confrontational language which many may consider abrupt, revolutionary, or ‘extreme’. This is ultimately (and sadly) a stumbling block to those who need saving.

It is a clever politician who plays a long hand and bides his time. They may frustrate the impatient and radical, but they may also rise slowly and painstakingly through the political ranks and ultimately attain those high offices of state from which they may implement their policies. Daniel Hannan would have to rise to the shadow cabinet to have a real chance of shaping Britain's future, and Douglas Carswell would need to be at his side. This book does nothing to assist either.

It is doubtless true that political parties as they have traditionally been constituted are at an end. What were once organic and complex structures - bringing together local branches, clubs, activists and sympathetic newspapers, professions, trade unions, churches and pressure groups – are indeed dying. But the assertion that the modern political party will be protean: ‘a series of ad hoc, issue-by-issue coalitions’ is to negate the importance of cohesive philosophy. The Plan demands independent MPs accountable only to their electorates. This is to turn the clock back a few centuries, and return to a parliament without parties. Independent MPs who are free to coalesce around specific issues on an ad hoc basis does not only negate the party system, it neuters the whip, for there is no need of discipline as every vote is free. This is not remotely likely to be adopted.

The Hannan-Carswell plan is excitingly radical and provides many high quality whats and whys, but it is sadly lacking on the how. The solutions presented – in terms of legislation – would divide the parties with years of wrangling and have little chance of becoming law. There is simply no point having a cunning plan if one does not have the cunning strategy for implementation

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating book for Mr Cameron’s ‘post-bureaucratic age’, and Cranmer heartily recommends it. It may be purchased here.


Blogger haddock said...

Your Grace,
The proposals strip 'power' from party leaders, I could suggest a time when the proposals will be adopted but firstly would you be so kind as to give me your personal intelligent and erudite opinion as to the timing of Hell freezing over?

6 October 2008 at 10:00  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

The plan is sensible, but the left centric media, including the BBC will torpedo it, not to speak of the wily civil servants who, if it ever got to the status of a serious government policy would subject it to death by committee.

I despair.

The best suggestion I have heard in recent years was from (I think) Edward Enfield in the Oldie, that the Army should carry out a very British and bloodless coup and sort it all out. (This would have the useful byproduct that the UK would be automatically disbarred from the EU).

6 October 2008 at 10:35  
Blogger Tomrat said...

Your Grace,

I too have bought the book and am in the process of reading it - so far it does give the impression of a radical piece of text but I dont think it is an insurmountable aim; all that is needed is the political will and a healthy majority to push this through - which is something Daniel and Douglas have spied may be on the horizon.

What is needed is to convince the conservative party as a whole that this is what they should be promoting; a return to traditional values of self-autonomy and simplicity which is what their ethos enshrines.

If not there are plenty of other groups more willing to do what is necessary and inevitable:

6 October 2008 at 10:50  
Blogger Dave said...

Seeing that upwards of 40% of the population depend on the government for jobs and benefits it'll be almost impossible to achieve, however much it is needed.

It has taken almost a century (since the trenches of WW1) for the intellectuals to have infiltrated society and poisoned it to its current sorry state. It will take a miracle to change it overnight.

Nice idea but no cigar

6 October 2008 at 11:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Devolving to English counties and cities all the powers which were devolved to Edinburgh under the 1998 Scotland Act "

Yep thought so.

Typical anti-English British idea.

England gets a gaggle of counties and boroughs
( local government via counties and boroughs is a good thing but is no match for a national government)
to be easily picked off by the British government but Scotland is favoured with a whole national parliament as well as local government.

So where is the national representation for the English in this rejuvenated British state to defend us in this vicious new world?

Answere: Why nowhere at all of course and the poisonous Barnett Rules must be preserved in all eternity of course 'cos there aint no mention of them here.
(Its divisive and unpleasant to talk about them you understand)

6 October 2008 at 15:17  
Blogger prziloczek said...

OK. Here in Fenland, we need a lot more accountability and we could do with a dose of strong local government - with an active opposition too and no "Cabinet" on mega millions either.
I wonder, however, how the Derek Hattons are feeling up North about stronger local government?
Or the Keith Vaz types?

6 October 2008 at 16:53  
Blogger McKenzie said...

When Christ hung nailed to the cross, wounded and bleeding, to many it would seem to be a futile and offensive gesture which would yield no results.

6 October 2008 at 17:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you have reached down with a humble heart on bended knee because you just can’t take it alone anymore; begging for help to walk just that one more mile; and just to smile one more smile because you don’t think you can do things alone anymore; You say a prayer and ask for the Lord to come down from his throne to your lowly self, and then a miracle takes place in your heart, and you feel the touch of a tender hand. When you are released from the chains of darkness which held you in blindness and now you can see where it is that you fit into the master plan, you jump for joy and smile, walk, run ten miles a day, shouting at the top of your voice: Repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour! Then you whisper in a quiet voice, or you’re going to hell!

We are dying in the midst of life, or so it seems. We have invented things, oh man have we invented things, but we are as savage and brutal as the day we left the Garden. Unless you have a load of dosh tucked away in a bank, your options are limited to say the least. Work hard and save, for what? Do you know how ugly these people are? The pursuit of wealth has become the be all and end all, even if you are genuinely not interested there is no escape from the consumerism, but I refuse to pursue wealth, you can stick it right up your fucking arse.

6 October 2008 at 18:33  
Blogger DP111 said...

A desirable revolution indeed. But such revolutions are brought about by a national crisis- an internal or external one.

We are in the situation that a crisis is most likely. On the internal front - Islam, and Muslims with their demand for sharia, will most likely create a crisis. Other sources are - financial crisis leading to a depression, energy and food shortages.

Externally - a moribund EU, will eventually create a crisis. War ofcourse is always a possibility in Europe, leading to general war.

6 October 2008 at 21:44  
Blogger Menelaus said...

Your Grace, I have long predicted that the EU will not see me out. I still believe that it won't. The current disaster - including today's demonstration of every rat for himself euro-politics - makes this ever more likely. When the EU crashes, European politics will crash. If that crash is not to mean utter disaster and potentially yet another war, we need to find an alternative politics around which we can build.

This is, I suggest humbly, a renewal of the "left" of politics. By the left I mean a workable alternative to Conservatism - the alternative that makes a two-party system work. Not a renewal of silliness, Marxism and associated humbugs but a renewal of proper liberalism. The liberalism that says, yes, I may do as I please as long as I don't harm anyone else but that is not enough to provide a man with a quiet conscience and a mind at peace. Ya gotta go the extra mile around here to sleep soundly at night.

Our entrepreneurial and wealth-creating skills and opportunities bring with them responsibilities. That's what we need to temper the excesses of the marketplace. It is not acceptable just to win and be rich and the Devil take the hindmost. Local philanthropy instead of national tax-thieving; local kindness instead of centralised PC rule-making. Rebuild politics by gutting the national and supra-national institutions - built as thye are on ideological sand.

I like it; I'd vote for it. What say you?

6 October 2008 at 23:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just read the excellent post about James MacMillan and what he's trying to do for Church music. I also like to ask His Grace to vist this site here: the site displays real art and not that It's displays real art and not that pretentious rubbish you'ld fine in the Tate Modern.

7 October 2008 at 01:15  
Blogger prziloczek said...

Dear Anonymous.Religious art has to be two things: sincere and well done.
Some of your artists are indeed competent. But in no way are many of them at all sincere. Honestly, do you actually believe yourself in Daphnis and Chloe? Did Ovid even?
For real art, please look at:

7 October 2008 at 19:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Prziloczek, please excuse my ignorance but are these people artists: Chloe, Daphnis and Ovid. Maybe you could explain more about them? the point I
'm making is that post modern tate gallery art is not real art at all. It's just rubbish... allowing the 'artist' to express themselves. Very moronic.
- Damo Mackerel

8 October 2008 at 12:54  
Blogger prziloczek said...

Your Grace, allow me to come back on the previous comment because it is important. Church art is one of the finest ways of showing people what is on offer. The excellent comment above in Anonymous' first post would be so much better if it were a picture. How about, say, maybe the Prodigal Son (alias "the Two Sons)?
Lots of professional artists are paid by the yard of canvas. hence the love of "classical" subjects - Daphnis and Chloe is the subject of one of the paintings on the site recommended by Anonymous' second post. Ovid, of course, was the Roman poet who publicised them for us today.
Today there are a lot of people cashing in on Art. In a time when money loses its value, like today, people very sensibly buy things instead - gold, cars, houses, paintings.....
Damien Hurst who is not a man who loves painting or drawing as far as I can see, and Tracey Emin, who is just crude, to my mind, both cash in on this flight from money. Saatchi, also, encourages them. It is excellent business. But it has absolutely nothing to do with our fine European tradition of painting.
My son lives in Bangkok and I went to the Temple there to see the art. I am not a Buddhist, but I must say the paintings on the temple walls were some of the best religious art I have ever seen (including the ancient Greeks). The paintings were transparently sincere, well executed and - the figures actually danced to the divine music!

9 October 2008 at 06:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is a clever politician who plays a long hand and bides his time... they may ultimately attain those high offices of state from which they may implement their policies."

The problem is, by the time they get to that high office they have made too many bargains with the devil and have probably forgotten what it was they wanted to do in the first place.

9 October 2008 at 17:18  

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