Twelve tests for 2012
The Progressive Conservatism Project has identified twelve policies that should be adopted by the Conservative Party if they are to be the party of progressive government.
We want to hear your thoughts on these recommendations, how progressive they are and what might be missing.
The 'Twelve Tests for 2012' are:
1. Keep Inheritance Tax
In 2007 George Osborne was credited with reviving Conservative fortunes when he announced that he would lift the threshold for Inheritance Tax liability. Inheritance tax affects only Britain’s richest. It recycles cash through the economy and prevents the entrenchment of enormous privilege. Osborne has already backed away from implementing the pledge – pragmatism intervening – he should now bite the bullet and admit that this policy is not only untenable but regressive.
2. Expand pupil premiums
Conservative policy on education will only be truly progressive if they follow through on their pledge to introduce a premium on school funding for Britain’s most disadvantaged children. If this is not done, and done effectively, then greater freedom and choice could entrench inequalities as more affluent and educated parents succeed in dominating good schools. Early evidence shows that an additional premium of around £2,500 per annum could help to promote more equitable admissions policies from schools and be adequate investment to help poorer children succeed. The Conservative Party must ensure that a premium is built in at the start of any educational reform.
3. Toll all motorways
The Conservative Party must take the climate-change bull by the horns. Toll roads – such as the M6 toll – have been successful at clearing congestion but we still need to discourage multiple car-use on Britain’s motorways. All motorways should be tolled, with the money ring-fenced to be used for environmental investment such as renewable energy. Cars that are ‘smart’ and environmentally friendly would be exempt, as they are under the congestion charge in London.
4. Invest in childcare
For this reason, David Cameron should extend the childcare provision for poor families, from 15 hours a week (from 2010) to 20. Under the Tax Credit childcare support families are currently only able to claim if they work 16 hours a week – and then they are only eligible for 15 hours (from 2010 again). A progressive government should make the correlation between hours worked and childcare provision exact so that poor families are given the same number of hours in childcare as the hours that they work. In doing so he can help to alleviate the pressure on poor families and help to encourage a culture of work amongst parents to counter the devastating legacy of workless families.
5. Lower the voting age to sixteen
Cameron often compares himself to Disraeli and endorses his predecessor’s ‘one nation’ Toryism. Just as Disraeli extended the franchise during his premiership, aware that democracy was being undermined by the voicelessness of sections of the population, so should Cameron. Sixteen year olds can get married, have sex, drive scooters and be taxed – but they can’t vote. The Conservative party should grab the real electoral reform issue and extend the franchise to sixteen year olds.
6. Replace A-levels with the IB
The A-level ‘brand’ has been contaminated. Every year concerns are raised about their value, the quality of assessment and the ‘dumbing down’ of content. Meanwhile, in many elite private schools and for children in countries across the world, students are being given a leg-up over ordinary British sixth-formers in the form of the International Baccalaureate. A progressive Government should extend the International Baccalaureate to all sixth-form students, abolishing A-levels.
7. Pledge support for Turkey’s accession to the EU
The progressive benefits – for Turkey and for the EU – are substantial. Not only would it send a clear message to the Muslim world, that Europe is not anti-Islam, but it would extend the benefits of EU membership to poorer countries. The democratic, human rights and economic reforms that would be necessary for Turkey to join would be transformative for Turkey and for the Turkish people – Cameron should, by 2012, have made his support clear.
8. Publish all public spending online
Cameron’s Conservatives talk excitedly about the potential to use new technologies to engage the public in scrutinizing the work of Government. They must make a commitment to this by providing the information to for powerful citizens to make informed choices.
9. Abolish child benefit for families earning over £50k
In order to be really progressive in an era of austerity the Conservative Party will have to overcome their innate squeamishness about means testing. To be progressive the Conservative Party must end universal benefits, starting with Child Benefit; it is unreasonable to continue paying wealthy people to raise their kids.
10. Capitalise housing benefit
A Conservative government should allow people to capitalise their housing benefit so that they can purchase a stake in their home. At the moment Housing Benefit is dead money for the state. By allowing those who wish to build their way to ownership to use money they are already entitled to, progressive conservatives can help to end the culture of dependency that dominates poor communities.
11. Elect police commissioners
The disconnect between the police service and public control is vast – police forces are not able to respond to the priorities of their communities and people feel that they have no influence on how their police force spend their resources. Communities should, therefore, be able to elect their police commissioners. By 2012 the Conservative government should have reformed police governing structures to make this possible.
12. Abandon marriage tax policy
This policy is aimed at those who are already likely to marry; it does nothing to encourage more social maturity or long-term partnerships in the parts of society where marriage is no longer an aspiration. Secondly, it pre-supposes the benefits of a particular lifestyle choice without articulating why we prefer it. The evidence doesn’t say that married people are better parents, better neighbours or better people.