Headlines: January 18th, 2002

In a speech to business leaders in Birmingham and an interview with the Financial Times, Conservative party leader, Iain Duncan Smith set out his view of the political scene and a route map for devising policy for what he describes as the crisis in public services. He said British people were: “over-governed and too much of their responsibility is being taken away from them.” He argued that every time the Chancellor presents a budget, he draws more people into dependence on his largesse and that forty per cent of citizens will rely on means-tested benefits by 2003.Shrinking the role of the state and cutting taxes are at the heart of the Conservatives’ agenda. Conservative policies will help people to be more independent of the state. The corollary is that with less government people will have to pay less taxation but they will have more to spend on the services they choose. He believes that people’s actions are increasingly justified or dictated by policies with which they must comply and the word ‘compliance’ encapsulates much of what is going wrong. Teachers, doctors, social workers, and people generally need more discretion so that their behaviour is driven by their values.

In contrasting the Conservative to the Labour approach to developing policies he said that while the latter strive for an all-encompassing consensus built on a vision of a new world order, the Conservatives would build from the bottom up to derive policy from the instincts and values of the people they represent, guided by their values. By avoiding the top down approach they would not be susceptible to the glamour of grand schemes and global solutions.

Charles Clark, Chairman of the Labour Party, said that the route map contained more questions than answers.