Where’s Nanny? Tory leader tries a little tough love
Politics here has become quite addicted to managing our lives for us. Fat taxes, internet filters, incentives to have babies, disincentives to drink too much, bonuses for being green, you name it, a politician has promised it, and we’ve come to expect it.
But in the UK yesterday Conservative leader David Cameron pulled the trigger on a completely counter strategy, promising to not only leave Britons alone to run their own lives, but basically telling them to get off their sofas and start administering things themselves.
“Sack your MP, chose your own school, veto council tax rises, vote for your police commissioner, save the local post office - so many things to do.” Goodness, that sounds tiring.
In a great piece in the Herald Sun yesterday Bernard Salt talked about why we’ve not only allowed our governments indulge in nanny politics. He said we’re particularly prone during times of economic challenge to want state to tell us what to do.
What we need is a prescription from above so that we might be saved from eternal economic and environmental damnation. Here indeed is the perfect environment to support the rise of, or at least the development of, the nanny state. Nanny tells us what to do when we are scared and just a little bit frightened. Don’t worry, if everyone follows the rules we’ll all be OK. And it’s hard to argue with the logic of nanny’s ardent supporters: Look what happened at the end of the boom when there were no rules. Financial chaos. Keep on the straight and narrow and it’ll all be OK.
David Cameron disagrees, and with two new polls showing his lead over Labour’s Gordon Brown slipping, he made his pitch.
In his campaign launch at Battersea power station in South London Cameron basically challenged Britons to stop relying on “big government” and instead build a “big society.”
According to the Daily Mail “Citizen Dave” unveiled a 28,000-word manifesto “which he said offered a fundamental shift from one political philosophy for running Britain to another.”
Key pledges include allowing people to set up their own schools, block big council tax rises and to cut the number of MPs.
He repeatedly used the opening words of the U.S. Constitution - ‘we, the people’ - and echoed John F Kennedy’s famous call to arms as he declared: ‘Ask what you can do for your country, and yes, for your family and for your community, too.’
Mr Cameron used the phrase ‘we’re all in this together’ frequently, with 22 mentions of the word ‘together’, the word ‘people’ 41 times, and ‘change’ 19 times. He sought to frame his ‘big society’ vision as involving the most extensive devolution of power in a generation.
Other key manifesto measures included blocking next year’s rise in National Insurance using £6billion cut from wasteful spending.
There would be eight economic benchmarks to judge the success of a Tory government, including safeguarding Britain’s credit rating.
The number of MPs would be cut by 10 per cent and there would be a power for voters to sack those MPs guilty of serious wrongdoing.
Parents, charities and businesses would get the power to set up their own schools, there would be a community ‘right to bid’ to run post offices and the right for public sector workers to take over services.
The Mirror said the “power to the people” angle should really be translated as huge cuts to the public service.
Gordon Brown, went further, saying the Conservatives were “leaving people on their own to face the recession.”
Tony Abbott’s shown no sign of heading down this road, instead talking about things like taxing big business to fund a massively generous paid maternity leave scheme. And obviously it’s nowhere on the ALP’s agenda.
It will be interesting to see how the anti-big government campaign goes in the UK. Clearly we’re not ready to have our blankie ripped away from us but the grip of a Nanny state might start to wear thin soon.
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