Having given an overview of Britain's current ills, Peter Hitchens writes:
How to address this? The proper conservative has to be modest about what can be done, how fast it can be done, and remember that there are strong limits on a lawful government.
In those terms, this is a "proper conservative" country which accordingly used to have three "proper conservative" parties, but which now has none.
Many of these problems are so deep, and excite such strong feelings, that he must also be careful not to create passions which get out of control and which he cannot satisfy. Much of the problem lies in the consciences of individuals and will not be fixed until and unless a new John Wesley appears, who can find some way of remoralising a population that is at least as demoralised as it was in the 18th century. (One rather alarming possibility is that such a figure will appear, and he will be a Muslim, which should concentrate our minds).
I think that this is highly likely. Islam is already spreading like wildfire among Afro-Caribbean youth, and if the number of Muslims in the White British ethnic group alone (already well over sixty thousand) grew by an improbably small fifty per cent every ten years, then by 2100 there would be over a million of them. Now imagine that it grew by a possibly over-large, but nevertheless much more realistic, one hundred per cent every ten years: by 2100, there would be nearly 23 million of them. The truth is somewhere in the middle, but much closer to the latter figure than to the former given both the rapidly rising rate of conversions, and the birth rate to converts (including the all but legalised practice of polygamy: the benefit system now pays out specifically for polygamous partners). Yet that is just the White British section of British Muslims, a small minority of the total.
But a lot of what is necessary is the removal of obstacles which prevent people from living as they would like to, and as they ought. This must, in my view, begin with the reassertion of national legal independence, the right to make and enforce our own laws for ourselves. That means an unequivocal commitment to negotiate, as swiftly as possible, an amicable departure from the European Union. In my view, the majority of the population oppose EU rule over this country in practice - that is, they are angered and frustrated by their individual encounters with it. But they often do not realise that it is the EU that is responsible. The existence of a large and obviously responsible and coherent political party which advocates EU withdrawal would make that connection. One of the main reasons for a reluctance to favour departure is that voters see the leaders of the major parties united in favour of EU membership, and assume that they know something we don't. Not since Hugh Gaitskell has any significant or credible party leader taken a position in favour of national independence. Had any done so, support for departure would be much higher than it is. Level headed, unhysterical leadership, untainted by fake Churchillian rhetoric and linked to a serious programme on other issues, could quite easily climb over this barrier. It must, in any case, if it is to achieve anything.
Parliament could, by a stroke of the pen, legislate to restore the supremacy of British over EU law, to use this to restore Britain's historic fishing rights, that no EU law should apply in the United Kingdom without having gone through exactly the same parliamentary process as if it were a Bill which had originated in either of of our own Houses, that British Ministers are to adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard, for the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice by resolution of the House of Commons (giving this country the same level of independence as is rightly enjoyed by Germany through her Constitutional Court), and for the non-application of any ruling under either the Human Rights Act or the European Convention on Human Rights unless and until ratified by such a resolution. If Parliament does not so legislate, then there is simply no point in having it.
One possible method would be to set out a programme, on issues across the whole area where the EU decides our laws, and to pursue each issue to the European Court of Justice to demonstrate the powerlessness of a British parliament inside the EU. And to behave at all times as if we were independent, and to draw noisy attention to the barriers which prevent us from being so. This would certainly educate the public, but it might also frustrate them and use valuable time. I think it should be the keystone of the manifesto, and that it should be explained why it had to be.
An admirable idea. Who will take it up?
The issue on which this is clearest is that of control of our own borders, our own right to decide who lives here. Nobody who claims to be serious can really argue that we should not have this right - though there can be much disagreement over how we should exercise it. There is no more fundamental or decisive security barrier against the threats we currently fear. There is no basis for a reconsideration of our immigration policy without an absolute control of our frontiers.
The restoration of a British passport, and of a British citizenship giving an absolute right of entry and residence, seems to me to be a simple and clear illustration of what independence means, what you cannot have without it, and what you can have if you regain it.
That "absolute right" should extend to all Her Majesty's subjects, from whichever of Her Majesty's Realms and Territories. We currently grant unrestricted access to those from the EU, The White Man's Club, even if they are ageing Luftwaffe pilots or members of the Waffen SS, and even if they were, until as late as 1991, senior officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But not to our own kith and kin (entirely regardless of colour). How despicable.
That is why both these issues should be prominent. Labour has long dreaded the existence of a party that could convincingly and respectably make this case, since large numbers of its current (and former) voters feel very strongly about this matter.
For that reason, the rest of the initial manifesto should bear in mind that it is the less well-off, the people living in the abandoned cities of the industrial areas or in the marginal suburbs, who may well be the main supporters of social conservatism. The old Tory upper middle class of independent professionals, educated at traditional schools and universities, has largely ceased to exist. There are middle class conservatives, but my guess is that they are these days at least equalled in numbers by middle class liberals and left-wingers - protected by affluence from many of the social consequences of left-wing policies.
Of course, such people are not really "left-wing" at all. The rest is spot on.
So the rest of the first programme should be aimed very clearly at helping the strivers, the responsible, the thrifty, the ones on the frontier. That means a series of simple measures on crime. They include the immediate repeal of the laws which prevent the police from patrolling effectively on foot, especially PACE 1984, and measures - probably based on budget allocations - putting severe pressure on chief constables to put their officers on such patrols by day and night.
Yes, Yes, Yes!
Longer term measures, like the breaking up of unwieldy large forces into smaller, truly local ones, would have to wait until a reform of local government in general, central to a revival of proper civic life, but necessarily a second-rank issue.
But must be done quite quickly, all the same.
The prison regime should also be reformed, and once again based on the old principle of 'due punishment of responsible persons', so that punishment, in the form of arduous labour, deprivation of luxuries and comforts etc, could once again take place in prison, with facilities such as TV sets and pool tables available only as a reward for long-term good behaviour. The legal position of prison officers would have to be altered, so that their authority, and ability to exercise it, is restored. Remission and early release should once again be dependent entirely on good behaviour, and never automatic.
Yes, Yes, Yes!
Penal policy on drugs should concentrate on possession, not on supply. Possession should be dealt with by a caution for a first offence, and three months imprisonment for a second. Effectively enforced, such a law should sharply reduce drug use and the criminal activities linked with it.
Yes, Yes, Yes!
Schools should all have their ability to discipline pupils restored. How far could we go in this? Personally I think corporal punishment would be hard to restore in the existing climate, but an absolute power of expulsion, probably to special schools with the power to detain unruly pupils at evenings and weekends, might be an effective alternative. In all such measures, we should seek for ingenuity and subtlety rather than crudity. A good example of this is Norman Tebbit's measures to control the trades unions. Rather than threats of prison, or stripping away privileges, the laws used a sort of judo. The unions' legal immunities were guaranteed - provided they introduced strike ballots and fair elections for their leaders, controlled unofficial strikes and ceased secondary pickets.
Well, I'm all for the professions protecting their standards, and I don't see why the trades shouldn't have been allowed to do the same, or shouldn't be allowed to do the same again. But Hitchens is right about schools.
As for the schools themselves, education reform should concentrate on ensuring a good basic education for the children of those who cannot afford private fees or postcode selection - and should be presented as such. This means the return of selection by merit on the German model, and the establishment, for the moment only in areas now blighted by bad comprehensives, of a first generation of new grammar schools whose aim is unequivocally to benefit the poor. This would obviously require serious reforms of the feeder primary schools, and would necessarily the construction of new technical and vocational schools of high standard, for those who did not qualify for an academic secondary education.
Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes....
No pledges, in my view, should be made for tax cuts at this stage. A society so heavily dependent on welfare needs to be weaned off it, and reformed so that it actually desires to come off it.
The Welfare State is a key weapon in defending all that conservatives wish to conserve, against the ravages of the "free" market. But Hitchens is right that there is nothing inherently conservative about cutting taxes: it all depends on what the money is for.
And gosh, is that the time? I have got almost nowhere and spent much of the day doing it. Imagine what it would be like getting even this modest programme through a sharply-divided Parliament in, say, four years. I hope for your interested criticisms and contributions.
As do I.