How to win votes and alienate people? — June 25, 2012

How to win votes and alienate people?

*This post is focused solely on David Cameron’s “plans post-2015” on housing benefit, not all his welfare reform speech*

There can be no doubt that David Cameron’s speech today on welfare reform shows how worried he is about his political life-span. It was a cry for help from the Tory right; a pledge to attack the “entitlement culture” in Britain; and the first sign of desperation from the normally perfectly assured Conservative leader.

Cameron is lost. Politically he doesn’t know where he stands, so he has done what any Conservative leader would do and has attacked welfare recipients, but crucially, YOUNG welfare recipients. He is seeking to perpetuate the myth that under-25s are lazy and feckless. We are far from it.  Why is he doing this? To win back the traditional Tory vote. His plan to slash housing benefits for under-25s (and save £1.8bn) is a perfect example of “conservatism”, it is a vote winner. Here’s the real killer, the vote he’s winning here is the over-60s vote, the key voting age (in terms of actual numbers). There is no doubt about it, cutting housing benefits for under-25s is the beginning of a vote winning series of policies from the Conservatives. Come 2015, they could be election winning policies.

The problem is, they are terrible policies. Ill-thought out, ill-timed and irresponsible. Anybody up for another round of omnishambles?

One million young people are unemployed, how is taking away £90 per week (on average) in housing benefit going to help young people? Removing housing benefit from anybody retrospectively is cruel. It is not the claimants fault that the Government’s expenditure has gotten out of hand, it is the Governments. On the one hand, the Government has said in the past ‘You clearly need financial help with housing, and we will provide £x to cover this based on your needs.’ They then turn around and say ‘People think you receive too much, we need their votes, so, sorry, but we’re taking it away, you probably still need £x, but oh well. Votes are more important than your housing benefit.’

The last Government and some of our pensioners are responsible for excessive spending and a housing bubble, which forced the average price of a home in the UK to over £225,000. Does David Cameron really think that the majority of under-25s can afford a 40% deposit? His idea is crazy.

The Government should be relaxing planning laws, and encouraging private enterprise to increase the housing stock in the UK. We need more affordable homes, with low interest rates businesses should be confident to invest, but our red-tape stands in their way.

Of course, there are disincentives within our welfare system that need to be tackled, but Cameron and the Tory-right are hoping that if they shout loudly enough and for long enough, people will believe them that benefit claimants are the scourge of this country. People are on benefits because they require financial help, not simply to “sponge” off the Government.  How about for once, we actually clamp down on tax evasion, instead of always focusing on demonising benefit claimants.

We spend £5bn on the universal benefit of a free bus pass for pensioners. Why not make that means tested and save the £2bn there, instead of attacking the next generation? Oh, because pensioners vote. How very cynical of you…

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A Liberal Future For The NHS. — February 8, 2012

A Liberal Future For The NHS.

Those crying out for Andrew Lansley to be sacked and the for the NHS bill to be dropped have my full support. But who, and potentially what will come next will really get them worried. If Cameron does bite the bullet and relieves Lansley of his post, there’s only one man for the job, and that man will give the NHS lovers real nightmares.

Of course I am talking about David Laws. Friends and followers will know I’m a big fan of David Laws’ ideology so this will come as no surprise. I think we should drop this piecemeal NHS reform bill and introduce a radical National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as described by David Laws in the Orange Book.

The NHS is almost untouchable in UK politics, its taboo to even talk about reforming it. And yet, it has many flaws that everybody is well aware off, long waiting times, cancelled appointments, endless tiers of bureaucracy are faults that nobody can deny. Yes the NHS is a bastion of free health-care to all at the point of access, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it even better.

The NHIS would be compulsory for every UK citizen. People would be able take insurance out in the NHS, the private sector, or the not for profit sector, allowing for the first time, real competition in the UK’s health-care market.

Insurers would have to accept any applicant, regardless of risk, and every year patients would be allowed to change providers.

All schemes would have to have the same maximum charge for all mainstream services, but additional charges are allowed for extra services or amenities on request, meaning that anybody still wanting to go private (in the sense we know it now) could do so. The state would pay the annual charge for the mainstream services. These points make sure that health-care remains free at the point of access to all.

NHIS would be paid for by altering the tax system in the UK. Currently we have income and national insurance as personal taxes. These would be altered and then a NHIS tax would be included. Crucially the taxes would remain progressive, further enshrining real fairness into the system.

The job of the Secretary of State for Health would be to make sure that independent regulators were doing their job properly. Their role would be to calculate the maximum levy charged by all insurers, and publish performance results of insurers.

Politicians would no longer have to worry about the political graveyard that is the NHS, it would cease to have any influence over it, ensuring that health-care in the UK was dictated by the patients, not politicians.

The scheme is a great idea, it imparts real competition in the health-care service, whilst enshrining fairness at its core. It is a true liberal vision for the future.