I’m not making this up, honest


6:21 pm - February 4th 2010

by Don Paskini    


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“Steve Hilton, though, remains the third most important man in the party behind Cameron and Osborne…Those who are close to him are phenomenally loyal, praising him as invigorating and inspirational.

“But his ideas are often so concentrated that they need to be diluted.

“For a while, Hilton argued that Cameron’s first Queen’s Speech should contain no bills, to show that the Tories did not think legislation was the answer to the country’s problems.”

I’m not making this up.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Humour ,Westminster

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Reader comments


1. Rowan Davies

Wow. That is some vibrant and pivotal thinking right there.

No wonder there was a whispering campaign against him.

We need the Tories to do more of this “blue sky thinking” please!

Oh they have got millions of bills they intend to ram through, they just don’t want to tell the public about them.

I know a number of people who would like, with tongues not so firmly in cheeks, Parliament to sit for the first year in committees and as a grand committee with the express aim of a giant repeal bill at the end of the first year – the only other act being a Finance Act.

There is much wrong with the way in which the guillotine has been abused over the last 12 years (since it began to be used routinely by Labour for Government bills) and that has resulted in laws being joked about by lawyers as being ‘press releases strung together’ rather than for a specific purpose.

Many Acts over the last 12 years contain provisions that are subsequently repealed, never brought into force and which have never been debated or even discussed by those promoting them. The effect on Criminal Justice has been extraordinary – with even the Police being unsure as to what the latest position is.

Whilst I understand that Mr Paskani’s point is made as a pointed joke, the reality is that there is a serious problem with the manner in which Labour has legislated over the last 12 years – and the mess will have to be dealt with at some point.

While a law impeaching Blair for war crimes is tempting, I seriously doubt that more new legislation is necessary to sort out the challenging priorities of the NHS, achieve better management of children at risk, reduce crime on the streets and untangle defence procurement or cut the fiscal deficit.

And I don’t see how new laws will enable more 16 year-olds to reach the benchmark of 5 GCSE subjects at A*-C grades, including maths and English. But I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

Issues where new regulation or legislation look to be necessary are a new framework for better control of the financial system, sorting out the expenses of MPs and Peers, and electoral reform so that the composition of Parliament bears a closer relationship to the way the electorate votes.

“For a while, Hilton argued that Cameron’s first Queen’s Speech should contain no bills, to show that the Tories did not think legislation was the answer to the country’s problems.”

Hey.

Extend that to the terrm of the parliament and he’s got my vote.

“Extend that to the terrm of the parliament and he’s got my vote.”

What would then hold the government and ministers to account, functions of Parliament we used to regard as important elements of our constitution until Blair marginalised Parliament and moved towards his Presidential style?

Try Clare Short on what became of Cabinet Government during Blair’s premiership:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/02/clare-short-chilcot-iraq-blair

7. Bob B. We need successful people to become mps who have no interest in becoming ministers. Their experience will mean they have some common sense and the whips will not be able to bribe them with becoming ministers or pleasant trips overseas. These mps will be able to hold the execeutive to account as they have the experience to see through the drivel and will not be able to be bribed.

As the Speccie says, this is a bit too ‘concentrated’. But the point stands: we’ve had a ba case of legislative diarrhoea for the past 13 years – semi-digested bills pouring out in a noisome flood. A bit more roughage in the parliamentary system would be a damned good thing.

Bob B @ 7

What would then hold the government and ministers to account?

Surely Parliament would have MORE time to hold the executive to account if it were not occupied with new legislation?

Hilton has a point – though being an adman he wants to keep focused on the presentational even when the campaign’s fought and won.

What might be more sensible would be a pledge that for every new bill the Tories introduce, a minimum of three will be repealed.

@10: “Surely Parliament would have MORE time to hold the executive to account if it were not occupied with new legislation?”

That’s self-evidently true in theory although I worry about necessary and sufficient conditions. But there are crucial issues to sort out which require new legislation and regulation, such as a new stability framework for the financial system if George Osborne is serious about moving regulation of the banks from the FSA back to the Bank of England. There is also the related question of whether the Bank of England is to be empowered to deflate asset-price bubbles, as Lord Turner has proposed:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d2bf7a9c-0b4c-11df-9109-00144feabdc0,dwp_uuid=91d7b52e-0527-11df-a85e-00144feabdc0.html

Gordon Brown has put electoral reform on the political agenda and something will have to be done about the scandal of MPs’ expenses since MPs are manifestly incapable of self-regulation.

Besides all that, an incoming Conservative government is already committed to urgent repeal of the law banning hunting with dogs and also to the grossly mistaken notion that installing elected mayors will revitalise local government. If a Conservative health minister is going to make decisions about which pharmaceuticals and treatments the NHS can afford instead of NICE, that too will require legislation.

I know Blair was obsessed about inventing new crimes and pushing new Criminal Justice Bills through Parliament but it’s a naive fantasy to believe that new legislation is unnecessary, even legislation essential to introduce the very policy changes the Conservatives are already committed to. Obviously, Steven Hilton doesn’t quite understand the set up, which is really worrying if he is regarded as the resident genius in Conservative Central Office. Where do they get those clowns from?

What policies does a Conservative government propose for the Crossrail project in London, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, sorting out defence procurement and making a decision on whether to renew the Trident missile system, providing new runway capacity around London to cater for the rising demand for air travel, promoting a switch from air to rail travel for internal domestic journeys and increasing the supply of affordable housing?

I distinctly remember similar questions being asked in the run up to the 97 election when the basic NuLab manifesto pledge was “We’re not the tories”. Nu labour started the era of conviction-free politics, they can hardly complain that the opposition are indulging in it too.

@12

Wrong.

There is/were plenty of things wrong with “the Project”, but at least they had bloody policies* by this point – unlike the uberPR merchant Cameron.

*Whether or not they achieved them is of course a different matter…

Wot no legislation needed to mend Britain’s “broken society”?

Maybe not. The Economist out today (5 February) does a demolition job on Cameron’s claim that “society” in Britain is broken:

“It has become fashionable to say that British society is in a mess and getting worse. It isn’t”:
http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15452811

– with a longer brief including detailed analysis and graphs here:
http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15452867

The outcome is that Cameron is left looking rather silly, hysterical and ignorant.

As best I can make out there are no subscription barriers to accessing the above links.

On a personal note, I’m unclear as to what “society” refers to and still think that the late Professor Sprott was correct:

“the first question – ‘What is a society?’ is that it is a figment of the imagination. . . The fact is that in physics and chemistry you start with lumps of matter; you then analyse things into their chemical elements, into different combinations of entities, protons and the like. Far from being directly acquainted with the elements, it is not unknown for philosophers to question the existence of them. Equally nonsensical is it to say that we have a direct acquaintance with society. We do not. We have direct acquaintance only with people interacting, ie the elements of society, in so far as as it exists at all, is constituted. So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination. But we do in fact have in our minds models of the society in which we live. You can, if some foreigner asks questions about your society, refer to your model – not a very clear one perhaps; ‘scheme’ would be a better word in use. But you have some sort of model with its political system, economic system, legal system, religious system class system and so on. You have some sort of model in your mind of the society in which you live and, if you go abroad, you prepare a model which you hope will correspond in some sort of way with the society they happen to have.”
[Source: “Society: what is it and how does it change?” from The Educational Implications of Social and Economic Change (HMSO 1967), reprinted in: DF Swift (ed): Basic Readings in the Sociology of Education (Routledge, 1970)]

Hilton’s point is that we have had too much legislation in recent years and the quality of that legislation has been poor. He is absolutely right that a radical slow down in the rate of production of new legislation would make a good deal of sense.

Evan Price is right that spending the first year in committee coming up with a properly thought through and thoroughly researched, consulted and agreed Great Repeal would be an excellent idea.

It is also worth bearing in mind that parliament is expecting a huge influx of new MPs at the election – perhaps 50% of the house will be new. A minimal legislative programme would allow the new intake to find their feet and their voice, make alliances with kindred spirits and so on rather than simply being trooped though the lobbies by the whips.

Nonetheless, there would probably be a few things that you’d simply have to do. Thus, Steve Hilton’s idea is a good one but requires a little dilution – which was precisely the Speccie’s point.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Samuel Tarry

    RT @libcon: I'm not making this up, honest http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  3. sunny hundal

    We need more of Steve Hilton, not less! RT @libcon: I'm not making this up, honest http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  4. Labour List

    RT @pickledpolitics: We need more of Steve Hilton, not less! RT @libcon: I'm not making this up, honest http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  5. Jon Beech

    Turns out I'm a closet Tory: not a big fan of legislation either (via @libcon) http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  6. Two Seven Two

    Libertarianism goes off the deep end? RT @libcon I'm not making this up, honest http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  7. Elly M

    Good grief. RT @libcon: I'm not making this up, honest http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  8. novocastrianrob

    Steve Hilton, Cameron's top adviser, is a nutter. The evidence is in – http://bit.ly/9wXfBv

  9. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by twoseventwo: Libertarianism goes off the deep end? RT @libcon I’m not making this up, honest http://bit.ly/9wXfBv





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