Friday, 25 January 2013

Exclusive: #thingselliottsays meets Douglas Carswell

Last night I had dinner with Douglas Carswell MP, not a romantic date but an event with the Conservatives. Indeed Douglas Carswell, who, in his own words, ‘will never be a member of the government’, was not at the meal but gave a speech and Q and A beforehand both I very much enjoyed. I have divided up the evening into two posts because it is interesting enough to do so. This first part is an abridged version of Douglas Carswell’s speech and the later will be his answer to questions given on the night.

I want to tell you what is good, bad and truly beautiful with the coalition government.

On the 7th of May 2010 I was focussed on the fantastic result I got from the good people of Clacton and hadn’t even looked at the bigger picture of the rest of Britain. On that day I got a call from the BBC asking for me to talk about the possibility of the Conservatives forming a coalition government (they wanted an angry right winger to decry the mention of a coalition). However, I said how positive this could be allowing the fusion of Conservative free market policy and liberal radicalism and reform. We both wanted a Great Repeal Bill, localism by devolving power to town halls and a bonfire of the QANGOs. The Lib Dems wanted a referendum on the EU and I thought this matched with Tory ideals. The Liberals also wanted political reform and so did the Conservatives. The coalition could have been a transformative government.

This is the case in some areas. Michael Gove has done well with free schools giving parents and teachers choice and what is most amazing is that the Liberal ministers agree with him. Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare reform has showed people on benefits in the long term it’s in their interest to work. For years we were known as the ‘nasty party’ for wanting to take benefits away but now Labour are on the wrong side of the debate.

However, there have not been many good things. The QANGO bonfire has gone out. Unelected officials have more control, QANGOs have more power. Elected mayors and police commissioners, although a good idea, were poorly implemented. Local councils have less autonomy with areas of their budget ring fenced by central government. Local policy sounds good but in the long term does us harm to councils as they will no longer want to lower taxes and spend less. Political reform has not materialised with no power of recall and open primaries. This is needed for safe seats with the example of 1 Labour MP who has not held a surgery for over 40 years showing this well. Instead political reform is bottom of the list with only a referendum on AV and House of Lords reform, which was ridiculous.

But the really depressing thing is the economic policy. The deficit is down but we are still accumulating debt. More debt will be accumulated under this government than under 13 years of Gordon Brown, peaking possibly at £1.5 trillion. On our watch government spending increased last year. This is ‘continuity Brown’ with treasury officials following his policies. We continue to slosh around cheap credit with quantatative easing creating no growth but inflation. Hollowed out zombie banks suffer from welfare dependency. The government has not addressed uncompetitiveness either despite them claiming we are the 15th most competitive country in the world. But government spends more than 40% of our GDP compared to Indonesia spending 15% and Brazil less than 20%. We need a new approach with supply side reform, this will be unpopular but it must be done. This government is very much like the 1970s. Then the Conservatives promised reform but it never came.

Now I move onto the beautiful. This week something happened which is game changing. The British get to choose over the EU. David Cameron is not negotiating with the Foreign Office officials or himself as before but the British people over our relationship with Europe. And we can say no to a renegotiated EU, we can leave. It will take a lot to convince me to stay but it’s not Douglas Carswell’s decision or David Cameron’s but the whole British people’s. This policy shows the coalition can do the right thing in the national interest.

There are two things that are essential for the Conservatives to win the General Election in 2015. Right wing European policy is vital to stop UKIP gaining 15% in some of our marginal seats. We must win on the economy too. The government is currently wrong as it is too willing to follow the Whitehall consensus and Nick Clegg. We must not be conservative in reform and achieve more with the free market and get rid of the oligarchy in government.

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