Gummer’s plan: A Non-Conservative Manifesto

I have just read the trailed highlights of John Gummer’s “Quality of Life” report, and I am hopping mad.  It reads like a joke caricature of a Non-Conservative Manifesto.  With Zac Goldsmith on the team, the ritual genuflection at the altar of climate hysteria was predictable, but it gets worse.  More taxes.  More complex tax allowances.  More regulation.  More quangoes.  More nanny-State.  All the things which we as Conservatives oppose.
New taxes: he wants a range of “green” taxes, on cars and on air transport.  But tax increases are wrong in principle.  Never mind the promises that total tax plans would be neutral.  If we want Britain to regain competitiveness we have to cut taxes.  Gummer threatens to undo all the good work of John Redwood’s competitiveness report.
More complex tax allowances: there are to be allowances for householders on council tax and/or stamp duty in exchange for energy-saving measures.  This is a minefield:  how do you reward the guy who double-glazes in 2008, without also rewarding the guy who did so in 2000?  We are piling on bureaucracy and administration.  But never mind the admin: it is wrong in principle.  George Osborne should be moving to lower taxes and simpler taxes; eliminating Gordon Brown’s complex, interventionist tax breaks; cutting tax allowances in favour of universal lower rates.  Gummer proposes a move in the wrong direction.  We Conservatives have to decide whether we’re supply-side tax-cutters, or socio-environmental tinkerers.
Then there’s what the Daily Telegraph calls “a blitz of new regulations”, aimed not only at domestic electrical appliances but also at supermarkets.  Of course the chattering classes love to vilify Tesco, but the fact is that most of us choose to shop there.  I’m in favour of small shops.  I’m delighted that specialist high-street retailers seem to be making a comeback, and that farmers’ markets are thriving.  I make a point of using my local high-street butcher as much as I can.  One of my neighbours is a dairy farmer, and I’m especially delighted that after years when he’s been selling milk below cost, the farm-gate price now seems to be heading north very smartly.    But Conservatives believe that the market should deliver these developments, not a whole new government regulatory framework.  We need a “Bonfire of the Regulations”, not John Gummer’s raft of new ones.
And a wholly new quango: a National Dietary Institution tasked with improving the nation’s nutrition, (as though a Food Standards Agency were not enough).  If the answer’s a new quango, we’re asking the wrong question.  A recent news story alleged, amazingly, that we are now paying £130 billion a year for quangoes.  Set against that background, it is bizarre that a Conservative Policy Group is calling for a new one.  We should be dismantling them, saving tens of billions, and applying it to tax cuts.  As a letter-writer to the press asked only today, surely if we want smaller government, it should cost less?  Yes it should.  This idea is the Nanny State run mad.
Gummer also wants to freeze airport development.  This will have a trivial effect on carbon emissions (the whole aviation industry accounts for only 2% of man-made emissions).  But the ensuing airport chaos will undermine the City of London’s position as a pre-eminent global financial centre, and indeed the competitiveness of our economy generally.  We expect Bob Crow of the railwaymen to undermine the City’s transport infrastructure.  We do not expect the Conservative Party to do so as well.
On top of this toxic witches’ brew of policy prescriptions, Gummer proposes a series of pinprick initiatives which will have virtually no impact in the real world, but will certainly infuriate the Essex-girl/Mondeo-man C1/C2 voters whom we desperately need to get on-side.  Parking charges at supermarkets, with the proceeds to public transport (hang on there — that’s not a charge, it’s a new tax!).  A ban on plasma screen TVs.  Higher taxes on the holiday flight to Benidorm.  £2000 extra tax on a 4×4.  If this is bad policy, it’s even worse politics, with an election in the offing.
Amidst all the dross, though, Gummer has one good idea.  He is concerned about food security in a dangerous and unpredictable world, and believes we should promote something closer to self-sufficiency in British agriculture.  That’s not a bad idea.  But he seems to have missed the point that our agriculture policy is determined in Brussels, not Westminster, so all the good intentions in the world will not allow an in-coming Conservative government to do much about it.
I became a Conservative, joined the Party, stood as a Conservative candidate, and sit as a Conservative MEP because I believe in lower taxes, simpler taxes, less regulation, fewer quangoes, the ending of the Nanny-State (and regaining control of our own agriculture, as it happens).  I’m afraid that Gummer is wrong, wrong, wrong.


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11 Responses to Gummer’s plan: A Non-Conservative Manifesto

  1. Chad Noble says:

    Well said. The Cameroons are becoming almost beyond satire.

  2. Well to be fair, not so much the Cameroons as Gummer and Goldsmith!

  3. Geoff M says:

    Spot on Roger, but it is the Cameroons too.
    See Cameron’s insistence in the Telegraoh Q&A that he will inflict “green” taxes on us, and Osborne’s love of the fuel duty escalator (see here):

    All Brown has to do is to highlight these commitments, himself show a bit of restraint vis-a-vis “green” taxation, and the next election will be a NuLabour landslide.

  4. Jorgen says:

    I agree that those two are and have always been nutters. But Cameron is responsible for all these non-Conservative policies and a big nanny too.

  5. Simon says:

    I have just been listening to your comments on Radio 4, and I am concerned that you use such a public forum to air any concerns that you have. There are millions of people in this country who are “hopping mad” with the Labour party and want a strong alternative to their lies, spin and short-term opportunism. Please use any opportunities you get with the media to support the positive message of a strong united, forward thinking Conservative party. Do not pick at this minor think tank proposal and that. Be clever. If they (the media) are trying to get you to be controversial in order to get their soundbite – be a politician, and emphasise that you are wholeheatedly behind the main themes and objectives of the report, and why not say “as part of the open nature of the Conservative party I’ll be discussing some of the fine details of the report with Dave”? And if you have any issues, take them up with the leadership. Your approach plays straight into the hands of those at Labour HQ. I want a Conservative Government. Please help.

  6. David says:

    Power at any price? Surely as this is a group coming up with ideas which ARE NOT party policy anyone should have the right to take issue with the proposals!

  7. Roger Helmer says:

    I have great sympathy with Simon’s comments. I try to be as positive as I can. I have said good things about the IDS, Redwood and Dorrell reports. In this case I congratulated DC on distancing himself and the Party from one of Gummer’s most damaging ideas.

    But my bottom line is that I am a Conservative, and when I hear supposed Conservatives proposing down-right anti-Conservative ideas, I’m afraid I have to challenge them — as have the Tax Payers’ Alliance, Conservative Home and a number of serious players in industry.

    Let’s get it right when we can. But when we get it wrong, as in this case, let’s put it right ASAP. The public need to hear Conservative voices rejecting some of these daft ideas before they decide that they’re Conservative policy.

  8. Malcolm Edward says:

    Well said Roger !!

  9. Richard Hyslop says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. We need tax cuts not tax hikes. It is all very well the likes of Gummer and Goldsmith proposing car parking charges at supermarkets, extra taxes on holidays, extra taxes on 4X4 viechles etc as they are very wealthy and can easily afford to pay them. How will these policies go down with the already heavily taxed general public? What about the rural communities who have no choice but to drive to the supermarket or to have a 4X4? Why should hard working people be punished just because they want to have one holiday in Spain each year?

    You can’t force people to chnage the way they live. All that will happen with these proposals if they are ever put into practice is that people will just pay the extra costs and once again we will all be poorer as a nation and less happy. So much for quality fo life!

  10. righty right wing says:

    Ahhh, John Gummer.

    I still remember him force feeding beef burgers to his grand-daughter as BSE took hold.

    I often wonder how she faired after her bovine mastications in front of the press.

    As with Neo Labour, the Green Tory Taliban can have my car when they have enough troops back from their “hearts & minds” activities abroad to relinguish my control of it.

  11. Bob Paul says:

    The UK’s top climatologists predict that aviation’s emissions alone are predicted to exceed the government’s target for the country’s entire output of greenhouse gases in 2050 by around 134%. (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research)

    Emissions from aircraft are especially problematic because of the height at which they are emitted and the particularly noxious mix of gases, making them 2.7 times more damaging than the effect of their carbon dioxide alone (known as radiative forcing). (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research)

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