If I were you David...

Ali Miraj, who was kicked off David Cameron's candidate A-list in July, imagines what he would do if

Ali Miraj, who was kicked off David Cameron's candidate A-list in July, imagines what he would do if he were Tory leader including going on a people management course

In an effort to put the difficulties of recent months behind me I intend to take the following steps:

First, I will shake up the Shadow Cabinet as follows. William Hague will be moved to Shadow Chancellor and made Deputy Leader. George Osborne will take up the role of Party Chairman.

This should not be seen as a demotion but rather as an indication that I wish my modernising agenda to be stamped on the party and the party should know that the George has my ear at all times.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind will be brought back to the front bench as Shadow Foreign Secretary. He is a man of huge experience and stature and boy do I need some of that.

David Davis will remain at the Home Office as he is doing a sound job. All members of the Shadow Cabinet will be confined to one outside interest as I cannot afford to carry part-timers. We must have, and be seen to have, a hunger for government. I can’t seem to find Lynton Crosby’s number but I will ask Michael Howard to get it for me as I want him to run the general election campaign. I will get my secretary Kate, to book me a people management course at Henley Business School so that I can avoid another Quentin Davies/Graham Brady situation arising.

Second, candidate selection will be reviewed. At my meeting with John Maples on Tuesday I decided that in future, no candidate will be allowed to stand for a marginal or safe seat unless they have previously fought a parliamentary election. If people want to become MPs, it is not unreasonable that they should serve their apprenticeship and show their commitment by fighting an unwinnable seat.

Conservative Associations in all remaining safe seats that become available between now and the end of the Parliament should be forced to select from a priority list of the top 50 candidates. This list will be made up on the basis of experience, commitment and talent. There will be no fixed proportion of women and ethnic minorities as it is clear that more than enough will make it on merit alone. As these vacancies arise, I will personally call the constituency Chairman to remind him/her of the responsibility the Association has to choose the best candidate for the job, not the one it feels most comfortable with.

Third, I will champion the idea of people having greater power over their own lives. To demonstrate my seriousness, I will not engage in rhetoric but will vigorously promote the introduction of citizens’ initiatives whereby any member of the public can promote a law and provided they manage to secure the necessary threshold of public support through a petition, the proposal will be put forward as a people’s bill as part of the Queen’s speech. A list of such people’s bills will be debated in each Parliamentary session. I will also call for greater use of referenda and will keep up the pressure on the Prime Minister to hold a referendum of the new European treaty and for another on whether English MPs should have the sole right to vote on English issues.

Fourth, the security of the nation will be my top priority. This will be achieved through two complementary means. On the one hand, a crackdown on preachers of hate within Britain and on the other, the pursuit of a sensible foreign policy that seeks to work with other nations and allows the rule of law, free speech and democracy to grow organically within countries rather than us trying to force these upon them. Part of our approach will be to ensure that all citizens understand what it means to be British and we will have no hesitation in engaging in intellectual battle with those who seek to undermine this great country of ours by preaching subversion.

Fifth, the NHS will be run properly. There will be no more talk of clients and customers. Respect for the doctor/patient relationship will be restored. There will be an end to deskilling whereby specific tasks are stripped out and performed by individuals who are not trained doctors. Treating human beings will never be akin to producing cars on a factory production line. A winning culture will be created through the introduction of performance related bonuses and responsibility will be clearly defined. The balance between Chiefs and Indians will be redressed.

Sixth, proper educational standards will be reintroduced. A-levels will once again be the gold standard of British education and AS levels will be scrapped. There will be no modular sitting of exams. The coursework element within subjects will be drastically reduced to a level of no more than 20% apart from specific exceptions such as design and technology which are labour intensive. School teachers will be allowed to impose discipline as they see fit and “golden hellos” will be paid to teachers who choose to work in the most challenging inner-city schools. All teachers will receive government assistance in obtaining housing close to their place of work that is affordable to buy and to run. The present government’s 50% target for children going to university will be abolished. The money saved from this will be redeployed into vocational training schemes which will be rigorous, demanding and will result in a nationally recognised qualification. Vocational standards and training programmes will be developed with the help of industry bodies.

Finally, I must finish reading Alistair Campbell’s, “The Blair Years” and console myself that although it is tough, I can still make it to number 10.

Ali Miraj has been a broadcaster and has stood twice as a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

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Mister Lizard is not at home to bailiffs – he is eating salmon pâté by the river

Why is it that when people answer the question “What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?” in the Guardian questionnaire they never say, “You’ve been served”?

Summer’s nearly over. I look at the angle of the sunlight as it strikes the back terrace of the Hovel. I have been here long enough to use the terrace as a gnomon marking the passage of the year. I need, like the protagonists of Withnail and I, to go to the countryside to rejuvenate.

Last week when the Perseids were meant to be in full flow I asked frantically on a social medium for people to chum me along on a midnight walk on Hampstead Heath. In the end my new friends A— and her husband, C—, together with his new friend (whose initial I have forgotten, but he is Australian, if that helps), stepped up to the plate and after a couple at the Flask we went on a wide-ranging tour, which was a bust as far as seeing meteors – or my favourite tree – went, but was still hugely enjoyable. At about 2 am they packed me into an Uber and I went home happy, but I still felt as if I could do with more countryside.

The next few days made me even more anxious to get out of London. There are ominous signs that some serious roadworks are going to be taking place outside my bedroom window any day now. A bailiff came and rang the doorbell and I didn’t have the heart, or the nerve, to say that Nicholas Lezard was not at home at the moment and, is, in fact, on a walking tour of Patagonia now I come to think of it, due back some time next year. I just took the piece of paper into my hands as if it were a chicken come home to roost.

The previous day, presumably the same bailiff had come round and asked if Mr Lizard was in, and my housemate gallantly – and quite truthfully – said “no”. (Why is it that when people answer the question “What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?” in the Guardian questionnaire they never say, “You’ve been served”? Maybe it’s because they haven’t ever been.) In addition, as I said last week, the cleaning lady is on holiday and the Hovel is starting to look distinctly seedy.

So, then I get a call from a person who once featured quite prominently in this column, some time ago. This person is bored and wants me to go to his or her town and alleviate his or her boredom. This person and I parted company in circumstances that were far from ideal some time ago, and only recently have diplomatic relations been resumed.

It is too late, I say, for me to get on the train now; but when I have reviewed the book I am meant to be reviewing, I will hop on the train tomorrow around noon. And so I do, despite some monkey business from the departures board at King’s Cross, which tells passengers the 12:44 has been cancelled, then hasn’t been, then has, then hasn’t after all, while the 12:14 has slipped away like a thief in the night without telling anyone it was doing so.

I wonder if my return to the town of ——— is wise. As a dog returneth to its vomit, so doth a fool return to his folly. And the burnt hand fears the fire. Look, I say to myself, all we’re doing is going to have a picnic by the river. As we buy our supplies, the stallholder at the market asks if I am my companion’s husband. “No, he’s my picnic buddy,” he or she replies. “Never heard it called that before,” says the stallholder.

And the day passes perfectly pleasantly. We have two bottles of wine, cheese and smoked salmon pâté with crusty bread. People in punts drift past us, with varying degrees of competence. I remember it is A-level results day and call the eldest boy to ask how he’s done. He’s done well enough, it turns out, to get a place at university, though he feels obliged to point out that his results came in exactly a year ago. This is the kind of thing that happens when the number of children you have exceeds your mental bandwidth.

Later on, a porter from the college behind which we are picnicking asks me if I am a member, or an alumni. “Alumnus,” I correct him gently, hoping that this should establish my credentials. He asks for my name, and he radios the porters’ lodge to check my veracity. For some reason it takes him several goes to get my name right.

One of these goes is “Lizard”. We offer him some cheese, but he refuses, on the grounds that he has just had a banana and a cup of tea. I could live in a guest room here, I reflect, at not much higher rent than one pays in London. And the beauty of it is that the police, and presumably bailiffs, have to ask permission to go through the gates. 

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser