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

Daily Mail
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Who "speaks for England" - and for that matter, what is "England"?

The Hollywood producer Sam Gold­wyn once demanded, “Let’s have some new clichés.” The Daily Mail, however, is always happiest with the old ones.

The Hollywood producer Sam Gold­wyn once demanded, “Let’s have some new clichés.” The Daily Mail, however, is always happiest with the old ones. It trotted out Leo Amery’s House of Commons call from September 1939, “Speak for England”, for the headline on a deranged leader that filled a picture-free front page on David Cameron’s “deal” to keep Britain in the EU.

Demands that somebody or other speak for England have followed thick and fast ever since Amery addressed his call to Labour’s Arthur Greenwood when Neville Chamberlain was still dithering over war with Hitler. Tory MPs shouted, “Speak for England!” when Michael Foot, the then Labour leader, rose in the Commons in 1982 after Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands. The Mail columnist Andrew Alexander called on Clare Short to “speak for England” over the Iraq War in 2003. “Can [Ed] Miliband speak for England?” Anthony Barnett asked in this very magazine in 2013. (Judging by the 2015 election result, one would say not.) “I speak for England,” claimed John Redwood last year. “Labour must speak for England,” countered Frank Field soon afterwards.

The Mail’s invocation of Amery was misconceived for two reasons. First, Amery wanted us to wage war in Europe in support of Hitler’s victims in Poland and elsewhere and in alliance with France, not to isolate ourselves from the continent. Second, “speak for England” in recent years has been used in support of “English votes for English laws”, following proposals for further devolution to Scotland. As the Mail was among the most adamant in demanding that Scots keep their noses out of English affairs, it’s a bit rich of it now to state “of course, by ‘England’. . . we mean the whole of the United Kingdom”.

 

EU immemorial

The Mail is also wrong in arguing that “we are at a crossroads in our island history”. The suggestion that the choice is between “submitting to a statist, unelected bureaucracy in Brussels” and reclaiming our ancient island liberties is pure nonsense. In the long run, withdrawing from the EU will make little difference. Levels of immigration will be determined, as they always have been, mainly by employers’ demands for labour and the difficulties of policing the borders of a country that has become a leading international transport hub. The terms on which we continue to trade with EU members will be determined largely by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels after discussions with unelected bureaucrats in London.

The British are bored by the EU and the interminable Westminster arguments. If voters support Brexit, it will probably be because they then expect to hear no more on the subject. They will be sadly mistaken. The withdrawal negotiations will take years, with the Farages and Duncan Smiths still foaming at the mouth, Cameron still claiming phoney victories and Angela Merkel, François Hollande and the dreaded Jean-Claude Juncker playing a bigger part in our lives than ever.

 

An empty cabinet

Meanwhile, one wonders what has become of Jeremy Corbyn or, indeed, the rest of the shadow cabinet. The Mail’s “speak for England” leader excoriated him for not mentioning “the Number One subject of the hour” at PM’s Questions but instead asking about a shortage of therapeutic radiographers in the NHS. In fact, the NHS’s problems – almost wholly caused by Tory “reforms” and spending cuts – would concern more people than does our future in the EU. But radiographers are hardly headline news, and Corbyn and his team seem unable to get anything into the nation’s “any other business”, never mind to the top of its agenda.

Public services deteriorate by the day, George Osborne’s fiscal plans look increasingly awry, and attempts to wring tax receipts out of big corporations appear hopelessly inadequate. Yet since Christmas I have hardly seen a shadow minister featured in the papers or spotted one on TV, except to say something about Trident, another subject that most voters don’t care about.

 

Incurable prose

According to the Guardian’s admirable but (let’s be honest) rather tedious series celeb­rating the NHS, a US health-care firm has advised investors that “privatisation of the UK marketplace . . . should create organic and de novo opportunities”. I have no idea what this means, though it sounds ominous. But I am quite certain I don’t want my local hospital or GP practice run by people who write prose like that.

 

Fashionable Foxes

My home-town football team, Leicester City, are normally so unfashionable that they’re not even fashionable in Leicester, where the smart set mostly watch the rugby union team Leicester Tigers. Even when they installed themselves near the top of the Premier League before Christmas, newspapers scarcely noticed them.

Now, with the Foxes five points clear at the top and 7-4 favourites for their first title, that mistake is corrected and the sports pages are running out of superlatives, a comparison with Barcelona being the most improbable. Even I, not a football enthusiast, have watched a few matches. If more football were played as Leicester play it – moving at speed towards their opponents’ goal rather than aimlessly weaving pretty patterns in midfield – I would watch the game more.

Nevertheless, I recall 1963, when Leicester headed the old First Division with five games to play. They picked up only one more point and finished fourth, nine points adrift of the league winners, Everton.

 

Gum unstuck

No, I don’t chew toothpaste to stop me smoking, as the last week’s column strangely suggested. I chew Nicorette gum, a reference written at some stage but somehow lost (probably by me) before it reached print.

Editor: The chief sub apologises for this mistake, which was hers

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle