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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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.