Twentieth-century politics was dominated by the search for big ideas. We believe that, for the left, 21st-century politics should be about a sequence of small policy changes that add value to daily life and open doors to new ways of augmenting social capital.
The changes should be based on a theory of political compound interest. In education, security, transport, health and every other sphere of politics, we should try to make a tangible 5-10 per cent improvement each year. By the end of a full term of government, the compound effect could be transformative.
As MPs from different backgrounds and regions, we propose 50 small policies – 50 ideas for 50 weeks in a second term – which we think could add value to our nation, and prepare the ground for an enduring reformist programme of recovery and renewal. We don’t all agree with every item, but politics should not be reduced to lowest-common-denominator ideas.
1 Give legislative time for proposals that get one million signatures from the public (with parliament still having the final say).
2 Experiment with more proportional electoral systems in cities and big towns.
3 Bring in four-year, fixed-term parliaments.
4 Put peers on 12-year renewable contracts, with one-third of the Lords elected on a regional proportional representation basis.
5 Create a regional assembly, elected in the north-east, as part of a rolling programme of English regional devolution.
6 Allow local authorities to hypothecate (earmark) limited extra taxes for specific projects after local referendums.
7 Create European-style cabinets in ministries; institute regular cross-posting between departments.
8 Make at least five years’ experience in a foreign country and knowledge of one other language conditions of top civil service appointments.
9 Introduce a “sunset” clause for all ministries created since 1990, so that they have to justify their continued existence.
10 Appoint future EU commissioners on the basis of promise and youth, not seniority and achievement.
11 Allow regional development agencies to distribute Lottery cash on a per-capita need basis with a bias to poor regions.
12 Launch Channel Tunnel rail link bonds with free tickets for investors.
13 Bring in a system of contraflow bus and bicycle lanes in cities and big towns.
14 Look into the advantages of a 30-minute (8.30am-9am) period of no motor traffic – except for buses – in major cities.
15 Bring in a minimum motorway speed limit; raise the maximum to 130km/ph (the European norm); introduce a £20 annual motorway use fee; privatise road traffic police, and give them powers to fine speeding drivers on the spot (or lorries hogging the middle lane), or to send them to “sin bins” for between one and four hours.
16 Give the management of poverty-area schools to local universities.
17 Allow people who donate up to £400 to schools to deduct such donations from their taxable income.
18 Fund highly performing schools to expand by a new entry year.
19 Allow slow learners to repeat a year.
20 Introduce foreign-language teaching in primary schools.
21 Create national science competitions to solve specific problems.
22 Redirect local government support to reward regions that export, and reduce support for importing regions.
23 Impose a 5p tax on all non-returnable cans and bottles.
24 Legislate for information and consultation rights where a) trade unions merge to create one union for the industry or sector; b) agree to compulsory arbitration.
25 Set up a university venture capital fund to promote university-discovered patents via regional development agencies.
26 Change the planning laws so that planning decisions are given within four weeks for all schemes worth up to £100,000, four months for all up to £1m, and two years for all greater sums – with applicants bearing the full costs of hearings.
27 Make all commercial vehicles display prominently the name and address of owner.
28 Require all new housing developments to agree contracts for public services – schools, health centres, bus services, etc.
29 Require any commercial building of more than 10,000 square metres to provide a library as well as community IT services.
30 Include internet-access hardware for home as part of all telecom contracts.
31 Give free TV licences for pensioners; pay for this by privatising the licence fee agency.
32 Create a venture capital fund for any chamber of commerce that has 50 per cent of all local businesses in its membership.
33 To encourage charitable giving, donations will remain tax deductible, but tax will be returned to the individual donor rather than be reclaimed by the chariy.
34 Set up clinics linked to NHS hospitals offering walk-in, same-day operations for non-health-threatening conditions (subcutaneous cysts, varicose veins, etc) on payment of a fee.
35 Encourage low-cost optical, dental and medical payment schemes on a non-profit basis covering costs up to a maximum of £1,000 a year.
36 Build a new national airport on disused RAF/USAF airfields, with high-speed train access to London, Brussels and Paris.
37 Award all public building design contracts on the basis of open competition, outcomes decided by independent juries.
38 Create municipal police forces.
39 Make chief constables walk or bike the beat for four hours a month.
40 Create Ofpolice, to bring all police forces up to the level of the best.
41 Make noise pollution in public spaces an offence.
42 Introduce voluntary ID cards, which can be used as EU travel documents.
43 Campaign for the Europe-wide co-ordination of tobacco and alcohol duties.
44 Send out a pie chart to all taxpayers showing where income tax goes.
45 Hire a public sector leader from Sweden or the Netherlands to run a special civil service unit charged with getting teenage parenthood down to Continental levels.
46 Give tax credits for each marriage or registered partnership (including gay couples) successful for five years, and a tax credit for each child born within it.
47 Introduce compulsory training for all teenage fathers; give mothers the right to adjust their working hours around childcare.
48 Abolish the retirement age; create compulsory transferable contributory pension.
49 Tax all windfall or inflation-busting increases in property, land or house values.
50 Completely integrate national insurance into the tax system.
The writers are the Labour MPs for Rotherham, High Peak, and Sittingbourne and Sheppey, respectively.
This is the latest in a series of articles, prepared by the New Statesman and the Fabian Society, on ideas for a second Labour term