Opinion by Michael Fabricant MP
THATCHER WON THE BATTLE OF IDEAS
Andrew Marr, the former BBC chief political reporter and Guardian columnist, recently concluded in his political history of the 20th century, that we are all Thatcher’s children. Andrew Marr was right. After all, for months Brown tried every which way he could to avoid nationalising Northern Rock. The nationalisation only happened at great cost and as a last resort after every other rescue attempt failed. And neither Blair nor Brown have ever considered increasing trade union powers nor have entertained the notion of disarming our country. What a contrast to the Labour Party before Thatcher who won the battle of ideas.
So one might ask, ‘What now are the differences of ideology between British political parties?’
An answer is clearly emerging. The centralising ‘control freak’ mentality of New Labour not only applied to Tony Blair, but has been continued with gusto by Gordon Brown backed up by a politicised information service which tries to spin every initiative.
Conservatives believe quite the opposite: the need to trust and empower local people to make the decisions that count whether they be teachers, doctors, or local councillors.
A vivid example of centralising control has been the imposition of the so-called ‘eco towns’ which are to be constructed on command of national Government over unwilling local councils such as Stratford and Lichfield despite those councils having been elected as the planning authorities for the areas they serve. And the ‘spin’ and distortion surrounding the eco towns announcement is consistent with New Labour since 1997. Ministers say: "Revised housing numbers for local planning authorities are consistent with our national aim to deliver 240,000 homes per year by 2016. We expect eco towns to contribute significantly to help to meet those revised targets for additional housing."
Nothing could be further from the truth. If all 10 eco-towns are constructed, they will contribute less than one-third of one percent of the total Government housing target on an annual basis. And as building regulations specify all new house construction needs to be ecologically-friendly in any case, eco-towns are merely an excuse to ram through policy regardless of local conditions and the infrastructure required to support them. It is so telling that of the 15 areas being considered by Whitehall for eco-towns, all but three are being forced on Conservative controlled areas in order to placate furious Labour MPs.
Meanwhile, the unnecessary closure of our post offices also reflects Gordon Brown’s single-minded determination to drive through policy centrally – regardless of warnings he has received of the likely consequences. Three years ago when he was Chancellor, he was told by Conservatives and marketing experts that if pensioners and recipients of state benefits were forced to take out commercial bank accounts and no longer be allowed to collect their funds from post offices, it would result in massive closures. Gordon Brown bombastically claimed this would never happen. But the consequence has been just that: the planned closure of over two and a half thousand post offices following on from the recent closure of 3,600 outlets. Instead, Conservatives have said they would have made post offices one-stop shops for most local and national Government services.
And it has been the imposition by Gordon Brown of impossible and unfunded targets on local government that has driven up council tax to record heights. While I am no fan of Tony Blair, I am afraid I have to agree with the Labour’s Lord Desai when he said: "Gordon Brown was put on earth for but one purpose: to remind people how good Tony Blair was."