The next Prime Minister will likely get bogged down by all the bribing promises they have made to keep the different individuals and factions of the Conservative Party on their side. We all know that you can't please everyone, and trying to will make it a difficult, if not impossible road to navigate going forward. But that is perhaps one of the weaknesses or costs or even strengths of democracy.
Great leaders' bring backbone to stiffen feint hearts, simplicity to complexity and clarity of vision to foggy thinking.
Our nation is having a turbulent time and is in unchartered waters. We have suffered seismic events unexpectedly thrown upon us, namely Brexit, Covid and Putin's aggressive war on Ukraine, not to mention a dozen other uncertainties lurking in the unknown, including the spectre of China. These influences have combined to negatively affect our finances, which means that everyone will suffer, and we will all have to tighten our belts. Union members included. Energy prices are rising, and we are all going to suffer.
Briefly, on this point, it is totally unreasonable and very selfish for trade unions to call strikes under the pretext that they require inflationary wage rises. That is the attitude of "I am alright, Jack - screw everyone else". It is an outdated thought process and can not be allowed to stand. We are all in this together and need to share the pain and remain united - and we will come out of this. You only have to look back to the 1970s to see the dismal result of union strikes. Everyone was worse off, particularly the unions, and their only success was turning the whole country into the basket case of Europe.
Ironically, it was joining the EU that saved our bacon and set us on the road to prosperity. That and the clear, tough visionary leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Love her or loath her; she was instrumental in saving the UK and our standing in the world. She rejuvenated our vigour, our confidence and our economy.
I am no macro-economist, but one thing needs to be understood by our population at large; there is no money-tree in 11 Downing street. It is our money - we pay it, and it comes from our taxes. From individuals, from companies and taxes on goods that we consume. So when any group of individuals starts feeling entitled to more - remember you are taking from everyone else. Of course, it is a balance, and it is not always as fair as it could or should be - but life isn't. We live in a capitalist democracy, and that is how it works. The leaders' job is to make it as fair and equitable as possible, ensuring the weak and defenceless are supported, minimising state interference in people's everyday lives, and leaving them free to get on and live their lives in freedom.
Consequently, our standard of living is way above most on this planet. We are spoiled and have our metaphoric bums in the butter - it is just that we don't realise it. We take far too much for granted, and we are greedy.
Whoever our leader turns out to be, in my view, they should have certain priorities; defence and safety of our nation, our nation's health, our nation's education, and to provide an efficient infrastructure.
There is no point in doing anything if we are not safe and defended. In other words, the cost of any attack waged on individuals or the UK must be too great a risk and price to pay. So I would absolutely support increasing our defence budget to at least 3% if not 4% of our gross domestic product, particularly with the aggressive belligerence emanating from so many countries. Being adequately defended and safe is the number one responsibility of any government. If we don't have a defence force big enough and strong enough, we might as well have none.
Number two is "Health", - and for anyone recently experiencing our NHS, it is abundantly clear that it is broken and requires an urgent rethink. It is not a sacred cow, it is the elephant in the room, and we need to talk about it and think outside the box.
And third is our education system, which is in dire need of a realignment. Many university degrees are a waste of time and are frankly meaningless. Tony Blair advocated for more degrees, and however well-intentioned that was, it did not hit the mark. We need disciplined skills with a positive work attitude, which is what we should be investing in and instilling in our young. The phrase - "I have a degree" is so dumbed down now as to render degrees almost meaningless, which is a shame.
So here are some ideas for an inclusive and enhancing manifesto:
1) Re-introduction of National Service
2) Increase our Defence Budget
3) Upgrade and realign our National Health Service with a refunding programme
4) Realignment of our education system and goals
5) Upgrade of infrastructure
6) Common sense approach to cutting red tape and ridiculous "Wokeness" that is being allowed to invade every crevis of our society.
7) Update and streamline our clunky justice and penal system.
8) A simple, fair, transparent tax system, weaning people off handouts and supporting the premise that nothing is for nothing and everybody pays something.
9) The abolition of Strikes.
10) The introduction of a National Work Project Scheme for those who are unemployed.
The Manifesto explained.
1) The National Service Scheme:
This is for everyone from the age of Eighteen, and the duration is eighteen months.
The first three months are "Boot Camp" - the objectives are to teach basic discipline, personal admin, fitness, teamwork, manners, positive attitude and self-respect. If you pass out, you progress onto the second stage; if not, you return to beginning Boot camp again.
In the second stage, another three months, you learn the basics of a skill. From a wide variety of choices, from plumbing to first aid, from soldiering to engineering, any number of options would be available.
Stage three, you spend the next six months putting it into practice for the good of the state.
Stage four, you spend your final six months looking after the elderly and infirm. A certain magic can occur when you put the young and elders together. As most of us hope to become elders, it is in everyone's interest to ensure the elderly are well cared for.
Stage five - Graduation with a certificate, similar to the ex-service "Red Book". Half the price of university, half the time of university and our youth, our country's future, better prepared and trained for the life and challenges ahead of them in an ever-changing world.
2) Increase our Defence Budget.
I am not talking of an arms race here. This is simply common sense. Mend the roof when the sun is shining. We need to strengthen our defence services, so they are fully equipped, staffed and trained. Freedom has a cost, and failure to be prepared and to pay that cost will - not can but will - cost us our freedom. So we had all better wake up and smell the coffee.
This is a seminal moment in our history; Putin and Xi Jinping are aggressive tyrants, and we need to acknowledge that. Then we - all of us who value democracy - need to ensure we stand up to both of these characters - Bullies need to be faced down. If we don't - they just continue, and the price goes up, and it gets harder.
And this alone - is going to require some firm leadership.
3) Upgrading our National Health Service.
Our Health service has to be fit for purpose and suitable for servicing the nation's overall health needs. This process will take some time. Like many of these things, it should be de-politicised, and there should be an agreed set of criteria to follow. And it should be started as soon as humanly possible.
Firstly, not everything can or should be free. Laudable as those aims may be - it is not possible, and furthermore, free is often not valued. Nye Bevan, who conceptualised the NHS, never imagined it to undertake so many complex operations and for so many people. Suppose it was 100% funded for the poorest and then in tiers of economic prosperity - perhaps 50% funded for the most wealthy. For instance, all drugs would be billed at £10-00 per prescription and £10-00 per person for attending A & E - and a fine of £20-00 for those who miss appointments. Perhaps a mix of government-funded and health insurance. It is evident that it is not working functionally and needs more cash resources, more trained staff and better organisation. As with so many overly complex company processes - it needs simplifying.
4) Realigning our Education system.
I would like to see the focus remain on the three "R's" - as well as the considerable variety of subjects now offered in so many schools. I would also like to see vocational training and the work attitude developed in our young. And I would do away with this ridiculous woke culture and engineered political correctness that is all too prevalent in our schools.
The whole point of school is to have a protected, safe environment in which to grow and learn, make mistakes and discover one's strengths along the way.
Germain to this working is effective teaching. We are blessed to have so many brilliant, dedicated teachers who demonstrate daily what excellent teaching is all about. But some teachers constantly fall below the bar of what is expected of good educators. We must have a system where the worst of our teachers are weeded out and encouraged into other careers. We should also have a system whereby we can reward the best.
5) Long-term infrastructure projects.
Much of our infrastructure can do with upgrading, so we are investing in the future. More long-term projects that will benefit the generations to come should be prioritised. There needs to be a much more streamlined and pragmatic approach to planning for big projects. I would also encourage using cheaper labour where appropriate, from criminals paying back to society, possibly reducing their sentences and utilising our new National Service scheme.
6) Reduction of bureaucracy and red tape.
We have to reduce red tape, unnecessary bureaucracy and this prevalence of political correctness and woke-ness that is permeating our culture: I am not talking about being unkind; I am talking about being sensible, grown-up and bringing back common sense. I am all for everyone being free to live their lives how they want, uninterrupted, providing they are not harming others while doing so. If men want to wear lipstick and a dress - that is fine but do not make out that is normal behaviour. It is not. It is not unacceptable, but it is not the norm. Any more than men who want to be female should be allowed to use Female powder rooms, or men who are trying to live as females should compete against women. Common sense should apply. There is no such thing as gender neutral - common sense must prevail.
7) Over-hauling our Justice and Penal process
The justice system has become so lethargically inefficient, and enormous amounts of time are wasted at an astronomical cost to the economy. Furthermore, our penal system has become decrepit and outdated. We need to have a justice system that is more prompt and timely. Justice needs to be swifter wherever possible. Our penal reform should not rely on locking people up unless they absolutely need to be - instead, encouraging restorative justice crossed with paying back to society as a whole. The point is to turn convicted criminals into decent tax-paying community members. To a large degree, prison sweeps the mess under the carpet - out of sight, out of mind. We need cures, and where there is no cure, we should try and get prisoners to a place where they are working so they are least paying for their incarceration. One immediate consideration would be to install a recycling centre in every prison. I believe it is not about punishment but rather paying your debt to society. Prisoners must be in a mindset where they repent for what they have done, acknowledge the error of their ways, and re-adjust their behaviour accordingly. Those who have been locked up and will re-offend as soon as they are released - should not be released. That is not sensible; it is unsafe for the public at large and costly to the state.
8) Revamping and simplifying our Tax System.
Everything has a cost - nothing is for nothing. As members of our nation, we should be proud to pay our way and if we can do extra - so much the better. But if some people work harder and consequently earn more or make an entrepreneurial investment at their own risk, they should also reap the benefits. Equally, ensuring the lowest paid are not unfairly penalised is essential. But I would like to see simple and transparent tax bands that encourage everyone to work, reward entrepreneurial genius, hard work and risk and prohibits the very wealthy or global organisations from alleviating themselves from paying their fair share of tax to the Exchequer. Also - not over-penalising the successful or over-compensating the unsuccessful. And never again should the country reward or insulate bankers from their greed and avarice.
I would also like to see much more stringent and accountable criteria for how government departments spend our money - the defence industry is a prime example. Muddled accountant thinking by those who do not possess all the facts creates enormous waste and denies other programmes that could be beneficial. Aircraft carriers without catapults and a fighting vehicle that is too noisy to go into service are prime examples of corner-cutting and muddled thinking and decision makers who have not done their homework. We should demand much more accountability and scrutiny of anyone spending our money.
Strikes are inflationary and archaic, no longer justified, and should be abolished. If anyone is so keen to withdraw their labour, then they should be allowed to do so, but it means they resign from their job. If they are so discontent and dissatisfied, they would want to move employment anyway. This should be a shot across the bows for poor employers as well as antagonistic and disruptive employees.
In place of strikes, we should have a conciliation process where any grievances could be referred to and considered by an unbiased, neutral panel and their ruling would be final - much like a court of law. Depending on the outcome, the losing side would pay the cost of referring their gripe to the panel.
10) The introduction of a National Work Scheme.
This is about the damage being done to our national work-culture and being unemployed, particularly long-term unemployment. Why should we, the working public, pay our taxes to subsidise unemployed people to sit at home and watch daytime TV?
Helping people back to work when they have been made redundant or lost their job for whatever reason and supporting them through that time is the right thing to do. However, there has to be an end, a time limit to that, say - six or eight weeks, perhaps longer if re-training is involved and the unemployed are helping themselves. But paying people to do nothing indefinitely is not acceptable; it is unfair to those working hard and is not the right thing to do.
So after a given period of time, if an unemployed person wants what we call today - "Doll Money" - they will have to work, where they will receive a minimum wage and carry out labour on regional work schemes which will help the state nationally and/or the local authority. No one should be paid to stay at home; that is a travesty or socialism. It goes to changing the work culture from an early age; everyone should inherit a positive work ethic. Everyone has to do their bit for the nation; no free rides anymore.
We are told that Liz Truss is a shoo-in for Prime Minister now, and Rishi Sunak is a distant second. I am also reliably informed that Ms Truss is incapable of being Prime Minister - time will tell.
Certainly, the years the Conservatives have been in power since David Cameron called the referendum have been pretty dismal for the country as a whole. If a General Election was called tomorrow - I expect the Conservatives would lose.
Leadership is down to the individual - time will tell, and we will see - we will just have to wait.
One thing is for sure, the incoming leader's difficulties are mounting daily. And the outgoing Johnson, despite his desperate clinging to power and refusal to hand over to an interim leader, has gone AWOL, leaving our country and its growing list of disasters like a rudderless ship. Shame on you, Mr Johnson. Shame on you.
Rikki - Suffolk - UK 22nd August - 2022