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Fantasy politics

Posted by Richard Tuesday, April 05, 2005

WE are not alone, by any means, in dreading the next thirty days – days of utter tedium as the main political parties try to foist their limited agendas on a disinterested public in what passes for political discourse, to be rewarded with what promises to be one of the lowest turnouts in history.

Yes, we already know that schools'n'hospitals are going to be an "important battleground", that public services are the defining issue, that Gordon Brown is going to talk up his custodianship of the economy, etc, etc, etc – while we stifle the yawns and look to the programme guide to see what else is on.

In the manner of "fantasy football", therefore, wouldn't it be fun to draw up a "fantasy campaign", setting out those issues you would like to see the politicians fight over, instead of having to listen to them telling you what they thought was important.

Number one in our campaign, we would of course have the politicians set out their stalls on "Europe", if for no other reason than to have them tell us how they would achieve their own domestic agendas when so much of what they want to do is already circumscribed by "Brussels".

But here, there is already "clear blue water" between the Conservatives and the other two main parties, in that the Conservatives alone oppose the EU constitution. Thus, the "no" campaign's best chance of have a Conservative government – which in itself justifies casting a vote for that party.

Another area where there is "clear blue water" is in defence, where the Conservatives are committed to saving the regiments, and to a modest increase in defence spending, but it would be nice to have all parties come strongly and clearly on what their defence polices were, and how they see the armed forces being structured over the next few decades.

Alongside that is the vexed question of foreign policy. What fun it would be to hear from all the parties a declaration of where the national interest lay, which issues were going to take priority and whether, for the first time in its history, the Foreign Office was going to represent Britain.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, there is also "clear blue water" on fishing policy, with a clear undertaking from Michael Howard in person to repatriate the Common Fisheries Policy and to restore national and local control. We could enjoy this being a high-profile issue and watch the LibLems and NuLab squirm.

That neatly brings us on to agriculture, where our favoured policy is the gradual but complete extermination of all farmers – something that NuLab seems to be doing quite successfully.

We are of course joking – at least, I am (about us favouring this policy) - but I have long held that, inasmuch as you cannot have a common policy for the frozen wastes of Finland, the mountains of North Greece, the Rhineland basin and the plains of Andalusia, you cannot have a common policy for the diverse regions of the UK. Thus, the next best thing to exterminating farmers to exterminate farming policy, and let the Counties have it back.

Another area where we would also have problems with all parties is in energy, where we would cheerfully ditch Kyoto and all that is stood for, ritually blow up every single wind farm in the county, and then embark on a rapid programme of building nuclear power stations – preferably with surplus capacity to generate hydrogen for mass transport undertakings, powering trains and busses.

On the vexed issue of transport, I would like to see some serious work or travel minimisation. With the advent of modern communications – the internet, etc - there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who could do some or all of their work at home, without having to travel and I am sure there is room for an imaginative tax regime where people who do work at home qualify for substantial tax relief.

And on tax, the central issue for me is to abolish council tax – I have spent more nights in a Police cell than I ever cared to – and, while we are about it, VAT, replacing both with a local sales tax.

Number ten on the list is to destroy all speed cameras – adding them to the same pile as wind turbines – and with them, parking clamps. I have never understood the logic of clamping cars in order to make the traffic flow more freely. Increasing the motorway speed limit (three lanes and more) to at least 90 mph (for BMW drivers) would also be very acceptable.

Then, for the final item for my "fantasy campaign", something silly: tax exemption on bird seed. The little darlings in the garden are costing us a fortune.

And what eleven would you choose?