Five crazy ideas from the Tories’ new policy chiefs

Last week it was announced that the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) was to lead the Conservative Party's policy development. The aim, according to the CPS press release, is to "feed through new ideas for both immediate implementation and the next Conservative manifesto in 2015".

Last week it was announced that the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) will be leading the Conservative Party’s policy development going into the 2015 election. The aim, according to the CPS press release, is to “feed through new ideas for both immediate implementation and the next Conservative manifesto in 2015”.

CPS regularly put out right-wing policy papers promoting their vision of a smaller state, reformed public services and “personal responsibility”. CPS was once referred to as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite think tank.

Considering CPS is going to be helping to formulate Tory Party policy ahead of the next election, it’s worth a look at a few of the more outlandish ideas the think tank has promoted in the past.

1. A flat tax

In a paper published in 2005 by the CPS, the political commentator Stephen Pollard wrote that the flat tax “presses all the right buttons. It is good for the economy. It is good for the poor. It is good for business. And it is easy to grasp.”

In reality the flat tax is a bit like the poll tax – an intellectual case can be made for it but politically it would be a disaster; it looks (and is) deeply unfair. The progressive case for taxation rests on the idea that those with the broadest shoulders should contribute the most. Flat taxes are anathema to that idea.

2. An abstinence-only approach to drug treatment

 CPS put out a report in 2011 entitled ‘Breaking the Habit’, in which it called for an abstinence-only approach to drug treatment. It also made a number of claims about methadone treatment for addicts. The CPS press release and the executive summary both stated that £730 million is spent annually on “methadone prescribing”.

Commenting on the CPS proposals, DrugScope, the national membership organisation for the drug sector, said it was “extremely concerned at the misrepresentation of the facts about drug treatment and its costs”, adding that CPS “grossly exaggerate” the cost of methadone prescribing.

3. More rail privatisation

In Britain some of the highest train fares in Europe co-exist alongside extremely low rates of electrification and embarrassingly shoddy services. Ten years of above-inflation rail price increases have left some in the south-east spending 15 per cent of their salary on rail travel. In 2010/11 Network Rail was subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £3.96 billion.

Yet despite all this, CPS’s Tony Lodge believes the problem is not enough privatisation.

Perhaps, like any other business, we should start allowing rail companies to go bust. Perhaps a train company suddenly going under wouldn’t be that big a deal after all. Um, ok then.

4. Climate change skepticism

 In 2007 CPS put out a paper on climate change called ‘A Guide to the Scientific Uncertainties’. The paper claimed that it was “by no means certain that increases in C02 concentration and emissions are the dominant driver of climate change”. It also claimed that the scientific understanding of climate change is “far from complete”.

In reality there is very little “uncertainty over man-made climate change. An analysis of abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed scientific papers, published between 1991 and 2011 and written by 29,083 authors, found that 98.4 per cent of authors who took a position endorsed man-made (anthropogenic) global warming, 1.2 per cent rejected it and 0.4 per cent were uncertain.

5. An end to gender equality

 In 2011 CPS said that the equality war had been won in Britain and women were now enjoying “more choices than men” about their futures.
Report author Dr Catherine Hakim accused feminists of peddling a string of “myths”, and she claimed that measures such as maternity leave “generally reduce gender equality in the workforce, rather than raise it”.

The reality is somewhat different. While inroads have certainly been made in tackling the gender gap in the workplace, according to accountancy and consultancy giant PwC we are now starting to see gender equality decline.

The PwC Women in Work Index ranked the UK 18th out of 27 OECD countries in 2011 on five key indicators of female economic empowerment: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work, both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.


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