Policies and Principles

Article excerpt

The policy proposals announced by Tory leader Mr William Hague do not yet amount to a coherent "vision" for the party but at least they represent a step in the right direction and a return to Thatcherism, albeit a watered-down version.

One of the essences of the theory of Thatcherism, as opposed to its practise, was the concept of "freedom". This meant taking power away from Government and all its various octopus arms, and handing it back to individuals and groups of people at a local level.

This is a form of devolution which was scarcely observed during the Thatcher years but which has been thoroughly and resolutely reversed by Mr Tony Blair even as his Government presents Scotland and Wales with "devolution".

The centralising of decision-making has never been greater, with the tentacles of Mr Blair and his colleagues stretching into every corner of every organisation which rules our daily lives. No appointment is not political; no decision is not spin-doctored.

Mr Hague's plan to set schools free from local authority control is a prime example of how decentralisation should create new freedom and diversity. Of course, it will be derided by the educational establishment (Labour politicians, union leaders, university dons) but it would be welcomed by parents if it meant better standards, better teachers and more money being spent in the classroom.

One danger, which a Tory Government would have to guard against, is that actually the policy might be used to centralise control in Whitehall rather than in Town Halls but as long as that is guarded against, then at long last Britain might have schools which met the needs and aspirations of the customers (the parents and their children) rather than the providers (the educational establishment). …