Congratulations to you, Prime Minister in waiting. I hope you're enjoying yourself as you proceed around the country, "listening and learning" while counting the days until you finally get your hands on the keys to 10 Downing Street.
It's safe to say a lot of people will be cajoling you to bring in this or that policy, and recommending the merits and costs of this or that programme. It's just as safe to say you will have your customary pause for thought before signing up to anything that might jeopardise your famed keenness for financial prudence.
Well, I have some suggestions that should appeal to your Presbyterian parsimonious instincts: none of them will cost you, or the taxpayer, a penny. Not a cent, to use Euro currency parlance. At the same time, the policies will, I am sure, do a power of good for the people of Britain. These progressive initiatives will greatly improve the well-being, lifestyle, equality (a word banned by Blair's 'New' Labour) and morale of the nation you have told us you love so much. They should also improve your opinion poll ratings and chances of winning the next general election, but that's by the by.
Here is my 10 point rescue plan for the UK without, as it were, the need for you to spend a penny.
1) Start as you mean to go on. Stand up to George 'Dubya' Bush. You don't have to make a great show of this; or break the 'special relationship', merely a few sentences dropped into a speech mentioning the fact that Britain is a European country whose closest allies should be its closest neighbours, and while it does share certain values with the United States, an alliance works both ways. Moreover, Britain's leaders pride themselves on knowing when to say sorry, unlike Dubya. Which can be easily demonstrated by...
2) Apologising. A nation in the throes of civil war is, in the case of Iraq, no place for foreign invaders and, in the case of Britain, no place for doubting Jeremiahs. Saying sorry for getting so much wrong in the Middle East during the last 10 years will at least allow the UK to try and move on from its tragic involvement in and entanglement with the forces it has unleashed not just in Baghdad but also Palestine, Beirut, Tehran and Kabul. You should say a forthright sorry for Britain's involvement in the slave trade, as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of its abolition (not the end of slavery but the trade).
3) Promise to use royal land for redevelopment. They own millions of acres. We never get to see it. We never get to walk on it. They do nothing with it. Here's how you can genuinely commit to building new affordable homes without having to harm or pay for any more existing public land.
4) Give us a new bank holiday. Preferably somewhere in the middle of October, when the memory of the late August bank holiday has dwindled to nothing and Christmas seems half a world away. Britain United Day (Bud or Buddy Day), would be much preferred to the culturally divisive proposal of a St George's Day.
5) Scrap a heap of policies that will cost millions of pounds, which nobody wants and that aren't even your idea. The white elephant of the multi-billion Trident nuclear weapons replacement. And ID cards for starters. They won't stop crime or terrorism (the perpetrators of either will simply forge a fake identity). They attack civil liberties. They will create an enormous amount of red tape and bureaucracy. Nobody will want to pay for one anyway. Next, how about scrapping the plan to build a load more nuclear power stations? I'm sure your children's generation would be grateful if you spared them hugely expensive industrial plants packed with lethal chemicals that won't become safe for thousands of years. Promise to build wind farms instead. Preferably on more of that royal land. And help ordinary people make their homes more eco-friendly and energy self-sufficient.
6) Don't take any notice of the Fleet Street press. No one elected the right-wing press barons. So, stop fretting about Rupert Murdoch. Run your government on your terms, not his. If possible, avoid turning up too much in the media at all. I reckon the country would welcome a Prime Minister whose priority was actually doing their job rather than decorating the sofa on GMTV or writing for The Sun.
7) Abolish prescription charges. They've done it in Wales. Besides, it costs drugs companies a penny to make something that sells at six hundred times the value. The money is already there to make up any shortfall: the costs involved in administering the current system of, yes, prescription charges. And get rid of student loans. They have shown it can be done in your beloved Scotland.
8) Take a holiday with your family in this country. Set an example. Show us that you actually like Britain, and don't need to fly off to the other side of the world to "relax" with the super rich and celebrities, like greedy Tony Blair and his pushy wife.
9) Make the trains run on time. Slightly more ambitious, this, but you'd be surprised how big an impact such a small objective would have on people's lives. All you'd need to do is show that you actually understand and value public transport. Blair, like Margaret Thatcher, seems to pride himself on never using it, unlike London Mayor Ken Livingstone Take a few bus rides. Go on a train. Invite the transport unions to Downing Street during your first week in office. Show that you care about ordinary people and their representative organisations. Any money you need can come from what you'd save as a result of point 5).
10) Scrap Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. It's a farce and does us, you, your fellow politicians and the country no good at all. Organise an alternative. Do it in community centres around the country each week and invite the public. You can travel on one of those trains that will now be running on time. And, scrap the absurd, outdated and undemocratic House of Lords and replace it with a second chamber elected by proportional representation.
Ten cash-wise steps to reforming bloated and inefficient public services and putting Britain back on track. Once people enjoy the feel good factor from these policies, they won't mind paying a bit more in taxes, as they do in Scandinavia. So then you'll be able to save the NHS, schools, public transport, the environment and make poverty history in the developing world as well. Now, that's an election winner.
PS: What policies would you like to see Gordon Brown adopt when he becomes Prime Minister? Can you think of any other initiatives that wouldn't cost him, or us, a penny? Have your say on The-Latest..
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