As regular readers may know, I am occasionally the recipient of memorandums directed to the Conservative leadership.
These missives, with their distinctive sulfurous scent, arrive through my letterbox at irregular intervals. I am never quite sure what to do with them, so share them with my small readership. This seems to satisfy my dark patron, as the mysterious epistles continue.
The latest such missive is reproduced below:
TO: LYNTON CROSBY
SUBJECT: VICTORY AT THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION
My warmest congratulations on your appointment and your kind letter asking advice.
I’m sure that you’re suffering the usual deluge of cranks proffering crackpot advice as electoral elixir. I make no such claims for the below, other than the modest hope that you will understand the import and relevance of what I say.
I propose a simple solution to the electoral conundrum you posed.
Allow councils to raise local taxes significantly.
You may be arching an eyebrow. I hope so. It seems counter-intuitive for a Conservative to proffer such advice. Yet such niceties must be put aside in a greater cause, and that greater cause is electoral victory.
Consider. For past Conservatives to win, there have only been two real requirements. Forget a growing economy, more widely spread wealth, a charismatic leader, or a coherent and united party. Forget prosperity, or fairness, or any such philosophical mumbo-jumbo.We’ve won without each and all of these.
Two ingredients we have always needed, on the other hand, are a divided opposition and a bogeyman.
Division is self-explanatory. teetotalers, pacifists, Bevanites. ILPers, Liberals, Trots, Social Democrats. A whole panoply of internal bickering enlivened the radical sky, while we Tories laboured on the good, solid earth.
Similarly, the history of the bogeyman is storied. Zinoviev, Benn, Robbo, Livingstone, Scargill, even in a particularly inspired campaign, Boat people. all have served their turn.
Today, we have who? Harriet Harman, who enrages a few emasculated Neanderthals. Len McCluskey, who I’ve high hopes for, but who appears smart enough to stay silent until a Labour government is in office.
As for the current chief of the Socialists, my agents tell me they hear many reactions to him in the murmurs of the populi, but that fear is rarely among these.
If today we Conservatives have neither divided nor terrifying enemies, we must summon such from the vasty deep.
In the old days, we often demonstrated the unfitness of the Radicals for national office was the behaviour of their local bosses. Oh, how we loved them, with their tin pot corruption and their huge rate rises, their angry politics and their radical posturing.They practically begged us to be a sagacious and re-assuring contrast.
Yet these tigers seem unnaturally tame. Why?
Labour’s localists find themselves caught in a trap of our devising. Raise rates, and they lose funds. We force a Laffer curve on socialists and are startled when they keep taxes low.
Lynton, Lynton, this is electoral madness. We need Labour councils jacking up the rates, so sturdy shopkeepers and home-owning couples quiver before the envelope of the Council tax bill, and wonder if the these demands will increase if they allow Labour greater authority.
Further, we need some council house Gracchus, accented and angry, to be the passionara of the public sector, rallying social workers, parking attendants, planning officers and refuse operatives, uniting every demon of the middle class mind into a dread army of the insufferably righteous, well paid and bloated.
Lynton, if we want to win, we must let them raise taxes. Let Labour councils bust through their spending caps, let them indulge their spendthrift ways, as long as they must also present the bill.
At the moment, Labour moderates control their localities, because there is really little alternative, other than prison and disgrace. Labour’s solid middle can play both the martyr and the axeman.
Loosen the straitjacket a little and you will see those same municipal worthies on the defensive. Suddenly they will have to make a choice. Put up council tax ten, fifteen, twenty per cent, or cut services.
Oh, they will blame us, and whinge, and win their irrelevant little elections, but it will then be their choice about what to do, and they will choose to save their own skins, have an easy life at their dull conferences, and put up the rates.
Meanwhile, we tot up the bills, and start drafting the direct mail letters to the nervous Nigels and unsure Ursulas of the shires. “Want to know what a Labour government is like? Just look at Crummytowns Tax bill“.
Even better for us will be the inevitable defenestration of some Labour moderate in favour of a tax rising Kleon, full of sound and righteous fury. Then we can go to work painting that same terror behind every pained hand-wringing equivocation from their national leadersh. “They won’t tell you what they’ll do.. because they’ll put up taxes, just like Crummytown“.
Discord will follow naturally from this state of affairs. The socialists at Westminster will be anxious to appear mature and reasonable, so will try to stop their localities spinning out of control. They will argue, and bicker, and fight over what they should do. They will expel each other, and call each other traitors, as they love to do. By contrast, we will look united, and calm, stolid defenders of the slightly more than common man.
Just let Labour tax, and all will follow, as night follows day.
Now, how can we achieve this happy ending?
Use the useful idiot, of course. Persuade Clegg that he could differentiate himself through localism. Freedom and power moving to a locality. A hard-won liberal victory over Tory chiselling and centralism, naturally. A real legacy for liberals in government, showing how the sandal-mongers and cranks do things differently.
We appear pained, and unwilling to concede, but shall do so, in the national interest. We might even let a few of our own troglodytes rebel and encouragepale scribblers to assail our compromise, to add verisimilitude.
Then, come 2015, we smash the Liberals against the spending of their own councils, wave the bloody shirt of increased Tax bills at Labour and demand their leaders disavow their own party, knowing they cannot.
If all goes to plan, we will even have a fresh radical bogeyman ready to help us into power.
But Lynton, timing is everything. We need the argument raging through 2014 and 2015. The moderates will be able to hold off the radicals for perhaps a year through inertia, so they must be allowed to taxes as soon as possible. You must remove the Cap on local taxes immediately, so there’s time for the row to build up pressure, for tax rises to be proposed, feared and used electorally.
Then, of course, once we have won, we can correct all these wrongs, armed with out new mandate.
Remember, as Mao forgot to say: Let a Thousand flowers bloom, if you really wish to know the value of secaturs.