Presenting the core UK EPP Manifesto policy platform Forward to a new Magna Carta this afternoon (Fri - 1 May), attached below, Hazell said: “The British people are rightly underwhelmed by the choice on offer from the main parties. Instead of ill-judged financial bribes, Britain above all needs a new constitutional deal that underpins freedom: a realistic and uniting prospect of hope, not the divisive politics of fear. This is our Mayday! Call for British democracy.”
The UK EPP’s eight-page Forward to a new Magna Carta calls for widespread and fundamental constitutional reform - emphasising economic, environmental and equal social fairness. Earlier (Fri - 1 May), the ResPublica independent think tank and forecaster Oxford Economics published findings on the positive boost devolution can give to the UK economy. Hazell noted: “Power should flow back to people and places: subsidiarity is the UK’s way forward, with many decisions brought closer to the citizen. In the UK, we need more devolved power - complementing our shared EU sovereignty.”
Assessing Britain’s global role, Hazell urged the UK to return to the heart of Europe: “During this Coalition Government, we have seen the erosion of Britain on the world stage. The Economist is right to warn of Little Britain. David Cameron prefers the sham of Conservative Party unity over preserving the national European interest. He caves in, paying ransom to the Conservative’s UKIP Militant Tendency. Cameron’s contrived referendum offer is not the answer.”
“By working with our allies in the EU and NATO, we ensure the UK’s continued prosperity through security. We should develop hard uses for soft power, whilst maintaining UK defence expenditure at above the 2 per cent threshold. Britain must reverse the UK’s foreign and defence decline. - We must re-build bridges that Cameron tore down since the 2005 Conservative Party leadership bid. Pro-EU Tories should return to the mainstream centre right EPP family of Ireland’s Enda Kenny, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, Poland’s Ewa Kopacz, and Germany’s Angela Merkel,” stated Hazell.
“Our proposals are constructively radical: the most coherent package of reform to secure Britain’s freedom for present and future generations,” concluded Dirk Hazell: “For too long, the British political class prefers lecturing the rest of Europe about reform - whilst ignoring and resisting calls for change in the UK. We are part of a global village. We can together build a positive plan for the future, whilst tackling the inequalities and iniquities of the present.” ENDS
MANIFESTO: May 2015 General Election
Your 4 Freedoms First:
FORWARD TO A NEW MAGNA CARTA
Introduction: the EPP and our values - re-building freedom
The EPP is Europe’s leading political family - with Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael, Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular, Ewa Kopacz’s Civic Platform and Angela Merkel’s CDU included in our European family of freedom.
We believe in and now sustain Britain’s connection within the EPP’s family. The Conservative Party left this family in 2009, preferring instead allies outside the European mainstream such as President Putin’s United Russia and former President Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions in the Ukraine.
The EPP has led the rebuilding of democracy across Europe. Our EPP values are the strongest political hope of renewing and sustaining what the World sees as the best of British virtues.
The May 2015 General Election is a tawdry affair: strident allegation and unfunded financial promises are inadequate substitutes for a transparent contest of ideas with honest disclosure of Britain’s real strategic choices.
We are clear about Britain’s strategic choices: for example, Britain’s best future is as a fully engaged member of the EU. We believe Britain is much better placed to defend liberty at home and abroad as a leading member of the EU.
The EPP has set out an ambitious programme of necessary reform for the EU. However, in many ways, reform is even more urgently needed within the UK.
The British electorate is the World’s most experienced and discerning: and it is right to be underwhelmed by the choice on offer. Britons are now experiencing the long-term consequences of political parties reducing great debates of the day to competing transactional bribes.
Britain deserves much better both at home and abroad. We offer a broader, open outlook.
When it comes to making and spending money, Britain has for some time been characterised, at least for the empowered, by high levels of freedom. However, when politics become overwhelmingly transactional - with politicians re-allocating other people’s money - governments can also take back what they “give”.
A truly free society needs much firmer foundations than is provided by the licence to make and spend money. This central point can be reformulated from many perspectives and we here offer two.
First, a wider basis of society is established in the Abrahamic tradition - “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” - which, with the Enlightenment, informs EPP values.
We all need a strong economy so as many people as possible can be as fulfilled as possible. However, the objective of a fair and fulfilled society also requires the economy to be the servant of humanity and not humanity the servant of the economy.
Our EPP social market economy is neither socialist nor neoliberal. We may not be alone in claiming to balance freedom with fairness but our social market is a political concept, proven over decades to succeed, both safeguarding freedom through development of the market whilst - of equal importance - reconciling market rights with social rights, the public interest and sustainable development.
Our starting point is to regard every person as irreplaceable and unique, with all sharing the same rights and obligations and all participating in the improvement of society. Our values are the dignity of human life at every stage of its existence, freedom and responsibility, equality and justice, truth, solidarity and subsidiarity.
Subsidiarity relates to the second reformulation we here offer of the need for freedom to be about more than money.
WW2 revolutionised the World order. It is manifest fact that since 1945 we have lived in a substantially post-national world with much greater sharing of sovereignty and more globalised distribution of economic activity. National governments retain a great many powers but much of the context in which they must operate is supra-national.
Whatever any British party may assert in this General Election, decisions affecting Britain will continue to be made beyond our frontiers regardless of whether or not we the British participate in those decisions.
Without corrective action, in a World where more decisions are taken beyond national frontiers and so are further removed from directly familiar national institutions, people will naturally see themselves more as passive than active: with public policy seen as something done to people rather than the people’s own creation.
In such a context, sustaining British freedom at home requires more compensating correction than has readily been on offer from the over-centralising and inadequately reformed Westminster/Whitehall behemoth. Indeed, the Conservative Party in the 20th century in Scotland repeated the error it had made in Ireland in the 19th by resisting demands for more local powers and, indeed, exacerbating this by using Scotland as an experimental trial for contentious and ultimately aborted social engineering. There is manifestly a problem of insufficient subsidiarity within Britain: this problem has overwhelmingly been Westminster/Whitehall, not “Brussels”.
In a globalised World, which changes the character of the work of national governments and the parliaments to which they must account, the spirit of freedom - a justifiable and deeply engrained certainty that anyone with sense on their side can “make a difference” to the benefit of all - must offer people far more power over local society and public services.
The instinct of the socialist left inclines to dirigisme but the centre and centre-right of British politics have a particular duty to “trust the people”. This means empowering and trusting people to have much more say over the delivery of precisely those public services, by definition local, they mostly encounter.
It is a sad irony that - in this the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta - the freedom of the British people is more at risk than it has been since the war against fascism.
Too many British politicians project the politics of fear - often as an excuse to move the ratchet another notch away from freedom - rather than build a basis for hope.
Too many Government Ministers have reached for short-term populism - such as dissembling indications of intent to withdraw from the essentially British-authored European Convention on Human Rights - by way of evading their more onerous duty to build and sustain a fair, free and inclusive society at peace with itself.
This Manifesto therefore concentrates exclusively on the first duty of government: to defend the liberty of the people.
Defence of liberty at home
a A new Magna Carta
The British constitution, such as it is, is no longer fit for purpose.
The “Whitehall knows best” model, greatly extended during two World Wars, created a culture of far too much centralisation of power for peacetime: central control grew so tight that the integrity of the United Kingdom itself is still at risk.
Again, in a globalised World, we the people need more not less compensating local power over our daily lives: an assertively federal model of government where as many decisions as possible are taken as locally as possible. We believe in returning power back to the people.
Yes, we do want to take money from Westminster/Whitehall: not, however, for “Brussels” but to restore decisions on its allocation much nearer to Britain’s communities where people live and work.
There are talented and honourable MPs and Peers across the political spectrum.
However, the focus of their work is not always what it should be and the Westminster Parliament has, despite positive reforms like the growth of Select Committees, failed to move with the times and adapt to the evolving duties of national parliamentarians.
For example, the House of Commons has generally failed to do one of its core jobs in the modern period - keeping proper tabs on what Ministers agree in the Council of the EU.
The House of Lords has tended to do a better job of keeping an eye on Ministers in Brussels but its size and character, packed as it is with parties’ donors, can no longer be justified.
And British people are denied the fair votes which our voting patterns increasingly indicate we require. Our votes in recent decades have made it increasingly clear that the British people rightly reject the 20th century control, ultimately the route to tyranny, of party over state. We want a wider range of parties and we want everyone’s vote to count.
We propose the following Constitutional Settlement, a new Magna Carta, including the following changes:
marking the eight hundredth anniversary of the Magna Carta with a written Constitution for the British Federation (embracing Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions)
devolving no less power anywhere in the British Federation than will be devolved to, for example, Scotland: in principle, Londoners and the Northern English should have as much say over their own affairs as do the Scots in the governance of Scotland
creating much more emphasis on ‘bottom up’ - not ‘top down’ - political power, with each of Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland and the English regions responsible for all policy areas not specifically reserved to the British Federal Parliament and Government. This would resemble the successful Land federal structure in Germany
electing representatives at all levels of government - local, regional, British and European - on a territorial basis, with proportionality achieved through top up lists
capping the House of Commons at no more than 500 MPs with a re-focus of MPs’ duties on the modern World: for example, at least matching best practice in other Member States’ national parliaments by holding Ministers to account in advance as well as after meetings of the Council of the European Union
limiting a reformed House of Peers, or Senate, to no more than 150 Peers appointed, following elections, by the British Federation’s countries and regions
closing the Privy Council and creating a British Federal Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court
transparently funding political parties with greater state funding - on a basis fair to rising as well as established parties - and strict and more strictly enforced limits on non-state funding of parties which should, however, attract relief as though it were charitable
strengthening the Human Rights Act by entrenching into the British Constitution the European Convention on Human Rights and the objectives of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
creating a new Council of Isles: representatives of the British Federation, its countries and regions, plus all other jurisdictions within the British Isles should be invited to regular, public meetings - building on the current British-Irish Council - to discuss matters of mutual interest and to promote greater co-operation.
We also believe, for example, that the governance of the Electoral Commission needs to become significantly more effective. Disenfranchisement and fraud in recent elections have been a national disgrace. The Electoral Commission should be charged to GOTV (“get out the vote”).
Such changes could rejuvenate British democracy and restore the British people’s sense of ownership and pride in our shared polity. Relevance could replace indifference. Accessibility of government could replace alienation.
b economic, environmental and social fairness
A sustainably free society must also be a fair society, respectful of all.
The UK has achieved broad equality regardless of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation and this is a positive outcome.
However, other inequalities in Britain today are unacceptable and they represent a structural threat to the foundations of British freedom.
While most people experienced an acute squeeze of living standards under the Coalition Government, Britain’s billionaires more than doubled their wealth. Britain today is too polarised between billionaires and the destitute, with too much pressure also on those struggling in-between. To offer one example, the minimum wage should progressively rise to the level of the living wage.
Ultimately it is not good even for the billionaires that within a block of the House of Lords people regularly sleep rough on the streets of Westminster, that Trussell Trust food banks have needed to increase by more than twentyfold their emergency three day food allocations under the present government or that more than 4 million children in Britain are below the poverty line.
And our prisons too tell a tale of inequality. Half of prisoners have literacy and numeracy levels below those expected of 11 year olds: in a decent society, prisons would be places not of escalating suicides but of effective rehabilitation. We also suspect prisons represent a privatisation too far.
A great deal has been asserted about migration: those who most bemoan such migration have not always honoured their duty to be at least as noisy about the skills shortages - the failures in our educational system - that have made so much migration so necessary to keystones of British life such as the NHS.
Having presided over Britain’s longest and deepest recession, it beggars belief that, even with ultra loose monetary policies and rock bottom borrowing costs, the Coalition Government has managed to build so little infrastructure with, to give just one example, house-building at pitifully low levels. This is an on-going British disease - even the Heaven-sent oil bonanza of the 1980s left Britain bereft of infrastructure - and it needs correcting.
Every Briton deserves a fair start in life.
Every Briton deserves fair chances in life.
Every Briton deserves fair protection from life’s misfortunes such as chronic ill health.
It is an unhelpful context for such aspirations that the UK today has alarmingly high levels of both public and private sector debt and, despite the now faltering pre-election break from recession, low productivity and a structural balance of payments deficit. Even with falling living standards, we are still living beyond our national means and the inevitable constraints ahead enhance the importance of public policy being and being seen to be fair.
Instead of the narrow transactional bribes too often proffered by the established parties, what Britain instead needs is re-definition of the British deal - as well as a change of economic direction from rampant neo-liberalism towards the social market model.
To offer one example, Britain urgently needs much improved inter-generational justice and we here illustrate this theme in a number of ways.
One essential component of inter-generational justice is for every generation to bequeath successor generations an environment at least as benign as the environment it itself inherited: Britain should be a leader within both the EU and the wider world for greater environmental sustainability. With the energy in our surging seas, to give just one example, we have no excuse for failing to achieve a carbon-neutral energy surplus by 2050. And the existential crisis facing bees - animals on which our civilisation depends - is one of many confirmations of the wisdom of the precautionary principle. The greater the failure to mitigate climate change, the greater the pressures on the World’s poor to migrate. Tomorrow’s people’s future requires today’s political class to protect the environment.
When it comes to educational opportunity, no young person should be left behind. There is a chasm of opportunity between the best of Britain’s private schools and Britain’s normal state schools: most places in Britain’s private schools should as soon as practicable be funded by state scholarships. The internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to help all schools to tailor the best possible individual education for every young person, preparing them for adult life and the most rewarding world of work for that person. And every young person should have the chance to “make a difference” by participating in, for example, properly accredited National Citizen Service and HRH the Prince of Wales’ Step up to Serve.
Young people should have opportunities at least as good as those of their parents and grandparents to their own home: while they are still young. New houses should not be in the Green Belt but equally they should be affordable and in garden cities away from vulnerable areas such as those at high risk of flooding.
Another component of inter-generational justice is our shared public infrastructure. While it is good when new hospitals and schools are built, we do not believe anything like enough attention has been given by the political class to the detailed and sustained critiques in ‘Private Eye’ of the flawed PFI model: use public infrastructure today while compelling your children and grandchildren pay over the odds for decades to come. We welcome the potential of a European capital market to improve cost-effective capital allocation and we also believe in the potential of real “granny bonds” to achieve better inter-generational justice with pensioners safely investing their capital in public infrastructure and securing a fiscally incentivised income in return.
Timely and undistorted dissemination of pertinent information and freedom of expression are essential to a free society.
With so many journalists as defendants in the criminal courts, clearly all is not as it should be within the UK. While journalists who commit crimes should normally face prosecution, we believe that in exceptional circumstances a statutory public interest defence should be available to journalists exposing ills such as corruption in public life. We deplore the Conservative Party’s formal alliance with the governing party of Turkey which has more journalists per person incarcerated in prison than any other country.
We are concerned about the concentration of ownership of British media and about reporting that does not always reflect the real strategic choices facing the British people. Many in Britain did not, for example, know that the 2014 European Parliament election was an election with a heavily presidential component until after that election when the British Prime Minister as noisily as ineffectively objected to the EPP’s nominee for President of the European Commission.
While it is reasonable to review the governance of the BBC to ensure that it is effective and robust for modern times, we believe that, with concentration of media ownership at home and the need for the voice of freedom to be capable of being heard across the World, the BBC’s unique national and global role is as needed now as ever it was.
When its Charter is renewed, the BBC’s independence must continue to be guaranteed. There is a very strong case for enhancing its statutory duty to provide public information and also making it clear that this role includes relevant parameters specified in the Lisbon Treaties.
For example, our experience suggests that British people would like to know more about what the EU does. We believe the British polity would be enhanced by much more transparent rehearsing about what works and does not work so well across Europe in providing services such as schools, hospitals and environmental protection. We regard the BBC as best placed to broadcast this type of public information for which we believe the British people has an unmet demand.
International defence of liberty
However disappointing and regrettable it is, enhanced risk - particularly in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East - requires an adequate and immediate response that has not obviously been met.
It is profoundly disturbing that after five years of the Coalition Government, Britain, a maritime nation, has no maritime surveillance aircraft. Even when HM The Queen was asked to launch the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, there were on board only plastic replicas of the aircraft it might one day carry.
However, we welcome the statutory recognition in the Armed Forces Act 2011 of the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.
We believe any responsible British political party should:
commit at least 2% of GDP to defence;
accept renewal of the independent nuclear deterrent with four maritime vessels: as a most urgent priority the British Government should positively pursue the practicality of a joint British deterrent with France;
provide necessary resources to enhance and better coordinate the security services; and
both fully honour the Armed Forces Covenant and stop diminishing the size of our Armed Forces.
To anyone who says this cannot be afforded, we say simply this: if ever Britain’s history teaches a lesson it is that Britain can never afford other than to assure our defence.
This is all essential, but even this is insufficient.
It is Europe’s responsibility, within NATO, to share more of the burden carried by the USA. Europe is at risk but we are no longer the ravaged continent of 1945: the EU is the World’s largest economy and the USA must now focus more than before on the Pacific.
So while we agree with UKIP that 2% of GDP must be committed to defence, we deplore as irresponsibly misleading UKIP’s failure openly to advocate the need also to work within the EU both to ensure that other Member States do indeed contribute their 2% and also to secure sensibly co-ordinated defence. The European whole within NATO can and must be very much greater and more effective than the sum of its national parts.
Complementing this hard power, Europe should project even better than it has our shared soft power.
The 0.7% GDP we commit to overseas aid should focus on areas of greatest need and within our own neighbourhood: the humanitarian crisis in parts of the Middle East and Libya is both desperate and under-reported.
Europeans must help both because it is the right thing to do and also because it makes us safer at home.