• Heather Paterson

If I were Prime Minister . . .

In the wake of Tony Blair's recent announcement of resignation, the country is awash with people commenting on what will be Blair's legacy. Criticisms are rightly being made about Blair (the first Conservative leader of the Labour Party); from his initial entry into power with the highly spun "Things Can Only Get Better" campaign to leading the country into an illegal war with Iraq. However it is all too easy to criticise what has been done, but what are the alternatives ? The only alternative currently being presented to us is David Cameron and that certainly is not a direction I wish to consider.

Thinking about this I asked myself what would I do differently if I was PM ?

So this is (or would be) my Manifesto . . .

Democracy and Decentralised Power

I would recognise the position of Prime Minister as it is meant to be; an administrator / elected representative. I would not be in power to lead but rather to follow and administer the wishes of the people of the country.

This process would be two-fold. Firstly the country would actually have a democracy not just in theory but in practice. While I would be elected on policy and action those policies on which I had been elected, any major issues should be voted upon eg joining the Euro, the introduction of ID cards, going to war etc.

Secondly I would devolve (as much) power (as possible) from the capital to local communities. For example budget-wise the country has a certain amount of money and as much as it would be nice to have a fully resourced hospital / school / community centre etc on every corner, in reality decisions need to be made over what takes priority and this should not be the decision of someone sat in an office in central London who has no links to the local communities they are affecting. The government should distribute the resources between the local councils for each area and then votes and decisions could be made as to how those resources where allocated. This would make the system much more transparent and allow people to have a greater direct involvement in issues which affect them. Eg. Sheffield council has £x million, this could buy ten new medical centres or five new schools or eight new community centres etc What do you want ?

Crime and Punishment

We as a country spend a ridiculous amount of money locking up people who pose no danger to society while rapists, murderers etc serve ever shortening sentences due to already overfilled prisons. While I am not suggesting that crimes should go unpunished there are clearly a large number of people in prison who do not need to be there. The answer to this to me seems fairly simple. If someone has committed a crime but poses no danger to society then their punishment should come in the form of community service and/or fines. This would reduce the cost of the prison service and allow decent sentences to be given to those people who really should be locked away. And once in prison resources would not be as overstretched enabling decent provisions for specialist mental health and rehabilitation services.

I would also end the farce of Blair's frenzied law making. There have been 3023 new criminal offenses created during Blair's time in office. Amougst the laws which have been created are:

It is illegal to impersonate a traffic warden

It is illegal to fail to nominate a neighbour to turn off your alarm while away from home

It is illegal for a ship's captain to be carrying grain unless he has a copy of the International Grain Code on-board

It is illegal to enter the hull of the Titanic without permission from the secretary of state

It is illegal for a person to import into England potatoes which he knows or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes

I'm not making this up as farcical as some of it sounds. If I were Prime Minister I would focus my attention of REAL crime prevention which pretty much falls into the category of preventing theft and violence.

The War Against Terror

Well Tony and Georges PR company didn't do to well with that one, the whole thing spells TWAT to me. As above - lets fight crime - but don't stir up racial hatred and bomb half of the middle east for the action of extremists. Blair and Bush are the main reason were are currently in fear of terrorist attacks - they are the reason the west is so disliked.

The list goes on - there are many things this countries government could do better, pretty much everything in fact. But my point is There ARE alternatives and settling for whatever the Labour party does because they're not quite as bad as the other lot, shouldn't be one of them.

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