The Conservative leader said the Scottish Parliament fiasco was a "monument" to Labour's record of "tax, spend, borrow and waste" during a speech in which he claimed his party had learnt enough "humility" to succeed in Scotland.Well, yes - the Scottish Parliament building is an easy target for any opposition party, but that's (hopefully) a one-off. What about Labour's wider programme?
Mr Howard promised that a Conservative government would lower taxes without compromising public services. "We want people to keep more of the money they earn because we believe they are better at spending it than politicians. I don't apologise for my ambition to take less of your money. We know you can have lower taxes but still deliver first rate services."Hmm. Lower taxes - fine. Keeping our own money - very good. But what are we to make of "without compromising public services" and "delivering first rate services"? My local pub delivers first rate services and does so to the "public". I can buy first rate clothes, cars and catering without any involvement of the state whatsoever. What Michael Howard is saying is that he can cut taxes and still deliver top-quality, state-funded health and education services through the state. I don't believe it. I'm fully aware of the supply side economic theory that says that lower taxes can lead to greater growth and a consequent increase in total tax take. There is some truth in that theory, but do we want the taxman to collect more of our money? I think not. The Leviathan state runs almost all of our health and education services. That's why they don't work. Health spending per-capita in Scotland is higher than elsewhere in the UK and customer satisfaction is lower. Many of our children are unable to read or write properly. That's shameful. Tinkering around with health and education "passports" isn't enough. We need to privatise all of the delivery of health and education and, as much as possible, let people purchase their own "services" with their own money. I think that the Tories are afraid of stating the truth - that large numbers of bureaucrats will have to be fired if we are to see any improvement in health and education. Here's a suggested pledge for Mr Howard: buy up all of the advertising pages in the Society pages of the Guardian for his first term as prime minister and leave them blank.