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Does anyone get up in the morning thinking "I wish the state were smaller"?

To David Cameron,

You were quoted on Radio 4 recently (22nd October) as saying "I don't suppose anyone gets up in the morning thinking 'I wish the state were smaller' ".

If correctly quoted, you were wrong. 

The Civil Service is probably not unique in its inability to reform or fire ineffective employees, or in substituting reorganisation for effective action;  but it has no competitor that could drive it out of business.  What's more, the wealth-producers of the private sector are forced to pay the unfunded pensions of civil servants for as long as each one of them lives.  Messrs Blair and Brown have, during their tenure, increased the number of state employees by around three-quarters of a million.  Tax freedom day next year will be in June.

I recently observed at first hand a computer shut-down caused by a smoke alarm.  Health and Safety procedures dictated that power was cut and the building evacuated.  It took days to reinstate full service.  In former times someone would have stuck his head round the door to determine whether the incident was a raging fire or merely a single smouldering electrical unit which could be doused by a blast of CO2  (which was actually the case). 
Our part of Surrey is prey to a plague of speed limits.  The cost of all the signs must be enormous.  In practical terms they are counter-productive because one tires of noticing constantly changing limits, and because the distraction they constitute is a danger in itself.  They can only be a make-work scheme of highways departments which have not the honesty to reduce or disband. 

Just three examples to explain why, as I set out for work at an age when a civil servant would be enjoying an inflation-proof retirement free from annuity rate worries, I do think of the bloated state and wish it smaller -  much smaller.

Alan Aldridge 1 Nov 2005



A Clarke supporter comes out for Davis.

Dear iGreens,

Like many Conservatives I am deeply disappointed that Kenneth Clarke has been excluded from the final ballot of Conservative Party members. I am particularly angry that some MPs seem to have treated this as a game with the aim being to exclude the traditional Conservative viewpoint on Europe from consideration. MPs who behaved in that way have disgraced the Conservative party and damaged our ability to present ourselves as a broad church.

But like all of us I am forced now to make a choice between the alternatives on offer. The media consensus - something all Conservatives should be wary of - is that David Cameron is the only reasonable home for moderate, pro-European Conservatives. Having looked at his record and that of David Davis I am moved to disagree and so I am writing to a broad range of Conservative party figures in the hope that I might play a small part in assisting David Davis's campaign.

Of course, Mr Davis is a far from ideal choice. Bluntly he has proved himself to be part of the Conservative party's problem over most of the last decade. To be part of the solution he will have to show a willingness to change. 

But, frankly, David Cameron has also been central to the Conservative Party's misfortune over the last four years - and longer - too. He has been at the heart of policy formation and plainly did nothing to expel the image that we were a party obsessed with prices and unconcerned with values. Even now his every move seems to be governed by opportunism and not by principle.

Take, for instance, the relationship with our fellow centre-right Europeans. David Cameron has decreed - completely against the wishes of the majority of our MEPs - that we should leave the European People's Party grouping in the European Parliament. Where else are we supposed to go? To join up with the lunatics of UKIP or the nasty extreme right populists from Eastern Europe? Or perhaps the post-fascists from Italy? Any of these would deeply damage our party and its reputation. David Davis, to his credit, has resisted this policy - which is being pressed on the party by the hard right.

Mr Davis has shown real ability in Parliament. Mr Cameron has shown none. Mr Cameron hardly represents the average Conservative voter, never mind the average Briton, in this day and age. He may look good on television but his election would be a step backwards.

I believe Mr Davis can show himself to be a reformer. If Mr Cameron is Conservative Blair - all smile and no substance - then surely Mr Davis is our Kinnock - the man who actually sets the reform in motion. So please, use your vote and influence to secure the election of David Davis.

Yours faithfully

Lucinda Price 22 Oct 2005
18 Newington Place, Edinburgh, EH9 1QS

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Last modified: February 11, 2006