What bothers me about the coalition is that they appear to take a singular pride in making ‘hard choices’. I think they believe that we will admire them for having what they believe to be a ‘responsible attitude’ towards the debt problem. Well, er… no, not really. They would certainly have had more of a chance of earning our admiration had they come up with some ‘big ideas’ to accompany their cuts, but no.
What we need are ideas that capture our imagination and our enthusiasm, ideas that we could all get behind and support, ideas that would generate the growth we so desperately need. Unfortunately, it looks as though there are no big ideas on the horizon. What this demonstrates is that the coalition has yet to grasp two very important points. First, if you cut you must create as well, and second, you have to ‘sell’ policies – and for that you need to understand ‘showmanship’.
Harold Macmillan was a very canny politician, and he was also a great showman. In 1951 when Britain was slowly recovering from the aftermath of the Second World War and desperately short of social housing, he was the catalyst and the driving force behind the most successful house building programme this country has ever seen. On his watch as Minister for Housing, 300,000 houses were built every year. He had a ‘big idea’ and he used strong leadership and showmanship to make it happen.
Isn’t it time we took a leaf out of Harold Macmillan’s book? We have 1.8 million people on council waiting lists, why can we have the imagination and the drive to devise a house building programme that delivered 500,000 houses a year? It would create jobs, stimulate the economy and give 1.8 million people a proper home. If Harold Macmillan could deliver 300,000 houses in 1951, surely we do better than that – time to give Harold one in the eye?