Ten winning ideas to put the Tories back in power

John Blundell writes in The Business

IT WAS heartening to see Michael Howard in such fine sparkling form when speaking to businessmen last week. They loved his message and at times the UK Opposition leader was almost Churchillian with a dash of Thatcherism. Now there's a heady thought. But it did strike me that all the best policies adopted after the Conservative's 1979 victory were once deemed utterly impractical by diffident Torie's.

All the privatisations were opposed by the forces of complacency. Scrapping exchange controls was a huge boost to the economy but nearly every official was opposed. Now is the time surely to rehearse some popular liberalisations that would deliver not only a far better society but, if Howard will forgive my bluntness, also millions of voters Elections are similar to auctions except politicians love to offer "free" items. Here are my 10 winning ideas why might win the election for Howard:

1 Make taxes far simpler and scrap many of them. Tax forms should be the size of postcards not books.

Introduce income tax at a flat rate of 20% with no exceptions, as just instituted in Singapore. That would liberate everyone and the paradox is that revenues would soar too.

The European Union (EU) Commission wants us to harmonise VAT at 20%. That may be a firm clue that we might reduce it to 15%. The taxation of capital, or savings, should be abandoned. They are all merely remnants of the stale hostility to "unearned income". It is a virtue to save not a sin.

Inheritance tax is no longer a hazard for the wealthy who all take professional evading action. It penalises only those of modest wealth. Don't talk of shifting the thresholds, abolish it.

Tax Freedom Day in June should become a February public holiday replacing the socialist May Day. The Conservatives' plans to reduce tax are so tentative as to barely register with the public. Boldness would pay rewards in May.

2 Sell off the State's dormant assets The sums raised could go to every family as a trust. The Ministry of Defence owns land areas greater than all of Devon and Cornwall. Sell it off or rather give it back to those who nominally own it - the British public. The Forestry Commission is the greatest single property owner in the country. It hides behind its pine needles as an agency for the birds and the bees but it is little more than a nationalised industry that has escaped reform. Add its acres to the new trust's assets.

Every ministry owns a ragbag of properties Let them all be brought to market. The privatisation harvest is not near its end. Rusting nationalised industries may have gone but the government still owns far too much and husbands it poorly.

Buying shares in the privatised entities was popular but this was really only the public buying back what it already nominally owned. A trust composed of all asset sales would represent a real gift of capital to everyone. I doubt the Labour Party could respond; they have their lingering love affair with collective ownership.

3 Sell off the BBC and abolish the licence fee. The corporation's prime asset is its strands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Price them by an auction process. Its vast endowment was inadvertent. Programming would barely change but the funding would be audience and advertising driven, rather than our superiors filtering what they deem good for us through "public service". The ending of this odd poll tax would yield a useful downward blip on the retail price index (RPI). The money raised from a sale of the BBC's spectrum space should be added to the trust fund established on everyone's behalf.

4 Secede from the European Union's monstrous Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Cease to make donations to what even its auditors declare to be organised crime. Simultaneously cease to pay farmers for producing what nobody wants. British supermarket prices would tumble by