The era of big government has run its course
28 April 2010
We need a big society, not big government; social responsibility, not state control, writes Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Conservative shadow minister for community cohesion and social action
We can't go on like this. After 13 years of Labour, the size, the scope and role of the government in the UK has reached a point where it is now inhibiting, not advancing, the progressive aims of reducing poverty, fighting inequality, and increasing general well-being. The facts speak for themselves: people, are no more likely to escape the circumstances of their birth than they were fifty years ago. Hundreds of thousands of parents can't get their children into their first choice of school. Four in ten pupils leave primary school unable to read, write and add up properly. Child poverty has gone up in recent years. Nearly 2 million children live in households where no one works and one in five pensioners is living in poverty.
These figures show, despite Gordon Brown's rhetoric, in Labour's Britain, too many people are denied the chance to escape poverty and build a better life for themselves and their family.
We can't go on like this, because Gordon Brown's big government is not living within its means. We are now borrowing more than at any time in our modern history and for every four pounds the Government spends, one pound has to be borrowed. Five more years of Labour's debt, waste and taxes will ruin Britain for yet another generation.
We can't go on like this, because Gordon Brown's big government is also making our social problems worse not better, our society more, not less unfair. We need big changes to build a stronger society and unlike Labour, the approach needs to be different: focussing much more on the root causes of poverty and inequality, and that means getting to grips with those things like poor schooling, family breakdown and people stuck year after year on welfare, which are pushing so many children into poverty and keeping them there. That's why we've emphasised three key types of reform – schools, families, and welfare. So we will drive up standards in schools by giving teachers more power to restore discipline in the classroom; by making the exam system and curriculum more rigorous; and by creating a new generation of free, non-selective Academies to give parents real choice. We will support families, back marriage and encourage commitment. And we will end the couple penalty in the tax credits system which pays couples more to live apart, than to stay together. We will tackle welfare dependency: providing more help for those who are out of work but cutting benefits for those who can work and are offered reasonable work, but refuse to take it.
The era of big government has run its course. Labour's big government bureaucracy, with its time-wasting, money-draining, responsibility-sapping approach must be torn down. By giving people more power and control over their lives and by rewarding responsible decisions, we really can change our country and build a stronger society. We must radically redistribute power and control from the central state to individuals, families and local communities. A Big Society: not a Big State. A society with more personal, professional, civic and corporate responsibility; a society where people come together to solve problems and improve life for themselves and their communities; and a society where the leading force for progress is social responsibility, not state control.
We need to succeed where Labour have failed: but, that requires new energy, leadership and values to get the country moving. I want our children to grow up in an economy where they know they can get a decent job and the chance to make the most of their lives. I want our children to grow up in a society where they can play safely in the street, go to a school where the headteacher knows their name, get the secure start in life that a strong family provides. And I want our children to grow up with just a bit more faith in our political system and a lot more power to change the things they care about. That's what I want for the next generation. That's what I want for my children; for everyone's children, and I know together we can make it happen.