If I were Prime Minister…

Sheep in a field

… I would stop running the country as if it were some else’s business. As Prime Minister, Britain would become MY business and I would want to manage it well. A succession of governments has increased the national debt by borrowing more than the country can afford.

The priorities for a PM are to ensure that the laws of the country meet the demands of the population of that country, that the budget balances, and that contingencies are thought of and where necessary, funds put aside to deal with emergencies and extreme situations. Knee-jerk reactions to media related information should be kept in check. They create confusion and havoc. Politics was never meant to be based upon the extreme incidents in society. That is what laws are for or at least that is what I always thought. Laws take time and consideration. A good law is one where all avenues of thought have been considered and a meaningful law is devised. The government’s job is to look after the present and the future of the country, but not by spending money it does not have and not by throwing ill-conceived ideas into hasty law-making.

If I were PM I would stop making handouts to Europe and the rest of the world that the country could not afford or at the very least reduce them or provide goods and services rather than grants. That is the way to control the cost. Britain may be a comparatively well off section of the west but we are small compared to the rest of the world. That means that we will never be in a position to finance our European neighbours, or provide huge pots of funding to the third world population as much as some of the larger countries are able to. There is just not enough spare funding. However, we do give generously to world charities as a population, on an individual basis and that should form a larger part of Britain’s contribution. Where individuals can afford to make large donations, there should be incentives for them to do so, but not mercenary incentives. I applaud all those whose philanthropic principles allow them to be generous – because they can be, and have many millions to give away. I would never begrudge their recognition whether they chose it or not.

The finances of this nation are in a mess. We need to be realistic. The economic measures taken by the current government may be unpleasant, may be disagreed with by many, but at least someone is trying to do something to bring down the national debt, which will eventually cripple us all if it is not dealt with.

Profiteering is rife in large companies. As PM I would be prepared to chop their feet from under them. Clever accountancy often prevents tax on profits from making its way to the government. A company that trades in Britain should be made to pay tax on the profits made in Britain. That is a law I would be happy to impose in haste!

There is nothing wrong with making a profit but there are certain essentials that people cannot do without:
Food, clothing, clean water and sewerage, heat and light, medical support, a home and a job (if not retired or too young or too incapable of going out to work).
These are the elements of life that ensure health and happiness. None are luxuries. None should be a source of exploitation by the profiteers.

The world of the Superstore giants exists because all of them want to make as much profit as they can in as many areas of merchandise as they are able to stock. Food is generally the largest part of their business and usually how they first stepped onto the ladder of superstore business. Commercially they buy cheap and sell (by comparison) expensively, raking in a small fortune in the process. A lot of stores have artificially inflated prices and they provide loyalty cards with a small payback to trick customers into believing they get a good deal. What they are saying is, give me £1.30 for a loaf of bread that costs 20p to make, and I will give you back 2p, or thereabouts. Even at double that cost the profit is obscene. Nice if you can get it! Not if I had anything to do with it!

I would put a cap of 5% profit on meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, dairy produce, bread, and all healthy food. This would prevent the cost of food from going up beyond the means of families on low incomes and pensioners, whose income or pension increases do not rise as much as 5%. It is easy to see how low income families and pensioners eventually end up in poverty.

I would not cap the profit on unhealthy food like cakes, biscuits, chocolate and drinks like beer, wine, and fizzy drinks. I am confident that as a result parents would spend their money more wisely and children would not be so unhealthy.

You might think that this would adversely affect the farmers. However, I would encourage the larger food chains to own their own farms and pay the farmers a liveable wage. If a farmer cannot afford to keep his farm he would probably welcome the offer, and the job of managing the farm for a guaranteed income. It would be a better use of company profits in order to protect the source of their vital goods and services.

Clothing for school children is becoming cheaper from the supermarkets but it is often being made in third world countries. Labour is cheap, workers are much worse off than British law would ever allow, and they do not get the same financial benefit. If Britain is going to continue to buy manufactured goods abroad, a British factory should be opened and managed by the purchasing company (or group of purchasing companies) with experienced British managers on-site supervising the local management where necessary. Workers would be paid a fair living wage for a fair day’s work and be allowed to work under British safety regulations if that country’s laws do not ensure it. Factory owners have the freedom to adopt high standards… or not, so why buy from owners who do not?

Water and power were under the ownership of the government several governments ago. They were privatised to raise cash for a short-term fix and turned into profiteering companies. That was a mistake. Any utility that so closely affects the wellbeing of the population should not be a source of profiteering. Britain does not have the climate for these utilities to become the mortgages on the lives of the population that they have become. These companies should never have been floated on the stock exchange and I would reverse these decisions, no matter what the cost if I were PM. Anyone who seeks to make an unearned profit from the financial misery inflicted on pensioners and low income families deserves the loss – in my opinion.

The NHS is one of the greatest institutions ever created. It is being abused in more ways than one because the government does not have formal systems in place to prevent it from being exploited. It is a given that prices quoted for equipment and services (for many areas of government, including local councils) are far higher than quoted to the private individual. Why? I would force companies to make their prices for goods and services more transparent, with a reliable current pricing structure made available to all, either online or in writing. Many companies do make prices available online or in print, but there are still those who do not.

Any British citizen who travels abroad does not have unlimited access to medical care. Even in an emergency there are limitations on medical care, and even worse, where death occurs, the cost of repatriation ultimately falls on the family unless insurance or a third party intervenes. Why does Britain allow a free-for-all? A £200 levy on foreign nationals who come here to study or work won’t go very far. Why not insist on them having medical insurance for their period of stay, before coming to (and be valid in) Britain?

Not having to pay for medical care for the many thousands of medical travellers who come to this country each year will save a lot of money toward funding the NHS more responsibly and effectively.

There is a world of difference between a foreign national who hops on a plane to Britain to give birth, (and collect the bonus of an automatic British passport for the child that opens the door to a flood of relatives who come to see the baby and never leave), and a responsible foreign national who is enjoying a holiday here and has the misfortune to suffer an accident. Obviously this is only one scenario but I am sure there are many others. Nurses and doctors who feel their services are being abused by people who do not have a fair right to use them justifiably feel aggrieved. Wouldn’t you? I do not doubt of course, that emergency care would be dealt with compassionately no matter what.

If someone walked into your house and ate the meal you had just prepared for your child and gave the explanation “the door was open”, as their reason for taking it, I think you would be pretty annoyed. I would welcome foreign nationals who are appropriately qualified, who come to Britain and those who are willing to work and pay their way, and their taxes. I do not think I would be happy to welcome foreign nationals whose only objective was to live on benefits they have not earned, because the government allows them to.

Living near your family is not always a lifestyle choice but for some families it is important. Prosperous farming communities have declined since the war and families with children and grandchildren sometimes want to live locally even when they cannot afford a home of their own. Children brought up in villages may not want to move elsewhere as adults. There is a double edged sword in this scenario. Enlarge the village and it ceases to be a village. Restrict building and families inevitably become separated.

As PM I would relax the laws around building in the green belt only when no other option is available and only to satisfy the requirement to permanently house children of the villagers, especially where homes are built on private farmland. However, I would stipulate a long time period, say 10-15 years, to prevent the sale of such new homes if privately built, to avoid exploitation of the countryside by builders intent on a quick profit, or restrict tenancy to members of the family who originally rented the property or other local family members (if built by the local council). Where relevant, I would make the same rule apply in towns and cities.

In towns and cities the local councils would be funded to address the housing shortage. Priority would be given depending upon the right to it. The first person who has had their name down for years would be the first person offered a property if it were suitable. People who come to this country, making themselves homeless would not undermine that, and would only be offered accommodation on a temporary basis before being returned to their home country unless they could prove they had the funds to sustain themselves. This is done in America and is a good deterrent to illegal immigration.

It is not the PMs job to find the population a job. That is an individual responsibility. Getting a job is not just about education and qualification. It is about your mindset. Why do we want a job anyway? We want money, or an income. That is why most people work.

Education offers qualifications usually in a specific subject. If you want to specialise in that subject you will need to get the qualifications to do so. That means that further education is necessary. Some people obtain more qualifications than they need, either to support their future work prospects, because they can’t make up their mind what they want to do or decide to go in a different direction, or maybe they just like studying and they can afford to do it. Most employers prefer people who are not afraid to work for a living.

There are jobs for anyone who wants to work. You just have to be realistic about your capabilities and make up your mind to spend a set number of hours at the service of an organisation or an individual, perhaps a sole trader, or in self-employment, for a liveable wage. No-one has a right to luxury; you have to work for it if you want it. If you just want to be able to live a normal life, you still need to work for it. It is unacceptable to expect other people to keep you at no cost to you until the day you die.

When you do find a job, you need to remember that just because you are not the most important person in the company, you also do not need to feel that you are the least important person in the company. The only difference between the Managing Director and the boy/girl in the mail room is the amount of money they are paid. They are equally important to the company. The MD does not have time to sort the mail; s/he is too busy keeping the company running. The boy/girl in the mail room is unlikely to have the experience or knowledge to walk into a job within a company and assume the right to run it. If I had to see my employer make cutbacks in staff I would not like to see them dispense with the people who clean the offices and toilets. I don’t think I would like to have to do that myself just because there was no-one else paid to do it! Cleaners and people in the mailroom are as important in a company as the managing director.

You are probably thinking I’m idealistic and “Thank goodness you are not Prime Minister”, or maybe you are thinking the opposite. The point is, I am not Prime Minister and I am not seeking your votes at the next election. I am just making my voice heard. Isn’t that what it takes to force changes?

What would you do if you were Prime Minister?

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