Further evidence, if such were needed, that one of the most interesting and genuinely radical MPs in the House of Commons is Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead. Today he writes in the Daily Telegraph of some ideas that chime well with the sort of small state that any Tory might think of as achievable and realistic.

Though he eschews the notion that we might be able to return to the sort of small state that the Victorians might have recognised (and nice though that might be, even a Luddite, in terms of government that is, such as I would acknowledge that modern society is a tad too complex for that) but he does have some excellent ideas for how the activities of government might be moved closer to the control of those actually consuming the services.

One has a strong sense that here is a man who has spent all his political life in opposition and as a result remains bursting with fresh ideas he has never had a chance of developing. Elected in 1979 he had a year as a spokesman on education under Michael Foot (which must have been a depressing experience), a year as spokesman on health and social security under Neil Kinnock. From 1987 he was Chairman of the Social Services Select Committee (which became the Social Security Select Committee) where he remained until 1997 when Blair made him a Junior Minister.

Following Labour’s win in the 1997 election, Field joined the government of Tony Blair as the Minister of Welfare Reform at the Department of Social Security with the rank of Minister of State. Field viewed his task as ‘thinking the unthinkable’ in terms of social security reform.

It appears that the Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted some simpler vote-winning policy ideas and not the unthinkable which might have involved the slaying of a whole herd of sacred Socialist cows. It will surprise no one that Blair wanted something to garner votes rather than something that was actually in the national interest. To someone of Field’s intellectual integrity, this must have been deeply frustrating.

There were clashes with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and the Secretary of State for Social Security, Harriet Harman, which does not make him a bad boy. He resigned his ministerial position in 1998 rather than accept a move from the Department of Social Security offered by Tony Blair in a reshuffle. It was reported that Mr. Field argued for Tony Blair to promote him to Secretary of State for Social Security.

Though his article is ostensibly directed to Gordon Brown, his ideas will resonate most with Tories. The ideas he has come up with are all ones that Tories would feel comfortable with if adopted by David Cameron. I particularly like the idea of electing local Police Chief Superintendents:

Chief constables are too remote for local people to hold to account – a damning statement in itself. Chief superintendents are responsible for local police services. Their posts should be put up for re-election. It wouldn’t take many elections to see a revolution in the way the police employ their record number of staff – in a way voters approve. Anti-social behaviour would begin to be curbed for a start.

The whole article reads almost like an application for membership of the Tory Party and one cannot help but think that he must be a candidate for some serious wooing by the Cameron machine as a defector. What a coup that would be! It would only work if he was given a serious post in Cabinet with a solid promise that he would be given his head. He is, one suspects, not an easy man with whom to deal and one whose principles are important and in that sense he will take some careful handling, but Labour will find it difficult to attack a man such as he.

In those circumstances he might not only think the unthinkable but do the unthinkable. Then we might see a field full of dead (and long redundant) Socialist cows, slaughtered at last by a government prepared to tackle the system of social support that has for too long been nurtured the Labour vote-getting machine. Removing it from the armoury of the Labour Gerrymander would be a prize worth having for the nation and for the Tories.

Here are some realistic ideas for smaller government which might make for the start of a revolution in the way in which our people regard the services provided by the state and how they might become more closely involved in their delivery. Now that would be a blow for democracy – and hated by the Left who would see their over-arching control disappear for ever.

It would be worth doing just to hear their squeals of anguish at the mere thought.

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