Get back to basics with me, John the Simple. Oh yes

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The Independent Online
HELLO. This is your Prime Minister speaking. This is my speech to the nation, setting out my programme in the coming months. Now, if the Queen's Speech is written by the Prime Minister, you might think that this speech has been written by the Queen] But such is not the case. Oh, no. Well, that is my joke for this speech over and done with, so let us now get down to the speech.

What I have to say to you today concerns my call for a return to basics. Recently I made a call for a return to basics, and already I have had many inquiries here at 10 Downing Street as to what I meant by a return to basics. Yes, letters and phone calls have flooded in to my office, wanting to know a lot more about this call for a return to basics.

Here, for instance, I have a hand-delivered note from a Mr Kenneth Clarke, saying: 'Are these basics you want us to return to the same as the Victorian values that Margaret wanted us to go back to or are we flogging something different this time?' and here is a letter from a Virginia Bottomley, saying: 'If you want the Health Service to go back to the days when we had more doctors than accountants and managers, then come out and say so, instead of shilly-shallying around.'

And here is another letter, from a Mr Graham Taylor, saying that he tried getting back to basics and a fat lot of good it did him.

So, a tremendous amount of interest has already been aroused by my call for a return to basics, indeed. But obviously I have not made myself quite clear enough over what constitutes a return to basics, so let me spell it out.

Briefly, our research shows that the citizens of this country react positively to short words and negatively to long words. When I have campaigned for such concepts as 'subsidiarity' and 'enterprise culture' and 'deregulation' and even 'privatisation', people have been left cold. It is not a lot of use railing against 'federalism' if no one is quite sure against what one is railing. But if I say that I am in favour of short words such as 'jobs' and 'cuts' and 'boom' and 'growth', then people respond very favourably.

The message from the electorate is very clear. What people want is a return to simplicity. This is what I said to my advisers. Let us have a return to simplicity] But they said, 'You will make yourself a hostage to fortune if you do that, people will call you John the Simple. If that's what you want, fine, but we will all be out of a job then. Look, why not call it a return to basics? It means the same thing, but sounds a lot better.'

So I have decided, after a lot of thought, to call my programme A Return To Basics. What kind of basics? Well, the older ones among you may remember my previous campaign for a programme of citizen's charters. This was a tremendously valuable exercise in which I gave the country a series of charters which gave you the right to complain if you felt you had a complaint - if, for instance, you were knocked on the head and had all your money stolen, you had a perfect right to go to the courts and sue your assailant and get all that money back] If he hadn't spent it all, of course.

So now I have decided to extend this idea and prepare a whole collection of lists of Citizen's Basics. They will contain old-fashioned but valuable truths that we are in danger of forgetting in the hurly-burly of modern life. Mr Michael Howard came up with a good one the other day, when he reminded us that 'Prison works]' and pointed out that if a criminal is put behind bars, he cannot commit any more crime. (Of course, we do not count crimes committed inside prisons, like wholesale burning and gutting of buildings, murder of fellow prisoners, etc, because that would undermine Mr Howard's point. And we don't want that, do we? Oh, no.) I don't know how we had forgotten this basic truth, but as soon as he said it, I saw how true it was, and now we are going full steam ahead to build more prisons. Incidentally, I have also had a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions pointing out that if we released from prison all those prisoners who are innocent of the crimes for which they have been put inside, then there would be plenty of prison space for the guilty . . . no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to mention that here.

Anyway, if you want a list of basics, write and let me know. We have them on all subjects. We have a list of Pet Care Basics ('To get a dog's age in human terms, just multiply by seven'), House Care Basics ('To get red wine out of a carpet, sprinkle it liberally with salt') and even a list of Recycling Basics ('Have you got a lot of red wine-stained salt after that carpet accident? Here's how to re-use it]'). Just send a large SAE. However, please do not send a covering letter asking why, after 14 years of glorious Tory rule, it is necessary to get back to basics. That sort of thing just isn't helpful.

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