The Selsdon Manifesto

The Selsdon Manifesto dates from the Group's founding in 1973. Nearly fifty years on progress has been made in some areas, particularly in the balance between the public and private sector. Some sections however remain relevant today


Social Policy

The 1970 approach offered the promise of the first fundamental reappraisal of the Welfare State to bemade by a British political party. Its principles - concentrating aid on people in most need, stimulating self-help, encouraging choice - were well-founded in 1970 and will remain well-founded for the 1970s and 1980s. The Welfare State has not abolished poverty despite a massive bureaucracy, unnecessarily high taxation, the invasion of personal choice and family life, and a grotesque inflation of government. Despite these high costs it has not brought the equality for which it was designed; and it has been kept going by intellectual conservatism, by bureaucratic inertia and by continuous repetition of claims it has not so far established and shows no prospect of ever establishing. After a long trial of 25 years and more of state welfare, it is time to give a chance to new ideas and new techniques in social policy that will bring more help to people in most need more efficiently and without the high costs and lost liberties of the Welfare State. The purpose must pass from first-aid expedients that make “beneficiaries” wholly and permanently dependent on officials and politicians to long-term measures that will help people out of trouble by gradually nurturing theirinnate capacities for self dependence so they can aspire to the dignity of citizenship through choice. These principles require that:
  1. aid be given most generously where there is most need; equal aid to people in unequal circumstances is false equality, that puts egalitarian dogmatism before humanity
  2. inquisition into personal circumstances should be avoided by a reverse income tax as an automatic identifier of differential requirements
  3. aid in cash should be given to consumers rather than to producers
  4. aid in cash should gradually replace social benefits in kind to build up individual judgement and discrimination by fortifying and creating choice
  5. the paternalism of the Welfare State in which the consumer, especially in the working classes, is given what officials or social workers think is good for him, should be replaced by participation in which consumers of welfare are consulted and involved, and “consumerism” through representatives should increasingly be replaced by direct methods in which every man and woman has a personal say
  6. pilot schemes should be established to test new ideas in social policy; a wholly new experimental strategy in social reform should replace the practice, hitherto dominant in the evolution of British welfare of either resisting new thinking on wholly unproven grounds or plunging the nation into vast schemes with little reason or evidence to suppose they would succeed
On these principles and methods a new social policy should be built to combine humanity with dignity. It would liberate people to spend more on welfare than they will pay in taxation that is divorced from the service they receive. It would command the support of the many, not least the mass of wage-earners, a large part of whose incomes is taken from them and spent by officials, mostly in ways that give them little say. Not least, social policy built on these foundations could provide a radical focus for people who have supported other parties because it would express the British genius for requiring new proposals to be tried and tested before the whole people is committed to them with little hope of reversal if they are found to fail