PARTY conference season comes to an end today when the Conservatives finish their four-day shindig in Manchester.
It’s traditional at this time of year for leaders to keep their activists happy by throwing a bit of red meat into their gaping maws.
Lib Dem boss Nick Clegg got the ball rolling a few weeks ago by promising his members that he would block any move to scrap the 50p tax rate for the rich.
A week later Labour’s Ed Miliband revealed he would cut tuition fees from the new maximum of £9,000 a year to £6,000 if his party wins the next election.
And this week the Tory faithful have been on a red meat-only diet as the leadership have shovelled juicy policy steaks down their mouths.
First, transport secretary Phil Hammond promised to look at increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph.
Then chancellor George Osborne told activists the Council Tax freeze would be extended into 2012/13.
And communities secretary Eric Pickles got in on the act when he announced he had magically found an extra £250m to allow councils across England to bring back weekly bin collections.
The Tory faithful have gorged on so much red meat this week that I’m a little bit worried about their cholesterol levels.
But two-thirds of that feast is probably good for the country as well as the party.
Turning first to motorway speeds, the 70mph limit was introduced in 1965 when cars were basically tin cans on wheels. Better braking systems and safety features like airbags make today’s vehicles a good deal safer.
So increasing the limit to 80mph – roughly in line with the 130 kilometres per hour used in France and Italy – is not the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Anything that brings Britain closer to Europe is a good thing, as I’m sure any red-blooded Tory would agree.
Freezing Council Tax is not a bad idea either. At a time of surging inflation, a little respite for householders is welcome.
But, having scoffed these two pieces of red meat, I suggest the Tories should throw down their napkins and decline any more food.
Because the third sop to the Conservative masses – the return of the weekly bin collection – is a foolish and wasteful move.
Mr Pickles has truly lost the run of himself when he starts talking about ‘every Englishman and woman’s right’ to have their rubbish taken away every seven days.
Kirklees Council abolished the weekly collection of grey bins in the last five years.
The policy was controversial with some residents at the time, but it has worked well.
Changing to fortnightly collections was the little – or perhaps not so little – nudge that many residents needed to make them think ‘does this piece of waste go in the grey bin or the green bin?’
And, contrary to some people’s fears, scrapping the weekly round has not led to huge numbers of mega rats feasting on rotting remains in the streets of Huddersfield.
As I’ve said in this column before, as local government reporter I cannot remember the last time a reader contacted me to complain about fortnightly collections.
And it’s interesting to note that, of the 15 comments on the online version of the Examiner’s report into Mr Pickles’ announcement, not a single one supports him.
It seems that Englishmen – and women – are quite happy to do without one of their ‘rights’.
But despite this, Mr Pickles believes that now, of all times, is the moment to spend £250m to try to get councils to turn the clock back.
This is one piece or red meat that needs to go straight in the bin.