Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, it does make me laugh that the Countryside Alliance are insisting that only “technical legal reasons” prevented the Law Lords from siding with them. What on Earth do they think courts of law are supposed to deliberate on?!
I finally got around to reading Simon Titley‘s article in the latest Liberator about Lib Dem “Maoists” and “Trotskyists” (his argument is that there are two mindsets within the Lib Dems that are roughly analagous to two Marxist factions: Maoists for whom campaigning has become an end in itself and Trotskyists who seek to cause a purifying revolution by engineering splits and adopting a fundamentalist approach to liberalism). It is absolutely spot on; Liberator and/or Simon should do us all a favour and make the article more widely available.
I was particularly tickled by the idea of (the now departed?) Liberal Future being the Trotskyists. I’ve been saying that for years. Simon misses a point here though: a common tactic of Trotskyists is to jump on every passing bandwagon and claim it for their own (hence: student politics, the Anti-Nazi League, Stop the War, all strikes, all asylum extradition case, etc.).
So it is that Mark Oaten, formally one of the most stringent supporters of the Lib Dems forming a permanent coalition with our “social democrat” partners in Labour, suddenly reemerged in 1999 as the defender of the liberalism flame when he founded LF. And at the same time he felt comfortable being the President of the Peel Group, which ostensibly exists to convince people that the Liberal Democrats are the true inheritors of One Nation Conservativism.
I shouldn’t be too churlish about the Trots though; at least I know where they stand. It is the Maoist tendency that is the real problem the Lib Dems need to sort out now. The party needs to rediscover the ideological roots behind community politics (on which note, every Lib Dem should read this); as of 2005 we are about as far from them as we ever have been.
The Northern Line was a nightmare last night, as it has been to a greater or lesser extent all week; I caught the very last train home before they shut the whole line down and even that was touch and go. And what’s being done about it? Well, the GLA is flexing its muscles and (sharp intake of breath) forcing Ken to write a report.
It sounds pathetic, but it is pretty much all the GLA can do given its puny powers. The way the system has been set up, the GLA has almost no ability to hold the Mayor to account, who in turn has almost no powers, all of which are dependent on the good will of the government.
Livingstone knows this, so it is pretty bloody cheeky of him to suggest, as he did today, that the GLA should be scrapped and replaced by a small sub-committee of council leaders.
Always be suspicious of politicians who bemoan that they aren’t being held to account; in my experience it invariably means that they think they’re out of reach, when in fact the’re out of touch. There is little doubt that the GLA has failed to make any significant impact, but that is how it was set up. And there is no doubt that a group of council leaders would do an even worse job. Apart from the fact that it would be entirely dominated by Labour, council leaders by their very nature go native as soon as they accept the job. They won’t be representing you or I to the Mayor but their political class and the interests of local government.
Once again, Livingstone knows this. He gives the game away by attacking the Lib Dems and Conservatives; surely it is the job of Labour GLAMs to hold him to account as well? London Labour appears to be learning from its Welsh counterpart, attempting to exploit disatisfaction with the system to force through measures to make the system less open, democratic and accountable, and entirely under their thumb. So we have the situation in Wales where legitimate concerns about how the Additional Member System works (allowing people who lose constituency elections to get elected on the list) are being abused to force through a measure (forcing candidates to choose between party list or constituency) which will simply undermine the other political parties while its own Commission had provided it with a solution that would have alleviated everyone’s (legitimate) concerns: change the electoral system.
The Welsh shouldn’t fall for this; Labour’s proposed system means that a system that is already undermined by the closed list system becomes essentially random in any region where there are marginal constituencies.
Londoners shouldn’t be fooled either. However imperfect, and genuine democratic reforms would be welcome, the GLA is the best thing we have to hold the Mayor to account outside of elections. If Livingstone wants it to hold him to account better, he should lobby for it to be given more powers over him. But of course he won’t.