Meeting the Challenge 4/3: Localism

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LOCALISM: to what extent can policing, health and regeneration be devolved to neighbourhoods and families?

Full paper.

This is a bit of a silly section. Admirer as I am of David Boyle, it is clear that he wrote this chapter and appears to be having a conversation with himself. Happily however, this is one area where I appear to be relatively in tune with my partisan superiors.

The Centre for Um’s Free Think website is currently looking at this area, although traffic to it would appear to be stony dead. Go over there and have a look – I have been valiantly defending Sarah Teather’s good name and fearlessly mocking Prof Corrigan’s deluded fantasies.

The real question for me here though is not policy but strategy. The party has always been in favour of radical decentralisation to one extent or another, and yet it never appears to be a campaign issue for us. Read our “top ten reasons to vote Lib Dem” and not one – not one – is a commitment to devolve power (indeed, as the Tax Commission admits, the local income tax pledge commits us to make local government even more reliant on central funds!).

So instead of answers, I have questions that I’d like the working group itself to answer:

  • How do we sell localism in a general election, rather than hide it in our manifesto?
  • How can we resolve the paradox of fighting an election at a national platform whilst effectively prescribing localised solutions?
  • Does our commitment to localism extend to making it a core part of our campaign strategy, even if the polls say it is not an issue that the public are particularly interested in?

If the working group cannot answer these three simple questions, then I would humbly suggest not spending any more time on the subject.

3 thoughts on “Meeting the Challenge 4/3: Localism

  1. Completely agree (the fuller version of the first point on health said something like ‘end
    Whitehall meddling’, didn’t it, but it seems to have fallen off this version)

    “How do we sell localism in a general election, rather than hide it in our manifesto?”

    I’d suggest just saying it like it is. We oppose: Whitehall bureaucracy. We propose: More
    decisions at local level.

    Of course it’s good to illustrate localism in other policy points, but I think it’s important enough to
    have its own point.

    and sod what the polls say 🙂

  2. James

    I think the point you (and most other knee jerk localists) miss is that as well as having one of the most centralised political structures in europe we also have one of the most centralised politcal and media cultures. Hence people (and this is bourne out by the latest IPPR study) may say they want more devolved decision making, but they (and the media if they are white and middle class) will scream if they percieve someone somewhere else is getting a better deal; and more importantly will balme ministers in Whitehall.

    So if you want to introduce a localised political structure effectively (not something I would oppose) the first job is probably tackling cultural centralism rather than the administrative kind.

  3. Spoken like a true Whitehall bureaucrat. 🙂

    But you make my point for me. The only way we can do that is by campaigning on it and tackling those objections head on, rather than hiding those pledges in our manifesto.

    But it is a chicken and egg situation – you can’t effectively change the culture until you change the structures.

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