Friday, 11 July 2008

'Little platoons' will decide, not Leviathan

How magnanimous of Hazel Blears to suggest in her white paper that local communities may be permitted by Labour's State to run the local swimming pool and community hall. Yep, clearly these two facilities are right at the top of citizens' concerns and their frustrations at being unable to influence the suffocating weight of the State. Local government is seen as pointless and powerless precisely because it can't change anything that matters locally. Too often local government boundaries have been drawn for administrative convenience, rather than reflecting the natural self-identification of local communities. Blears suggests that new 'neighbourhood councils' will be encouraged - but will be little more than talking shops, pointless and impotent. This white paper is utterly pointless; a rag-bag of empty gestures that will do precisely nothing to redress the imbalance in power that is destabilising the country.

Burke wrote:
To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.
Blears fears the little platoons. Labour's centralist State is threatened by them. She will do nothing that actually encourages them; nothing that would allow them to join into companies, battalions or brigades. For Labour, as for that black rogue Rousseau, there is the individual and there is the State. Little platoons figure nowhere.

So let's forget about swimming pools and community halls, shall we, and look instead at how all the collective functions that really concern people can be devolved to their most practical local level? Functions such as tax, police, education, health, welfare, planning and local transport. A re-drawing of local government to reverse the harmful errors of the 1974 reorganisation. A shrinking of the State and the real empowerment of the little platoons.

The chance of winning an iPod won't bring local voters back to the ballot box; this deeply insulting and asinine suggestion could only have come from a Central Statist who believes nothing but that individuals are shallow and selfish and only the State is capable of imposing 'good'.

When Blears realises (and I don't think she ever will) that people and their little platoons are the true repository of right and justice, of selfless participation, of the common good and that they and only they have the medicine to cure not only our broken democracy but our broken society she will cringe in shame and humiliation at the stupidity and ignorance behind the iPod idea.

1 comment:

Blue Eyes said...

What's interesting is that despite the lack of local decision-making there are still masses of local voluntary groups waiting to take up the slack.

My estate runs itself at arms length from the council and does so magnificently, and is an oasis of community spirits compared with the living hell which are the neighbouring estates.

The area itself has many voluntary groups, both neighbourhood and borough wide.