Centralist party political structures are as corrosive of democracy as is the central State. On-message control freakery is not confined to Brown and Labour; independent thought is viewed every bit as dangerous by Cameron's Tory CCHQ. The whips' and party mandarins' worst nightmares are MPs such as Sir Partick Cormack (who Cameron tried unsuccessfully to deselect) who can say
I've had masses of letters from people who say they vote for me not because I'm Conservative but because they think I'm an independent-minded local parliamentarian. I've always taken the line it's country-constituency-party, in that order.Next to the Sir Patricks of this world they must hate blogging MPs, never mind blogging ministers.
Both Cameron and Brown are terrified of localism. They're terrified of losing control. They're scared of allowing local associations and web-alliances to push policy upwards, of leading looser coalitions of independent MPs whose priorities are, like Sir Patrick's, local. At the same time they realise British democracy is sinking fast - 98.6% of voters don't belong to a party, 16m voters boycotted the last general election and the Royal Yacht Association has more members than Labour - and that the central parties are every bit as culpable as the central State for this deadly corrosion.
But as comments both on Tom's blog and on Iain Dale's post about this show, once voters have a taste of this kind of democratic access they want more. The party leaders must face the reality that either we spiral ever downwards with parliament and MPs losing what little remains of their popular legitimacy, and the old central parties dying on their feet, or embrace a new political paradigm that includes blogging and looser central control. If Cameron fails to recognise this, the present hostility of the blogosphere towards Labour could well turn on him.