I've lost count of the number of times over the past three years on this blog that I've seen this political reform coming; something as momentous as the reforms of the 1820s and 30s, I've said. But I never imagined that an expenses scandal would precipitate it. But let's not imagine that big bang Localism alone - again constantly advocated here - will be the end of it.
Attention will now start to shift to the state of the parties. With an electorate in the UK of 45m, the combined membership of the three main parties barely exceeds 450,000, or 1% of the electorate. The Conservatives alone lost over a million members from 1979 to 1997. The current sleaze scandal will see more members lost by all parties, but perhaps more from Labour than the others.
For local government elections in May 2010, it's doubtful that the main parties will have sufficient willing members to stand candidates in every ward being contended; this is already the case right now, and will get worse. Local papers are already doing a series of mini-Telegraphs on their local councils' expenses. Yet with the planned return of power to localities, the job of local councillor will become more important than ever. And with the freedom to ditch the discredited Cabinet system imposed by the 2000 Local Government Act, councillors are set to exercise more real power across the board rather than just a favoured ten in each authority.
These factors, I think, will lead to a real reform of the party system from the grassroots up, rather than from the top down.
The Catholic church (Roman and Anglican both) has been so successful because it has allowed local cultural traditions to survive in a broad interpretation of doctrine; voodoo, animism, pantheism have all been absorbed into local Catholic ritual - even in this country, where we now imagine that the Celtic paganism that lies behind our religious orthodoxy arrived with the founding Saints, rather than awaiting them here.
The need for political groupings on local councils will not disappear; a council chamber full of unaligned independents cannot govern effectively. That's not to say that Labour, the Conservatives or the Lib Dems have any a priori claim to this, but that a broad umbrella political grouping could shelter and support a number of councillors who are not necessarily party members. A Tory majority group in mid-Suffolk could be as different from a Tory majority group in Eccles as a Catholic mass in Guatamala is from one in Cameroon.
So what will become of the big, central, Statist parties with their hunger for vast sums of cash? Given that the public mood has now turned unequivocally away from any suggestion of State funding, that will be the $64,000 question.