Saturday, 24 July 2010

Politics without the political class

At the level of the Parish, there is little room for political ideology. TV comedy scriptwriters have often tapped a rich vein of humour here; the Parish Council member applying the tenets of Das Kapital to the siting of a new bus stop, Hayek's analysis to a proposed change in opening hours to the village shop and so on. The comedy is about the absurdity using high-flown ideological theory in making decisions on small matters, about ordinary people donning silly ideological mantles as though they were, erm, MPs. The Marxist always turns out to be a secret capitalist, the capitalist to rely on wealth redistribution.

Nonetheless, our lowliest form of democratic body enjoys substantial democratic legitimacy. There are open elections, decision making is open and transparent, meetings can be attended by all. In law, the Parish Council is still a 'Corporation Public' and has existing powers to do some extraordinary things; it can run cemeteries and crematoria, swimming pools, build and run a conference centre, provide public toilets, run car parks, build and operate a theatre, cinema or opera house, build and run a golf course and operate and manage parks and greens.

Parish Councils do few of these things in reality. Some of them are done by District or County Councils, and many are subject to funding decisions made in Whitehall. But the structure is there; switch funding from the centre to local, and provide Parish Councils with two or three full-time officers, and we have already in place a ready-made structure to which to devolve more powers.

So why is Cameron totally ignoring them?

We've heard about how he sees the 'Big Society' working; informal groups of local people taking over the pub, or the school, or the village hall. No mention of whether they're representative, of whether they've been elected, and no mention of any structure of democratic governance within which they may operate. Thus a narrow interest group with no democratic legitimacy may, with direct Whitehall support, take over my village hall. Local referenda have also been mentioned; why go to all the cost and bother? Why not place matters within the competence of the existing Parish Councils?

I really don't get it.

Unless, of course, Cameron is running scared of creating a truly local, strong and legitimate democratic framework that threatens an existence wholly independent of the corrupt big parties and their bloated Metropolitan dags, the scum of the nation's Political Class.

Ah, yes. 'Localism Lite' - localism without any actual shift in power or democracy from the centre. But it really won't work.


Guthrum said...

The Big Society is still the Big State without the funding

Therefore the drones are being invited to work for nothing whilst supervised by the Big State

not a lot not to get

Anonymous said...

We could make a good start by devolving all residential planning decisions involving less than 20 units to the parish council. Wouldn't cost a penny and would make me a lot happier.

Scrobs... said...

Still has to get signed off by the Borough Anon, (although you're right of course) and that's where the bureaucrats lurk...

I can just see it: -

Expenses for visiting each individual parish in the borough and inspecting every application£3,000,000.

Pension contributions £6,000,000.

Reports to every Tom Dick and Harry on the council, and the county, and the highways, and the Environment Agency £45,000,000

...flippant me...?

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Cameron is ignoring them because he himself is a fully-paid-up member of the Political Class, and has no intention of ceding power.

Except to the EU, of course.

Anonymous said...

A conservative notices local government.