Tuesday, November 13, 2007

North, South, East and West

Mick reminds us that even the greatest of men can be forever associated with bad things. In this case, the great Gerry Fitt.

In the same post, there's a bit of scepticism from the DUP about the Tory motives in promoting a Grand Committee. Mick points out that this could be important in the event of a hung parliament.

All of this prompts me to re-fly an old kite of mine.

I still think that there is a simple magic bullet here - regional constituent assemblies that take over the democratic oversight of all regional governmental entities - made up of existing Councillors, and initially elected by the Councillors.

This idea has a number of unique virtues:
  • It would be achievable without a massive increase in the cost of bureaucracy (indeed, there is a case to be made that it would ultimately reduce it)
  • It could be done at fairly short notice, in an ad-hoc way to start with
  • It would not be seen as a significant 'constitutional' change (regulars may recall the I find the notion of constitutional change in the UK a bit of an odd subject)
  • It would be seen as bringing government closer to the public
  • It would neutralise many of the problems caused by asymmetrical devolution (Scot / Welsh assemblies, but none in England)
  • It would be much more acceptable - politically - than a single English parliament.
  • All of the major parties could accept it - it doesn't jar with any of their traditional stances on local government
  • It would be a pilot scheme - because it is uncontroversial, I doubt that it would excite the kind of opposition that would require the current Government to nail it's colours to it too firmly (or be opposed too stridently by the Tories or the Lib-Dems). It could be a genuine 'let's see how it goes' exercise.
  • It would increase the legitimacy of local elections and make them more contentious and relevant
  • It would underline the need for democratic capacity-building among local Councillors - they would need to improve their communications / consultation skills if they wanted to be selected to join the constituent assembly
  • It would provide a new channel into mainstream politics for people who are not career politicos.
I'm sure that there are reasons why some of the political parties would reject this idea, or why it's unworkable, but the only one that I can think of is that the Tories may oppose it because it offers Labour a simple way out of a constitutional pickle.

That would not be a good enough reason to really oppose this now.


Anthony Zacharzewski said...

We already have Regional Assemblies (here's mine), but they're going to be abolished in 2010, and the arrangements for democratic oversight of regional development agencies, etc., are not really clear yet.

Paulie said...

Yes - they're legislative titans, aren't they? ;-)

I'm talking about substantially more power than they currently have.