Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bernard Crick on decentralisation

A letter from Bernard Crick in today's Guardian:
Strangely, Gordon Brown set out clearly a new theme and potentially popular direction for Labour in his Fabian Society speech of 2006: "People and communities should now take power from the state and that means ... a reinvention of the way we govern: the active citizen, the empowered community, open enabling government." This implied, he said, a new constitutional settlement, taking citizenship seriously, rebuilding civil society, working for integration of minorities, and to be internationalist at all times. In other words, a radical decentralisation of power.

Does this have to be just good rhetoric and thoughtful mere words? He could use his office to transform politics by diminishing the centralised state and enhancing and trusting local government. Despite the craziness of trying to micro-manage a county of 50 million (England) from the centre, both major parties are nervous of local government because they are scared of the tabloid press forever trumpeting one local folly of the other side as if it were typical. We used to believe and teach that local government was the school of democracy. I once remarked to a secretary of state for education that if we could no longer speak and mean socialism, we might at least speak and mean democracy.
Bernard Crick
Edinburgh

The thing is, I'm not sure that this is good short term political advice. Letters to a newspaper rarely offer that. But Bernard's spot-on, isn't he?

You could sing those last two sentences, if you could ever find an air to fit them...

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