Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Fairweather localism and Iain Dale sulks

I don't know whether to react to the Tories latest wafer-thin "proposals" for greater "localism" by being angry by the BBC's constant repetiton of the Tory spin in their news headlines (i.e, "radical decentralisation" yeah right!) or laugh at the sheer vacuity of them.

I think I choose to laugh.

Their headline proposal seems to be elected mayors. These of course have already been tried and have already been rejected by a lot of people when asked.

I do wonder whether their enthusiasm for mayors comes from having Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.

But surely, you wouldn't fundamentally change the constitutional/democratic system of the country for short-term political gain?

Well, if you listened to Caroline Spelman, the Tory's local government spokesperson, on the Today programme yesterday you think they might. When presented with the Tories appalling record on localism (Thatcher helping to make Britain the most centralised state in the western world) and asked what's changed, she said:

"The landscape has changed. The conservative actually control three times as many councils as our opponents put together"

It also amazes me when governments introduce laws to help themselves as the government and hurt opposition. Don't they realise that at some point they won't be the government anymore and they will be the opposition?

Also, according to Mrs. Spelman, their proposals to have referendum on council tax increases won't be an issue as a Conservative government will be "working with" local council to ensure a council tax freeze for the next two years. Um, isn't that central control?

When politicians explain away new laws/powers by saying "don't worry they won't be used", you should always be suspicious.

Anyway, my favorite laugh out loud moment (or annoyance but as I've said I've decided to be light-hearted) of the day was over on Iain Dale's blog.

The sometimes thoughtful Tory blogger, quite rightly pointed out in a post that talking about localism is all very well and good but it means little without a shift of revenue-raising from central to local government. He then went on to bemoan the fact that no party even wants to address this:

"At the moment, council tax raises less than a quarter of all local government spending. It would be a brave political party which proposed to increase it.The LibDems want a local income tax, yet as far as I know, don't propose to change the 25-75 balance"

"All political parties have filed it in the 'Too Difficult' tray."

Oh dear, someone then points out to him that it is indeed to aim of the LibDems to switch the balance of funding around (from 75/25 to 25/75) which is indeed what a party that believed in localism would do rather than one that believed in localism for only people who agreed with them!

Iain quite correctly then posted an update, crossed out the bit about the 75/25 split but then finished with this comment:

"While I very much agree with the sentiments, it's an easy thing to say when you lead a party which will never have to find a way of implementing such an aspiration."

Whoo there! Can you spit your dummy out any further? So not a "brave political party" then?

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