Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It is almost a mantra: no-one with power gives up that power voluntarily. Whether we are talking about Emperors, Kings, Governments or local councils, if you expect them to 'give away their powers' you've probably got a long wait. You can point to some examples I'm sure (devolution?) but beware of those who talk the talk of 'devolving power' to communities or neighbourhoods... it usually just masks further centralisation. So, when David Miliband makes 'a keynote speech' about 'localism' ... be sceptical. As I have said before, David and Ed Miliband's dad, a fine old Marxist, wrote a book called 'Parliamentary Socialism' with the central thesis that Labour would always sell out and would never deliver socialism. His sons are engaged in proving the old man was right.

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian casts a sceptical eye over Miliband's New Localism. The one thing Miliband and his colleagues never mention is democracy. They are horrified by voting.... Miliband is unable to list a single power to be given to elected councillors. His benefaction is to unspecified volunteers who are "below the radar" of democracy yet who deserve something called 'more control', writes Jenkins. Miliband's Leader is worse though: Blair is equally off the Miliband message. He regards local democracy as akin to avian flu. To him "community school" is a term of abuse. He yearns to release education from the clutches of local councils and give it to churches, tycoons and his own regulators.

Within the wider labour movement, the Tectonic Plates are beginning to rumble. The Blairites have already done what they can to emaculate local government. The latest proposed education reforms are seen as an attack on LEA's and a step too far. The parliamentary backbenchers have picked up the noises. Miliband's new localism, combined with Sir Michael Lyons' anticipated proposals for local government are designed to castrate local authorities. But the wider movement knows we fight General Elections with the troops honed on local elections. Get rid of your local elections, you become like the current Provisional IRA; an army without any troops.

Perhaps then the Blairites (or will it the be the Milibandies by then) can embark on the final solution. Get together with the Lib Dems, introduce state funding of political parties, fight elections on TV, and ditch those inconvenient trade unions altogether. Some bloody localism, eh?