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A bad hair day,
every day
Rod Liddle is a columnist with The Spectator (and other organs too) county, district and borough councils and you find near-Stalinist
whose sardonic take on life endears him to fellow malcontents such structures seemingly dedicated to nothing more than their own self-
as me. One of his greatest swipes this summer has been at the world perpetuation. And bar one or two they are Conservative-controlled.
of local democracy, that strange layer of government that absorbs I am not a card-carrying member of any party (the sceptical eye
frightening amounts of our money and offers little apparent value in remains deeply jaundiced) but it strikes me that if the people running
return. local government in the south east were truly Conservatives then they
Liddle wrote: “For about 96 per cent of residents, the only purpose of would slash their fiefdoms down to the bone and reduce the council
district councils is to empty the bloody bins — something which these tax burden. Instead they blame their pocket-picking ways on
days most do only once a fortnight, thus for the average resident government for too many unreasonable mandates.
charging something like sixty quid for every collection…. the chilling Nonsense.
thing about local councils is that it really doesn’t matter who is in The most centralising government in history has simply set them an
charge: once ensconced via the popular vote, they become example of waste and make-work madness that allows them to
suffused with the self-importance of elected office. They become
spread their power like weeds and yet, paradoxically, become ever
appalled at the lack of power they have and usually set about
more irrelevant to the daily lives of the vast majority of citizens.
grabbing some more.”
The alternative? True local democracy where feisty town meetings
Sitting as I do in a safe, Tory-blue corner of our land, Liddle’s words
can vote on important issues affecting communities, while
shook me out of the complacency that comes with partisan
dedicated, independent services take care of necessary functions
assumption. We’re not being run by Derek Hatton and his erstwhile
like emptying the bins and sweeping the streets. British voters would
Liverpool-loonies so we’re OK then. But examine the make-up of our
take a while to understand what to do with real democratic power, so
cynically have they been kept dumb and powerless by the
bureaucratic elites.
But they’d get it eventually.
One of the reasons the Tories have survived for so long as a political
party, and have managed to rebound, despite coming close to
oblivion ten years ago, is that they have always understood the need
to reach way beyond their natural power base for support. Margaret
Thatcher did this brilliantly with the sale of council houses. David
Cameron appeals to a more touchy-feely world where empathy rules
and he is winning support as a result (not just because of the Brown
But what people really want is a government that works, particularly
after the misery and failure that state centralisation and micro-
management have wrought on our society. Will Cameron do what is
necessary and dismantle the vast apparatus of state power? Think of
all those civil servants trooping down to the job centres they once
manned. Have Dave and Gorgeous George got the stomach for a
war with the legions of public sector types whose loyalty was bought
by Brown and his hench-persons with our money?
With their commitment to match Labour’s spending plans still intact –
boy, does that look ever more like an electoral albatross – the answer
has to be no. Now that Labour and its deficit spending have been
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