Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Learning from localism in Canada?

In today's bi-weekly bulletin from Direct Democracy there's an interesting piece by Hamish Marshall talking about "Localism in Canada". As some might know, the Conservative Party in Canada currently holds power in a minority Government after fighting back from a near wipe-out which left them with just two MPs. They did it by promoting a localist agenda along the lines of their provinces which held far more resonance with an ever cyncical electorate sick of centralised government. Marshall argues that lessons can be learnt from Canada and applied to Britain.

"Attacks should be made, not simply on Labour's mismanagement of the centralised system, but on the very idea of the centralised system. Point out rules and regulations that make no sense in certain local circumstances. Show that Westminster is only interested in Westminster and not Manchester or Leeds, much less Norwich, Stafford, Durham, Perth or the Wirral.

Develop local proposals, not around parliamentary constituencies, whose boundaries are arbitrary and little known, but around counties and cities. Selling a conservative localist message has two components: speaking to people about the communities they live in and identify with, and telling them why the central government can never get it right. Give it a try, my friends: it worked for us."

I can't say I disagree with the argument. The ever increasing centralisation of power to Westminister under successive governments - Tory and Labour - has led to definitive detachment of the electorate. This, in addition to the insidious spin and media manipulation of the past few years, has led to a significant air of cynicism which views politicians, and politics in general, with contempt.

Re-attaching the electorate to the political process is certainly not something that can happen overnight. However, if we apply genuine principles of subsidiarity in policies, and ultimately legislation, we should see an increase in local engagement and thereby begin to tackle the cynicial view that "if voting changed anything it would be made illegal". The Conservative experience with localism in Canada undoubtedly holds lessons for not just UK Tories, but anti-statists everywhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Makes good sense to me and, if others are as fed up with all the spin, lies and opportunist posturing from the centrally controlled three main parties as I am, it could spread like wildfire.