An Unnecessary Role

embracing false choices

Archive for January 2012

Now to make all this sensible stuff stick

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Did you hear? There’s no money left. Apparently debt and deficit are terrible things that eventually need to be sorted out. And you can be darn sure that when the Labour Party get back into power that’s bally well what we’re going to. Well, here’s a slow hand clap for you, stalwarts of the radical progressive centre. Bravo. I suppose it only took eighteen months or so, but we got there in the end.

Now to make all this sensible stuff stick. First, I would recommend that you don’t answer every question about the economy like you were forced at gunpoint to talk about cutting the deficit by Anthony Painter, and that you don’t say that you’re doing it “to make the party credible” but instead that you are doing it because it is the right thing to do.

Then with that irritating reflex action out of the way, we can get on with the real stuff. The esteemed former blogging home of Luke Bozier, Labourlist, has recently been running a series called “When there’s no money left?”, an Opportunity Knocks for the various policy hobby horses of the kooks, waifs and strays that make up The People’s Movement. The winner is stunning, a real gem. It manages to combine the best qualities of the Labour Party – authoritarianism, intrusion and inverted snobbery – into one single policy:

I propose that all income tax returns of anyone living in the UK should be in the public domain. These should also include a nil return for those not paying any income tax at all.

There is surely nothing more likely to persuade the working class voters of Harlow to stick their cross next to the red rose logo than the prospect of all their neighbours knowing exactly how much they earn. Even so, I fear that if we think of policies like this as the only alternative to spending lots of cash on stuff, we are making an error. The alternative to not spending any money does not have to be isolated gimmicks. It could be far more ambitious than that. When you can’t redistribute money then maybe you could redistribute power.

By and large, people’s attitude to the cuts goes something like this: “I accept the need to spend less money, but I am sad to see local services I value being affected”. People feel they don’t have the power to affect those changes, to influence the choices being made about their local hospitals, schools, libraries, leisure services, even the bins.

So why not make a real commitment to local democracy the alternative? Put more power in the hands of councillors, leader and mayors who are doing this “In the Black” stuff every day of their working lives, give voters genuine democratic influence over their local services (perhaps through directly elected mayors) and lead a debate about making a heavily centralised bureaucratic state more local, more democratic, and yes, cheaper.

Written by samelliot

January 20, 2012 at 6:25 pm