William Ewart Gladstone's commentary on the third Millennium.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Power to the people?
A respondent suggests our aspiring young leaders lack clarity in stating their commitments to local democracy, especially in the light of Mr Brown's government tabling its own proposals. I am reminded so vividly of our great drive to introduce local government to the United Kingdom and the creation of local councils, both district and parish, elected by all the people. That was the intention although I must confess at an early stage that the extension of the franchise to all the people was not to be completed for a little while. Travelling from Shrewsbury to London I passed through the city of Birmingham the other day and recalled how the great works established in his prime by Mr Joseph Chamberlain were attained by municipal government. It is sad to hear how many of those powers have been removed from local citizens in the last half century and to see how our one-time Labour partners created a Behemoth, a monster, which in turn could be savaged and torn apart by the Tory jackals. I understand Mr Brown and his cohorts have no substantial proposals to end this awful charade of democracy and indeed to seek to concentrate what remains of locally elected powers in the hands of single individuals. It is a sad day when the elected councillors of the citizens of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham are reduced to feeble interrogation of over-mighty agents of the state. It is true that Mr Huhne and Mr Clegg would do well to specify in more detail their proposals to improve the dispersal of power, although I believe our party has continued to take a lead in such matters in any case and indeed continues to hold a high reputation in the administration of such local government as remains in the nation of England. I urged the party in my time to "trust the people" and believe it still does. If our leaders trust the people, they may also gain their trust, a situation which seems sadly lacking in the present day. Indeed whilst at worship earlier today, the preacher made remarks that made me consider this matter afresh and perhaps I will return to the issue - but I have sworn to keep my comments short.