Having read a few recent publications from the think-tank Demos, I was struck by the deep problems that leftists have in trying to tune into the latest buzz for localism. A centralized state is deeply unfashionable, so the think-tank that was so influential under the controlling hand of Tony Blair, is treading water in attempting to unite leftist ideology with localism.
For example in the latest paper, A Stitch in Time: Tackling Education Disengagement, the failures of a centralized state are acknowledged: “the approach cannot simply be the standard policy approach of tugging on central policy levers", yet in the next instance calls for the creation of a “national educational policy framework". Apparently, “there is a major role for central government to play in improving how things work at the local level." Yet this is exactly the problem.
This is no criticism of the research itself, but reading it clearly brings to light the tensions apparent whenever statists try to fit their model into the fashion for localism. This circle cannot be squared; the policies of control cannot be localized. Of course, many in the other two parties suffer similar problems, but this caused by the same statist predilections.
So far the most authentic and consistent calls for localism have come from voices on what could be called the libertarian wings of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Unless the Labour Party radically reforms, it will never be the party of localism. As things stand, its ethos is entirely inconsistent with freedom, difference and competition.