Taking localism seriously


One of the annoyances of my privileged position as someone watching the political and economic world go by (and yes, it is indeed a privilege to be able to combine work and interest so) is that almost no one on the political side of that divide is ever willing to actually take their own ideas seriously.

For example, localism is something that everyone at least pays lip service to (we here take it very seriously of course) whether it be under that rubric or "more power to the community". But as this letter to The Times makes clear, everybody then acts as if local power wielded locally by locals is the very last thing that any system should allow to happen. As the famed boat, Raedwald, pointed out about the Magistrates Courts:

Many of the arguments against the old systems are around objections to (hateful term) a 'postcode lottery'. Well, those 'postcode lotteries' often reflected very accurately the values and relativities of local communities; the Welsh benches from 'dry' shires that savagely disposed of alcohol-related offences, and the harsh penalties for thieves imposed by benches in the northern Mill Towns. When I was a lad the bench covering the seaside retirement towns of Frinton and Clacton had the reputation of jailing speeding youngsters - and the message was understood; don't race in Frinton.

That's exactly what localism means: that locals get to run their locality as they wish. We should also not forget that while the authority was indeed handed down from the centre to those JPs the methods of deployment of that authority were not. Hand the power back and let people get on with it.

We should also note that Magistrates are unpaid volunteers (as the letter notes) and are very much part of Burke's "little platoons". That voluntary collectivism which has so enriched our society over the centuries and which the current state of politics seems so insistent on trying to snuff out.