Monday, 15 April 2019

Brexit on the doorstep

Serious politics has gone on holiday. You can tell by the way that run of the mill idiocy has a longer Twitter shelf life - and the idiotic remarks of David Lammy are still providing endless entertainment. One might be inclined to point out that the ERG are not remotely comparable to the fascists in that the fascists at least had an idea of what they wanted and a plan to get it.

This is where Twitter ceases to be a valuable tool, and instead becomes a warped parallel universe bearing next to no resemblance to politics on the doorstep. And speaking of which I had a knock on the door today from the local Conservative Party candidate, Chris Wood. He was collecting signatures to have a nearby road opened up to join Filton Avenue. I used up some of his time to, naturally, have a bit of a natter about politics.

Where it comes to local politics, I'm not at all partisan. Any sentient adult will do and since Wood has made the effort I see no reason not to vote for him. If I wanted to make a statement in respect of Brexit then I can vote for one of the Brexit parties in the Euro-elections. As far as local issues go, Brexit could not matter less. If the man is elected I'll be bending his ear about the stupid decision by South Gloucestershire council to give us all half size wheelie bins meaning I have rubbish sat by the bin for half the week.

But then of course there is very probably an EU dimension at work here probably to do with recycling quotas, where the council is primarily tasked with implementing agendas than actually doing the jobs we pay them to do. The chances of actually getting a decent sized bin back are somewhere around nil. One cannot, therefore, be surprised that interest in local politics is minimal. We even find that in some parts of the country there is a shortage of parish council candidates. The position has little carries little in the way of prestige and involves listening to people like me moaning about the bins.

If there is any point in candidates going through the motions locally then it's to get their face known and to climb the greasy pole inside the local party to have a shot at selection when a parliamentary seat is up for grabs. This perhaps explains why many of our MPs are of a particular sort. Nobody would spend the years on this stuff if they didn't have more ambitious ideas. Local politics is just a stepping stone and if you have eyes on the big job then you need to do the groundwork in an established party.

This then has the obvious knock on effect of constituents treating their MPs like glorified social workers and one cannot be surprised if the quality of national politics is then degraded and trivialised. Many of our current MPs would make excellent parish councillors but have no business at all in the national legislature. They are profoundly unserious people.

It seems to me that if we want national politics of consequence then we have to start with local politics of consequence, and that means putting real power back in the hands of people so that if we decide, for instance, that we want a bin you can actually put things in, then we don't have to ask London or Brussels for permission to do it.

It is perhaps that centralist culture within government that has done more than any one single factor to undermine people's faith in politics - undermining the notion that they have the power to influence what happens locally and nationally.

This is why international trade is more important than ever. With ever more subjects brought under the heading of trade concerns, from local government procurement through to product labelling, in or out of the EU, we will find that our powers in our own democracies are limited and often subordinate to economic concerns. This brings the central dilemma of globalisation right to our doorsteps.

Though we do not as yet know what our relationship with the EU is to be, it should be these concerns that inform our thinking on how we leverage Brexit to bring about more meaningful democracy and more responsive government. We may very well sleepwalk back into a similar system of constraints that render Brexit futile. Without a destination in mind, we could repeat the same old errors.

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