Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The more he says, the more unimpressive David Cameron becomes

Two articles today emphasise just how far away the Conservative party is from being a party of Government. Philip Stephens rips apart the Conservative foreign policy in the FT today. I say rips apart, what I really mean to say is that he wafts a piece of paper in the air and then it all comes crashing down.

When is David Cameron going to realise that to get anything done in Europe, he is going to have to build alliances? Equally, to build a strong relationship with the new president of the US he is going to have to demonstrate strong alliances in Europe. All roads lead to Europe and yet Mr Cameron seems to want to turn his back on the EU. If he thinks that he can be influential in the EU and reject the Lisbon Treaty, good luck to him. The UK will be more marginalised in world affairs that at any time since the Normans invaded.

Mr Cameron himself pens a piece in the Guardian about localism. We are promised a 'radical power shift.' Putting the self-serving and completely transparent reference to Tony Benn to one side, what does this 'new localism' constitute? A few more directly elected Mayors and some powers to hold referendums. In other words, it is just some institutional fiddling which is the first resort of the cosmetic devolver of power. There is no underlying analysis of how you actually get people to engage in their local politics, no understanding of how local communities do and don't function. There is no discussion of what we should expect from local government or its capacity to deliver it.

I am strongly of the view that we need to consider how best local services can be geared to local needs with democratic accountability. But if that democratic engagement becomes a tyranny of the willing mixed with weak and bureaucratic administration then what do we achieve exactly? The same dynamic to centralise as we have had previously.

So the localist agenda is cosmetic. The foreign policy is thin and potentially extremely damaging. A more powerful light will be shone on Mr Cameron over the next few months and he will look weaker and weaker as a result.

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