BY PAUL NEWALL
Back in the days when I was eyeing a political career, I was sent on a couple of Labour Party day schools for aspiring local government candidates by my local Labour constituency association. One of the tutors was an incorruptible lifelong public servant who emphasised the importance of volunteerism, he’d been a town clerk while holding down a full-time job for decades.
As I was hurtling leftwards at that time in my life, this man’s message resonated with me, the idea of citizen politicians was a good one and I felt that if we could get rid of the “stuffed brown envelope” culture that had permeated our political system, especially locally, then volunteerism was a noble course of action that we should persevere with.
Imagine my shock when I debriefed my local Labour association with what I had learned. I was berated – apparently the way to expel corruption was not to attract noble volunteers but to professionalise local government, pay good wages to educated people and there would be no corruption. I was to forget what I had learned immediately. Apparently I was wrong.
Edisbury constituency association was dominated by what would become known as Blairites – a cadre of teachers, architects and other professionals who inserted an ”r ” into clarss and who saw democracy as a means to achieving ultimate control over the masses so these lesser beings could be subtly guided towards a “better way of life”.
This experience has popped back into my head on many occasions since, as I have observed increasing layers of “Democracy” imposed on British society like a spider’s web over the years under both Labour and the Tories, slowly and inexorably trapping our people and businesses in a mesh of bureaucracy. Judging by the fact that my county council, Cheshire East, regularly gets top billing in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs, then it’s pretty safe to say that professionalisation hasn’t cured the corruption problem either.
There have been plans for English democratisation, super boroughs like Greater Manchester for instance, or even an English Parliament to go along with the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh and Irish assemblies. These super authorities are always under the control of Westminster which, for the present at least, is mostly controlled by Brussels.
So let me ask You a question, Dear Reader. For the implementation of all these layers of “Democracy” by our elites, do you feel any more empowered as a citizen?
I suspect your answer is a resounding “No”.
I suggest that Britain’s onion skin bureaucracy has been the most successful government jobs program in British history. The various quangos and governmental bodies howl about austerity while advertising on the jobs pages of the Guardian for diversity, sustainability or social media managers on £55k and a car. Our services are more complex to access, inefficient and politically-biased. the Labour Party has built safe refuges for ex MPs within the environmental and diversity sector while the Tories and Lib Dems have also taken over charities and quangos. There are endless party placers across the Third Sector in jobs which suck on the public teat either via DfID or some other government budget, especially the NHS.
Whenever cuts come to local government budgets do you recall any council CEO’s taking a wage cut from their six-figure remuneration? Meanwhile You and I can attest to innumerable cuts in the front line staff who do the actual work, while councils have created limited companies which they contract out work to yet council officers sit on both the council and the limited companies.
Boris Johnson simply has got to tackle the Kafkaesque bureaucracy that was created to supplant real democratic process and knock the thousands of millionaires that our failed system has created away from their troughs. We need to enter a new era of volunteerism and smaller government. Combine this with a Council Investigation Unit that has the power to put corrupt officials into jail along with those private sector developers and firms who have got used to supplying the stuffed brown envelopes.
Imagine a system where our tax money was actually being spent on things that benefit people and not on fat cats’ wages and politically-motivated vanity projects. I mean how hard is it to put in place a system that actually collects our bins and runs our schools without backhanders lowering outcomes? Just a thought, Boris?