Amid the cacophony of speculation about the future of Gordon Brown’s premiership, the imminent electoral meltdown, and the future direction of the Labour party, I think one aspect is being marginalised, which is the future of the party at a local level, and in local government. It is clear that current crisis is playing out on a national level, with national and international problems catalysed by Westminster intruigue and a failure of national leadership that can speak to the concerns of the people.
Now, the fall-out from this is obviously felt at the local level, as Labour’s loss of councillors in the May elections demonstrates. But it is not clear that the existential worries currently afflicting Gordon Brown and his parliamentary colleagues are shared by their Labour friends on local councils. In Tower Hamlets, for example, the Labour group recently increased their majority after four defections from Respect, and a by-election win (after a popular Lib Dem councillor stood down for health reasons, no less).
Of course, if the local parties are not suffering from the same crisis of purpose, this is probably to do with the differences between the nature of local and national governance. Localities like Tower Hamlets have very specific problems, to which a Labour council can confidently respond within their current ideology, without having to worry about national unity, or whether the same policy would be effective in different boroughs.
So, as the columnists and bloggers search in vain for a viable alternative to Brown, and a new direction for the party, I wonder whether the most coherent and confident voices might come from local government, rather than the national scene, policy wonks, or the unions. They are ideally placed to comment on pressing issues such as community cohesion and knife-crime, and how other concerns such as the environment and immigration can be dealt with in practice.
These are purely my anecdotal thoughts – what are the thoughts and experiences of other Liberal Conspiracy readers and writers?
Cross-posted at Liberal Conspiracy.