Opinion: Cleggmania in reverse, or the right side of the revolt

You only had to open last week’s Observer to realise what a lot the party leader has on his plate at the moment. As well as dealing with the ‘Petition of 104’, the constant repetition in the paper of the ‘liar’ tag was pretty unpleasant.

Nick Clegg has managed to survive the battering with great dignity so far. But it is hardly surprising that the commentariat are currently writing off his party.

I think they are wrong. But the health of the Lib Dems depends on staying on the correct side of the revolt.

Just set aside the student demonstrations and the flying fire extinguishers for a moment, because – under the radar of the media – there is, I believe, another revolt going on.

You only get the occasional glimpse of it. The teachers who refused to organise SATS. The sit-in by Ryanair passengers dumped on a distant runway. The nun who frustrated a police raid to enforce health and safety regulations.

In fact, it was the nun who first set me thinking along these lines. This was the strange story, earlier in the month, about the raid on the housing estate run by Tower Hamlets Homes, the arms-length management organisation for Tower Hamlets Council.

Without asking for permission, the health and safety team with the police cut through chains to remove a whole range of clutter deemed unsafe, including children’s bicycles and clothes lines.

The process was stopped by a local nun. The Tower Hamlets Homes management withdrew their people, returned the equipment and stepped back.

I was interested in this partly because it was an example of the kind of tyranny over tenants that social housing has tended to lead to in practice in this country, under governments of right and left. But it happened to coincide with my own experience with a voluntary sector conference in Wales, where the frustration with the county council was so intense that one person could say: “Bring on the cuts!” – in the hope that it would relax the powerful controls around nearly everything connected with local life.

If this wasn’t enough, I was at a brilliant conference last week led by the systems thinking pioneer John Seddon – and including speakers from two Lib Dem controlled councils – which aggressively poured scorn at New Labour’s industrial approach to public services.

Every mention of the word ‘McKinsey’, the global management consultancy most associated with imposing industrial systems on human services, was greeted by howls of derisive laughter.

This is the first fluttering of an important revolt, maybe more important than the students, against industrial systems, faceless call centres, huge factory schools and hospitals and corporate disdain. It is a revolt in favour of people over process. And I feel more excited by it than anything else since, ooh, well, May.

And, let’s give Nick Clegg some credit. It began, in some ways, with his public promise not to carry an ID card (and ID cards have since been cancelled by Lib Dems in government).

The problem is that there seems to be some kind of struggle inside the soul of the coalition about which side of this revolt the new government is on. Are they setting people free, localising power and abandoning the New Labour control systems? Or are they actually still backing the big procurement systems, big IT systems, warehouse call centres and industrial processes, just like the last government – with all the waste and incompetence it leads to in practice?

If we can stay on the correct side of this revolt, we will be under huge pressure from the corporate lobbyists – the supermarket oligopolies which want to tighten their control over healthy eating policy – but we will at least be Liberals. And in the end we will be on the side of people – which is what really matters.

David Boyle is a member of the party’s federal policy committee, a fellow of the New Economics Foundation and co-author of Eminent Corporations.

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  • Hear hear David. Your emphasis on corporate tyranny is right. Your comments about the big accountants and management consultancies are right. (I bet the Tories will be dubious in running down their role, bearing in mind how many are ex-financial sector, though!)

    But don’t forget in your FPC role, that this party is NOT about abandoning publicly run, democratically controlled public services. I am hearing extremely worrying stories from the education sector (for instance) about County Education services falling apart in advance of the passage into law of the Schools White Paper. I am sure similar is happening in the Health sector, which I personally know less well. I am sure that people are anxious to be freed from the micromanagement which characterised NuLab, but we need to be assured that good public services stay with us, investment will continue (many DID improve under Labour!) Anything else, and we merely ensure the completion of the Thatcher agenda of privatisation.

    I and many others did not get active in the 80s to achieve that – and I am sure the Party will lose many servants if it becomes more and more clear that that is what is happening and our party is helping to preside over it. I, and I am sure others, gave you a high preference in the recent internal polls because we knew and liked your free wheeling innovative style, and your basic commitment to people power. So please don’t throw it away by joining any “public bad, private and voluntary good” approach.

  • The thing is, whatever side of the revolt you want to be on, you’re taking orders from the Tories and everyone knows which side they’re on – the wrong one, by definition.

  • John Roffey 2nd Dec '10 - 11:47am

    The tuition fees issue is doing huge damage to the Party and needs to be resolved with all possible haste – the longer the Party lingers in this no man’s land the more lasting the damage.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Dec '10 - 12:13pm

    “Yes, the narrative of betrayal has taken hold. But whose fault is that?
    See http://exquisitelife.researchresearch.com/exquisite_life/2010/12/the-10-failures-of-nick-clegg-on-tuition-fees.html …”

    Interesting. I still feel the Tories’ standing in the polls is too weak for them to threaten a snap election credibly. But equally, if the motion to raise fees is defeated it’s difficult to see a way forward for the coalition.

  • I read this with some fascination, and you are correct there is a revolt smouldering, but I feel the lib dems are sticking their heads in the sand.

    You can set aside the students protest, if you wish, discount it, ignore it even pretend it is not going to affect the lib dems…

    There is a process that is taking place, you know, that revolt that is smouldering, which the government is ignoring, the students are the tip of the iceberg, the con part of the government can afford to mostly ignore it at the moment, but it seems the lib dems are sticking their heads in the sand, when the electorate start to be effected by the polices of the GOVERNMENT, that is when each section affected will show their anger, the worst case will be sick and disabled people being kettled by the police as they march, I can see how the media will lap that up.
    The hope is that it does not happen in that way, I hope it does not happen that way, but I do think there is a massive swell of feeling that will grow and grow, and I sincerely hope it does not reach the levels we saw in Greece

    But you know what?

    Being on the wrong side will be an absolute disaster, not now, but in three to four years time, the sad thing is you are on the wrong side whether you like it or not, the students will not forget, the sick and disabled will not forget, all the real sick and disabled will suffer stress and hassle no matter how you go about determining the new goal posts of what being disabled and sick mean, and most will not forget, the unemployed will not forget, but most of all it is the families of all those affected that will not forget.

    To be honest, May cannot come soon enough, because when that is over and the referendum is over, we will see how the lib dems react, you are all hoping that it will be a good result for the party, I think it will be a massive failure and the party will then face the true reality of your future.

    What will the lib dems do?

  • This revolution you talk of as been smouldering for sometime. To clam it was in some part started by Clegg is just another instance of LibDem revisionism. The sense of revolution is simply the dissolution of Britain’s deferment culture. Gone are the days when people would accept the word of a Council official, or any official voice for that matter, whether we accept that they may be more knowledgeable or not. The British have found their voice, and want it heard. That is what this sense of revolution is all about.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '10 - 1:18pm

    This thread sounds like the Pope discussing God with Buddha in deckchairs on the Titanic. Fascinating and important stuff guys, but isn’t there something else you should be attending to?

  • David – it is a fascinating example of the Lib Dem psyche that a senior member of the Party like yourself can somehow wring “Nick Clegg is responsible for the current passionate social demonstrations and isn’t it super” from “the public is revolting against the Coalition’s dismantling of the State”.

    The Lib Dem front bench has committed a cardinal sin.

    They entered into the Coalition for all the right reasons and with huge public + media support behind them… and yet have somehow contrived to operate within it as nothing more than Tory cheerleaders, turning all but their most vehement support and the wider public against them. It is mind-boggling how Nick Clegg allowed this to happen.

    Nick Clegg has no-one else to blame for the current malaise he finds himself in. And as for the demonstrations? They’re against him – not inspired by him.

  • A quick comment: I simply wanted to say thanks, David, for a thoughtful piece.

  • Kevin Peters 2nd Dec '10 - 1:33pm

    This is indeed the reverse of Cleggmania and it is just as irrational, but he can never be ignored in future and tough times either make or break leaders. Thatcher made her name on the back of the Falklands war and with less credit during the miners strike. Blair lost his credibility during the Iraq war. Clegg can either go back to the back benchers wimpering about how nasty they have all been to him or simply get on with the job in hand. My money is on the latter course.

  • John Roffey 2nd Dec '10 - 1:42pm

    @ David Allen

    ‘This thread sounds like the Pope discussing God with Buddha in deckchairs on the Titanic. Fascinating and important stuff guys, but isn’t there something else you should be attending to?’

    I must admit Lib/Dems have an exceptional capacity to avoid reality.

  • paul barker 2nd Dec '10 - 2:13pm

    No one is ignoring reality, we can all see how student opinion has swung against us. I have said before, I think the Party should issue a public apology both for breaking The Pledge & for making it in the first place.

    However lets remember that by 2015 all those current students will be doing other things, mixing with other people & being influenced by them. We are only a tenth of the way through this Parliament & so far havent faced any Electoral tests, lets all calm down.

  • John Roffey 2nd Dec '10 - 2:26pm

    @ paul barker

    ‘No one is ignoring reality’

    How about this for a solution – it is a revision of what I had previously suggested:

    With the Welsh Assembly deciding to fund the extra cost of tuition fees for Welsh students, the potential for even greater resentment towards the Party from the English has increased. Although it is commendable that Nick Clegg wishes for Party unity, I do not believe that all MPs abstaining offers any advantage – in fact quite the reverse.

    Abstaining in itself does not give a good impression, it implies indecision – even if the Coalition agreement allows for this course of action. Added to this, the leading Lib/Dem members of Coalition have already declared their support for the proposal, for them now to abstain would seem extremely peculiar behaviour. Abstaining undermines the principle of collective responsibility in the Cabinet, something which has not happened in the few coalition governments we have had in the past.

    The position needed for Party unity, is the one which shows it in the best light. Since it is generally accepted that those MPs included in the Coalition should support the government – these MPs should vote in support of the measure. Since it is well known that the policy is completely at odds with Lib/Dem policy – those, pledge signing, MPs not included in the government should vote against. This is the best course of action in the circumstances.

    Ideally it would be best if Nick Clegg could wear the two hats required of him in his present difficult situation, firstly that of Party leader – taking care of the party’s interests and secondly that of Deputy Prime Minister – trying to get through some very difficult pieces of legislation in the national interest. However, it is clear that this is too much to expect from a single individual and in these circumstances it would be a sensible move for a temporary new leader to take on the role of ‘taking care of the Party’s best interests’ for the duration of the Coalition.

    The new temporary leader would then have the opportunity to review the Party’s current state to see what can be done to limit the damage caused. I would suggest that starting to develop a new manifesto for the next General Election would be a sensible step just in case a snap election does occur, but also to have a more realistic set of policies in place, given the precarious financial position of the country.

  • I’m afraid the “constant repetition in the paper of the ‘liar’ tag ” is largely a case of wearing the cap because it fits.

    The hope for the party in my opinion is in a change of leadership. @Kevin Peters rightly stated that Blair was characterised by Iraq and Thatcher for the Miners strike. Both of these were highly divisive with the Country fairly evenly split but with very effective and vocal opposition from outside the realms of Westminster.

    Cleggs problem is that his USP before the election was a different more honest style of politics. If you campaign on a slogan of no more broken promises you need to avoid being seen by the majority of the electorate, even those who voted for and your own MP’s, as breaking a promise. This is particularly true in the opening few months of Government.

    Blair struggled on but was never trusted totally again by his own party members. In fact a large section were always concerned he was leading them too far to ther right. The similarities (in position I do not for a moment compare the events) are striking.

    Clegg has lost the appearance of integrity and this is probably true for Cable and Alexander as well. All three will be easy targets regarding these matters even as far ahead as 2015. The economy could be fixed, the country back in the black, unemployment low, but it will be the Tories that get the credit as it is largely their economic stance (at least the public one) that is being followed. In fact, if it works, the Tories can campaign as the only party who wanted a deficit reduction at the current pace. It’s no good Laws and Clegg claiming they had changed their minds during the campaign. There is simply too much footage that would either show they hadn’t done so, or were misleading the electorate. If the economic moves do not work, then the party will be seen as propping up a failed system even though they campaigned against it. Classic no win on the big issue.

    The Lib Dems will however be remembered by those who have started to build up the debt of tuition fees and their parents and families. The opposition will make sure of it and the Tories will sit back and allow it. Paying money back will still be years off so any benefits of the new system will be intangible.

    Parties in Government can rarely become part of any movement that is protest based. Supporting any cause that involves protest will encourage more. Eventually you get back to being on the “wrong” side of the cause even when you’re right.

    Clegg has played a blinder, but only if you’re a Tory or Labour supporter, and I’m neither.

  • vince thurnell 2nd Dec '10 - 2:51pm

    I find it quite appalling that you are now trying to defend your u turns by claiming that by 2015 it will all be forgotten. Does that make it ok to shaft the people that have voted for you as long as by 2015 they forget all about it ?. So much for a new type of politics, it seems to me , that its power at all costs, no matter what pledges are broken along the way, as long as they get forgotten in the long run.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '10 - 2:53pm

    Paul Barker,

    Yes, a lot of water flows under the bridge in five years, and many old controversies get forgotten. However, Iraq has not been. I don’t think it is just the carnage on the news that has kept Iraq in everyone’s memories. After all, many other global tragedies have now been largely forgotten. I think Iraq sticks in so many people’s minds because the Prime Minister lied to the public, and pursued a disastrous policy for reasons he did not put forward honestly.

    Tuition fees strikes me as a similarly memorable issue in terms of what it reveals about the characters of the participants.

  • tonygreaves 2nd Dec '10 - 2:54pm

    The interesting thing about the hostile comments here is how the writers of them simply have not understood David’s essentially Liberal piece. But such people never do understand Liberalism which is why they have been writing off our party for as long as I can remember.

    The thing is, whatever side of the revolt you want to be on, you’re taking orders from the Tories and everyone knows which side they’re on – the wrong one, by definition.

    This is absolutely untrue and I am in a position to see that it is untrue on as daily basis here in Westminster. The mystery is that the party is simply not telling the world how it really is. I keep being told we must not upset right-wing Tory backbenchers, which is bollocks – we should be upsetting them as much and as often as possible.

    Tony Greaves

  • Interesting.

    Lib Dems say Tony Blair lied on Iraq.

    Every single independent inquiry conducted has been unable to come to that conclusion.

    Lib Dems say Nick Clegg didn’t lie on Tuition Fees.

    Every single person who voted for the Lib Dems based on the Tuition Fees pledge believes he did.

    Why the contrast?

  • @tonygreaves

    The problem is that you are being used as much by right-wing Tory backbenchers, as by the Tory leadership, if not more so. There is only one thing that is keeping the right-wing backbenchers’ powder dry, and that is the fate of the LibDems. They know full well that were they to be seen being constantly being slapped down by the leadership in support of LibDem policy, then that in turn would be seen as a strengthening of the LibDem position in the coalition, and a strengthening of the leadership over them. So the right-wingers are just biding their time, for when the LibDems are in such a weakened position, that it is they that the leadership have to humble themselves in front of.

  • The Lib-dems are getting in the neck from the students, for all the known reasons. However, labour is smugly sitting back and imagining all this hostility will accrue as support for them. However, I think there is a misconception here. The student protests seem to have moved way to the left of Aaron Porter’s blatantly Labour careerist position. The students are not marching for a graduate tax, they are marching for free education. The Lib-Dems suggested the fee freeze pledge was a prelude to free education, hence the sense of grievance they have now gone back on this. However, Labour’s graduate tax is hardly going to set the pulses racing. And what will this actually mean in terms of cash payback? Does anybody know? I feel the students are in for another huge let down from any future labour government, who will not be able to fund the universities to the level they require if student numbers remain this high. In the long term the protests might add a boost to the various leftist groups that still are around. Or we might just see students give up on politics again and see a return to the general apathy that has marked the last 15 years. And who will blame them?

  • “However lets remember that by 2015 all those current students will be doing other things, mixing with other people & being influenced by them.”

    Wow! That’s shortsightedness taken to an extreme.

    You will have five years of first time voters *directly* impacted by this dreadful policy change by then. It will be fresh in the minds of kids who are only 13 at the moment.


  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Dec '10 - 6:59pm

    I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the long-term effects of political influences on people in their late teens. For me it was the advent of Thatcherism, and the effect was that – like many people my age – I would never consider voting Tory. I wonder whether Nick Clegg is in the process of cultivating a similar life-long aversion to the Lib Dems in today’s young people.

  • I’m sympathetic to your argument and I think you explain well (though implicitly) why Labour lost in May. I disagree along with other posters that this had anything to do with Nick Clegg.

    You also need to understand that the public are not receptive to the country being run by the rich for the rich either. The regressive policies (e.g. housing benefit) that will affect the poor and the policies that attack the middle classes (fees) will when the costs (both human and financial) come to be understood, provoke even greater disenchantment with the current government. As long as the Lib Dems are seen as propping up the Tories and the interests of the rich prevail, poll ratings will continue to flat-line. The whole argument by the Lib Dems was that there was a third way (genuine, not Giddens). They have lost this argument by allying themselves so closely with the right.

    This will not be forgotten by 2015. Not by students (who will be paying) nor by their parents nor by those on benefits and their families. For the conservatives this is ideological. But they only speak for a third of the electorate at best. Right now, Britain is a centre-left country politically – the Lib Dems will learn that the hard way it seems. Even to talk of a coupon agreement makes me shake my head in disbelief. Nothing would make people vote Labour faster particularly after this Parliament.

  • Actually 2015 isn’t the problem in wales (nor, I expect in Scotland) where we have elections to the devolved administrations next may. tuition fees is corrosive and not good, we need to get the pain over with and move-on, somehow.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Dec '10 - 8:17pm

    Laura Kuenssberg thinks that the abstention plan has now been dropped:
    “So, the smart money in Westminster goes on every Lib Dem Cabinet minister voting for the proposals, and a clutch of others being willing to do so too.
    Most backbenchers will then abstain and then a dozen or so vote ‘no’.”


    Obviously on that basis the increase in fees would be approved.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Dec '10 - 8:53pm


    Strictly it was the Cambridge University Conservative Association he was a member of, not the party itself. That was in 1986-1987. Clegg says he can’t remember having been a member of CUCA.

    In April, Clegg was interviewed by Dermot O’Leary and “he appeared unsure for which party he cast his ballot as a first-time voter in 1987. Asked if he had voted Liberal, he replied: “Yeah I’ve always – I’m just trying to think.” Challenged as to whether he had indeed always voted for the party he now leads, Mr Clegg said: “I’ve always voted Liberal, absolutely.”

    Scarcely as convincing as one might expect – particularly as the Alliance candidate for Cambridge in 1987 was a member of the SDP – Shirley Williams.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '10 - 8:55pm

    More from Kuenssberg:

    “The notion from the leadership was – offer abstention as an olive branch and in turn, more of the fees refuseniks might join the abstaining camp…. For sure, ministers risked parody for not backing their own government’s plans, but at least the party would have more or less stuck together”

    “Party bosses are still working night and day …. to drive the numbers of ‘no’ voters down ….But the cunning plan for the Lib Dems to be able to act, more or less as one, appears to have had its day.”

    Time we expelled our Tories, isn’t it!

  • This is absolutely untrue and I am in a position to see that it is untrue on as daily basis here in Westminster.

    Heh, I guess I’ll just have to take your word for that…

  • “In April, Clegg was interviewed by Dermot O’Leary and “he appeared unsure for which party he cast his ballot as a first-time voter in 1987. ”

    Unlike Clegg, I can recall doing the very act, and vividly. And I can remember a group of schoolgirls on the bus afterwards asking me if I had voted Labour, along with the (truthful) answer I gave them. Clearly, I am less of an amnesiac about my rites of passage than Clegg.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 2nd Dec '10 - 9:53pm

    “Who is going to be left to front the party, and really steer it in the direction it’s need to head in. Can anyone salvage this mess.”

    Hmm. Is 51 too old to make a comeback?

  • David Boyle 2nd Dec '10 - 10:19pm

    I hope I wasn’t as complacent as some of the comments here suggest. I’m arguing that there remains an ambiguity about the direction of the government on the very set of issues I’m talking about. But, Tim13, I also agree that this ambiguity extends to the meaning of localism, so of course there is a danger that – especially in those least affected areas of local government, where recruitment has been on the basis of obedience to process for a generation – some of the most important public props to civilisation will unravel.

    The kind of reforms that I, for one, am hoping for depend on the public sector, and its continued existence. But it will be a public sector that looks different, and there will be some more conservative voices who say – just because it looks more human and more flexible – that the world has ended. Will we be able to make that transition without avoiding the old pitfalls – that’s what I just don’t know yet. In some places, mainly imaginative Lib Dem controlled authorities, I think the best kind of revolution is starting already.

    As for this question of whether Lib Dems are simply obeying Conservative orders, the truth is quite the reverse in many areas of policy – though not all – but, as always, good, effective and humane ideas tend not to get the attention they deserve, and the continuing political debate is not framed in those terms.

  • @matt
    “Chris huhne will be vilified by the press, when it comes to his time to introduce the legislation on the 8 new Nuclear power stations.”

    Yes he will as Alexander is vilified for implemeting plans opposite to those he campaigned for, as Cable has been for tuition fees. The pattern is clear and it’s been a very clever move by the Tories. They have carefully chosen those ministerial posts likely to cause most embarassment to Lib Dems and dressed them up as an olive branch..

  • Andrew Suffield 2nd Dec '10 - 11:39pm

    the students will not forget

    All evidence has conclusively shown that voters have short memories, and students have no memories at all.

    (Those who refuse to learn from history, etc…)

  • Clegg at some point will have to be sacrificed – everyone knows it, he probably knows it!!!

    As for the Tories, why are they starting to fund raise in a serious manner?

  • Andrew Suffield

    No evidence to support that belief or is it merely a comforting delusion?

    Your student and potential student vote seems to have deserted you with no intention of coming back. The on coming storm be afraid just hope that the Tories don’t call an election or it will be a parliamentary party that can be fitted into a taxi.

  • The belief or rather hope that Students will forget is clinging to straws indeed.
    Those who are protesting as Matt laid it out very well previously include those who are too young to vote now but will be able to next General election. Many of us have brothers and sisters who will be shafted by Lib Dem policy. This will haunt the party for a very long.

    And as for the thought that those who are students now (who are not affected by the rise) will forgive Lib Dems is having a laugh. Many of our first votes was for Lib Dems and they have shown us exactly how they are deep down. Never again

  • @tonygreaves
    “The interesting thing about the hostile comments here is how the writers of them simply have not understood David’s essentially Liberal piece. But such people never do understand Liberalism which is why they have been writing off our party for as long as I can remember.”

    We do understand Liberalism or the Liberals in government version of it only too well now and the consequence?
    For example, my son (student) first time voter – vote lost, his sister (graduate) – vote lost. My vote(parent) – vote lost
    My parents – two more votes lost. Do the math on all the other votes you have lost! None of us will forget, ever.
    I do object to the term ‘such people’ you are dismissing those who voted for you in hope of new politics but just got worse and feel betrayed. That is why there is hostility.

  • @David Boyle
    “good, effective and humane ideas tend not to get the attention they deserve, and the continuing political debate is not framed in those terms.”

    What ideas? The new, draconian Work Capability Assessment for ESA is to be implemented in March. The present WCA (and this new one is much worse) was critisised before the election by Liberal Democrats who gained votes from the sick and disabled as it was thought that the Lib Dems would rein in this policy (brought in by Labour). Another betrayal. The most inhumane attacks on the poor, sick and disabled made Clegg & Co pat Osborne on the back as the Tories bayed for blood. I fail to understand your comment.

  • Localism is becoming another word for ‘passing the buck’ in the eyes of many as it has coincided with the implementation of cuts. As such it will, like the ‘big society’ and ‘McKinsey’ become a source of mirth itself in the future.

    It is better for governments and parties to give up the idea of ‘big idea’ branding altogether in my opinion. If people feel empowered in their local communties well and good. The government needs to concentrate on making that happen rather than explaining the principle. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

    As for the memory of voters. As Labour found out to its cost with the 75p pension rise debacle and Mrs Thatcher found out with the milk-snatcher jib,, voters can be like elephants on some things and ‘never foget’. I think the EMA/tution fees is one such issue for the Liberal Democrats. The only hope is that the policy sticks to Clegg himself and he is eventually ditched taking the approbrium with him. However the Conservatives themselves have proved how difficult it is though to shake off a ‘nasty party’ tag. After thirteen years and virtually begging on their knees they managed to get just enough votes to form a coalition. Painful.

  • Mr Boyle – With respect.

    You seem to be working on the basis that somehow expressions of malcontentment capture the mood. Ryanair revels in treating the travelling public badly, and still makes huge profits even in these times. Teachers may not like SATs, but the suspicion will always lurk that what they actually don’t like are the likely results. No Win No Fee lawyers still menace public sector insureres, regardless of people decrying health and safety gone mad.

    Now, let me be clear, I make no value judgments here about anyone. All I am saying is that the pressures that resulted in these things will not vanish just because a system becomes more, ‘localised.’ (whatever that means in practice).

    People are either being turned down for benefit/not getting housed/getting HE fees paid or they are not. That it is a localised operation in charge is not the issue. And this is before we get to localised failure. If queues formed at a credit union as they did at Northern Rock, the buck would still have stopped centrally.

    Localism works well for those communities that can afford localism, for the others – well there is an old saw about services for the poor being poor services. Ryanair just shows that some are quite happy about that – but public services can not offer Ryanair style complaints services. Or can they?

  • David Boyle 4th Dec '10 - 10:13pm

    Dara, nobody – least of all me – is suggesting that localism is the only issue. Nor do I think the coalition yet understands the implications of localism, for the curtailment of corporate power and monopoly, and for providing every area, however poor, the assets it needs for economic independence. But do I think it’s only about localism? Of course not. What I suggesting is that people are less prepared now to be pushed around, and I’m quite glad about that.

  • Paul Barker 23rd Aug '20 - 1:33pm

    This is fun isnt it ?
    We all get the chance to argue with our previous selves, just like on Dr Who.
    For the record, I was utterly wrong on The Coalition, I let the short-term desire to “Do Stuff” get in the way of long-term Strategy.

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