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Real democracy is local

Local self-government is the bedrock of freedom, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835. Since at least the 13th century English townspeople have been among the best freedom fighters for their towns and for the nation. By 1835, Parliament recognized the importance of self-government, and in the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 granted self-government to the townspeople of 178 towns in Britain.

It is, of course, a problem when Parliament feels it “grants” freedoms that already belong to the people. However, it was responding to a vigorous demand from the towns.

Now the government wants to abolish many town councils by combining them into county councils and creating unitary authorities. Eighty-eight town councils may be abolished in this way, probably without the voters being consulted.

Lindsay Jenkins points out that when Shrewsbury District Council asked voters last January if they wanted their council to be abolished, two-thirds of those asked said no. Clearly they wanted to administer police, water, education, and planning, and keep their elected officials accountable.

But of course the government took no notice and continued its wrecking mission until the council, with the backing of another 19 towns, took Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State, to court. The High Court gave the councils the right to challenge the government. We should hope so since many of their freedoms date back six centuries.

So what is driving the government’s take-over? Why of course it is the EU. The government, acting for the EU, has split Britain into 12 regions. Now they intend to create the sub-regions and the sub-sub regions that the EU demands. These administrative units will not be democratic. Regional authorities are not elected, and they take their orders mostly from Brussels.

So what is this negative situation doing in BRITS AT THEIR BEST? It’s the democratically elected councils who are fighting for liberty that we admire, along with intrepid democrats such as Lindsay, who are digging out the details of what is going on, and the courts, still independently minded in some instances.