Cameron’s People Power has appeal

In the Conservative manifesto, Cameron takes the bold step of putting political reform at the heart of his appeal to voters. His “Invitation to join the Government of Britain” to voters is a novel departure although at its core, it expresses the traditional Tory belief that individuals should take greater responsibility for their own destiny. It also makes a virtue out of the necessity of facing up to financial austerity: “We can make Britain a better country without simply spending more money.” But Cameron’s examples of a new localism – referendums to cut council tax and elect police commissioners, taking over the local post office, starting a new school, more open and responsive planning – balk at devolving specific extra power to local councils, apart from his plan to consult on big city mayors.
In a neat strategic move, he links public spending cuts with continung public fury over the expenses scandal and a vision of the future in a single theme. By stressing “people power ” he ducks making the difficult claim that political reform by itself will improve public trust. His belief in greater participation appears mainly to lie in faith and anecdote. “The evidence is all around is. The schools network is inundated. The charities would love to do more.. There is a vast untapped well of enterprise and effort. It just takes government to set it free. It’s a simple as that”.While he plans cutbacks in Whitehall he doesn’t see a big transfer of resources to local level as part of his solution.
There is no pledge to review the system of powersharing at Stormont. The Change Politics section of the manifesto is in pps: 63-83 ( though in fact as usual with PDF, the relevant pages are a bit further on. The ambitious intro rhetoric appears to commit the Cons to real change .
We believe in people power – and today the information revolution gives us the practical tools
to realise that philosophy. So we plan to change Britain with a sweeping redistribution of power:
from the state to citizens; from the government to Parliament; from Whitehall to communities;
from Brussels to Britain; from bureaucracy to democracy. Taking power away from the political
elite and handing it to the man and woman in the street. Using decentralisation, accountability
and transparency, we will weaken the old political elites, give people power, fix our broken politics
and restore people’s faith that if we act together things can change. This is a new agenda for
a new politics.

Section headlines

Make politics more accountable
We will clean up politics: the expenses, the lobbying and problems with party funding. We will cut
the cost of Parliament, cut the number of MPs and cut Ministers’ pay. We will give citizens direct
control over what goes on in Westminster, make government more accountable and safeguard the
independence of the civil service
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Make politics more transparent
We will publish details of the money government spends and the people it employs. People will
have a right to government data to make the performance of the state transparent. We will cut the
unaccountable quango state and root out waste.
Make politics more local
We will put neighbourhoods in charge of planning the way their communities develop, with
incentives in favour of sustainable development. We will make it easier for everyone to get onto
the housing ladder. We will give individuals and local government much more power, allow
communities to take control of vital services, and give people the chance to have a powerful,
elected mayor in England’s largest cities.

Strengthening the Union
The Conservative Party is passionate about the
Union and we will never do anything to put it
at risk. And, because of the new political force
we have created with the Ulster Unionists, we
are proud that at the next election we will be the
only party fielding candidates in every part of
the UK.
Support devolution
In Northern Ireland, we strongly support
the political institutions established over the
past decade and we are committed to makingdevolution work. We will continue to promote
peace, stability and economic prosperity
and work to bring Northern Ireland back
into the mainstream of UK politics. We will
produce a government paper examining the
mechanism for changing the corporation tax
rate in Northern Ireland, in order to attract
significant new investment. And we will stop
the practice of ‘double-jobbing’, whereby
elected representatives sit in both Westminster
and Stormont.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London