Further evidence for my conspiracy theory regarding our political leaders ongoing ambitions to become big players on the European stage, by the use of distraction. Localism would seem to be the perfect vehicle for this strategy.
As an ambitious national politician, who wants to become a player on the European stage, it’s extremely annoying to have your electorate calling for you to withdraw from that stage. In order to stop the masses from interfering in your plans to become a big wheel in Europe, you need to give them something else to get involved in. One way of doing this, is by making them think that they can make a difference at the local level. Which leads me to a recently published survey.
‘Public involvement and interest in political processes have plummeted to fresh lows, the Hansard Society’s annual ‘audit of political engagement’ has found.
However, the prospect of civic involvement at the local level has provided a ray of hope in what is otherwise a gloomy assessment of the state of democracy in the UK.
The society’s ninth audit found that the “growing sense of indifference to politics” found in last year’s report had now “hardened into something more serious”. Based on a national poll of more than 1,000 people and a series of focus groups run between November and March, the audit found evidence of a “public that is increasingly disengaged from national politics”.
The proportion of people saying they are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ interested in politics has plummeted by 16 percentage points to just 42% – the first time the figure has dropped below 50% since the audit was first run in 2004. More people than ever – 15% – claim to know ‘nothing at all’ about politics.
But the audit also found evidence of a growing willingness to engage in local civic life.
The public’s sense of the efficacy of local involvement increased by five percentage points in a year to 56%, largely on the back of an increase in perceived local efficacy among people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Despite this, just two-fifths of people (38%) said they were willing to get more involved in local decision making, down from 43% the year before.’
So it would seem that the strategy is working. People are loosing interest in what their politicians are getting up to, thereby allowing those politicians to ignore the things that do upset the public, such as the EU power grab, the EU budget, immigration and so on.
However, just in case the public do begin to get too interested in their activities, politicians have come up with a distraction strategy, using ‘a power to the people’ agenda. Labour started the distraction process with their idea for quality parish councils, designed to take over some of the services currently delivered by higher level councils. Localism, Community Right To Challenge, Neighbourhood Planning, Free Schools, Academies may well be this government’s way of continuing the process.