Friday, 30 July 2010

You spin me right round

Politicians think they're very clever.
They also think we're not very clever and can't do joined-up thinking.

A case in point. The new government doesn't like taxes or public services, so they've come up with a cunning plan: if your local government wants to put local taxes up, they'll have to hold a referendum (not if they want to cut taxes, you'll notice).

They wheeled out Sontaran Eric Pickles to talk about this stunningly boring but important subject on the Today programme on Radio 4.

Eric Pickles


Unfortunately, little Eric decided to wax lyrical about democracy and referenda, as you can hear on this MP3 recording. He even evoked Winston Churchill on the joys of democracy.

Here are the key quotes:
'it's up to you, you decide'.
'we think it's important as part of the Big Society that decisions are made locally'
'I'm quite in favour of local people making local decisions…I don't see a problem in referendums… we can have a decision on all kind of things… It's part of a package of measures of passing things locally'.

But. But, but but but but but but.
It's only a couple of days since I wrote about the Academies Bill, Clause 3, Amendment 8. It asked the government to hold a referendum of parents whenever a school applies to become an Academy. My Scarlet Pimpernel MP Paul Uppal, and all his Tory colleagues, voted against this simple and relevant democratic proposal. He also voted against a simpler clause to compel schools to consult parents.

(On a wonderful related note, the Tory Scum announced a couple of weeks ago that 1000+ schools had applied to become Academies. Today's news reveals that in reality, only, er 153 actually did so: either they're Lying Tory Scum or the Secretary of State for Education is in fact hugely innumerate).

I feel another letter coming on.

Dear Mr Pickles and Mr. Gove,
I listened with fascination to Mr. Pickles on Radio 4's Today programme (30th July 2010), extolling the joys of local democracy and referenda, with specific reference to 'The Big Society' and Council Tax.
Mr Pickles also stated on a video ( that
"This is a radical extension of direct democracy, as part of a wider programme of decentralising power to local communities. Power should not just be given to councils, but be devolved further down to neighbourhoods and citizens."Given the new government's enthusiasm for local democracy, could you please explain to me why your government and its parliamentary supporters (including my MP, Mr Paul Uppal) voted against the amendments in the Academies Bill calling for (respectively) referenda or 'consultation' with parents and other interested parties prior to an application?
Mr Pickles was very persuasive on the reasons why ministers in London should surrender authority: why is it therefore the government's policy that a headteacher can decide alone whether to apply for Academy status, and the Secretary of State for Education's decision alone on whether to accept the application?
Is this a case of democracy when it's convenient and autocracy when it isn't? I notice, too, that there's no provision for Council Tax referenda when reductions are proposed. 
[Plashing Vole]

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