Conservative Party local government reform plans announced

Eric PicklesBroadly, the Conservative Party are proposing a greater degree of operational co-operation with neighbouring councils in order to earn the right to retain more of their Council Tax revenues.

In speaking to the proposals, Eric Pickles is clear that this would not involve any changes to political structures, or any reductions in the number of local councillors.

A local and republican 2009?

I’m never sure whether think-pieces work when the audience is on holiday. Personally, the old adage about getting a busy person to help when you need something doing can be adapted here: If you want to get people’s attention with a new idea, don’t pick a time when they are relaxing to pitch it. If it’s a good-un, it will cut through the clutter of a busy week-day.

Others don’t share my view though, and a few bloggers have clearly chosen the Christmas period to hit ‘publish’ on a few things that have been in their drafts folder for a while.

Here’s Podnosh asking why government doesn’t have reservists?

Here’s Read-Write-Web with what is (for me, anyway) a very optimistic post about re-localisation.

“In Web 1.0, these local businesses were viewed as roadkill. Everything would be ordered online and delivered by air and trucks from giant automated warehouses. Oops, lousy economics; plus increasing consumer push-back. So now Web 2.0 start-ups want to “partner” with these local businesses.”

And finally, RSA chief and former Downing St insider Matthew Taylor here outlines what he believes to be an opportunity for a new progressivism.

“This period was superseded by the long era of dominant individualism which may finally have come to an end with the credit crunch and subsequent downturn. Individualism fostered a remarkable era of innovation and freedom but was already subject to powerful critiques, especially from egalitarians emphasising growing inequality, high levels of social and individual pathology and, most of all, the dangers of climate change.”

He promises to flesh it out a good deal in 2009.

Mapping the blogosphere

From a really fascinating article, just one gem:

“Intriguingly, different linguistic communities seem to have very different blogospheric topologies. The English-language blogosphere appears as a knotty, fibrous mesh, while Scandinavian and Japanese blogs map as something more closely resembling a blotchy Jackson Pollock painting. Russian blogs, by contrast, seem to be heavily clustered in dispersed and minimally interconnected wedges.”

As I say, this is just one little bit. Do read the whole thing.

“The public are wrong”

It’s a view that doesn’t get much support amongst the blogosphere, but there is a Parliamentary perspective upon democracy that is rarely advanced or defended. Listening to the BBC’s Moral Maze programme – this week’s question “Can there be too much democracy?” (you will need to hurry – it’s not archived and will only be available for a few more days), a reference was made to an article by one of the witnesses (Matthew Parris) – it was too good to ignore. (Update 21.1.09: just seen that Daniel Heaf has the whole thing on his site here).

Here’s a sample:

“My worry is not about the unsettled but the settled opinions of the public. On a range of questions central to the working of a free market liberal democracy, the general public, if asked, will consistently give the wrong answer. These are neither illiterate nor capricious people. They understand the questions and have thought about them. And they keep reaching the wrong conclusions. They therefore have to be ignored. This is an uncomfortable conclusion for a democrat.

Here are ten examples:

  • The populace do not believe in free speech.
  • They do not believe in freedom of movement.
  • They do not believe in adversarial politics.
  • They do not believe in an adversarial legal system.
  • They do not believe a man is innocent until proved guilty.
  • They do not believe the market should determine prices.
  • They do not believe the market should determine wages.
  • They do not believe anyone should profit from scarcity.
  • They think increased productivity will increase unemployment.
  • They do not believe an immigrant should take a job for which there is already willing indigenous labour.

Many of these arguments are perfectly absurd; others are superficially attractive but dangerous; others are workable but only in a fascist state. But if you believe that you could persuade a town hall full of ordinary voters to reject any one of the contentions I have summarised above, then try it. I have.”

The whole thing is here.

Local Referendums – coming to a town hall near you?

Well, we knew it was coming – here:

“New proposals to make it easier to get local leaders to hold a referendum on their leadership structure, putting communities firmly in control of their town and council, has been published for consultation by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.”

It is particularly interesting that these votes will be on the chosen structure of local government. It appears to be an extension of the idea that ‘constitutional change’ is a suitable subject for referendums.

(Oh, one other thing: I know I should know this, but can someone give me a final ruling? I’ve never been certain – is the plural of ‘referendum’ really ‘referenda’?)

The Secret Guide to Social Media

A few years ago, if your house was being visited by the constabulary, and they found a copy of ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ with it’s various recipes for bombs, their inspection would immediately become more thorough, and your chances of avoiding a few hours ‘helping the police with their enquiries’ would diminish to zero.

Here’s a modern-day equivalent. Decidedly less incendiary, and not written to advance the causes of any dangerous extremists. But, nonetheless, the ‘Secret Guide to Social Media in Large Organisations‘ – a Canadian how-to manual for seizing the initiative using social media – is well worth a look.

If you imagine you are in control of an organisation – have a look. If you would like to be – you may have seen it already…..

Top ‘real world’ read-write applications of 2008

There’s a good deal of useful stuff here for anyone with an interest in new conversational applications.

The three that stand out for me are….

The others are worth thinking about though. Mint, for example – in a year when finance-literacy is becoming very relevant indeed – aggregates a lot of personal data very neatly.

And for next year? The same site has a bit of a wishlist….