Thursday, 2 July 2009

Cameron At The LGA

David Cameron has today given a speech at the Local Government Association Conference, the text of which can be read here. In the comments which follow, the points raised are not entirely applicable just to David Cameron, but also to the Leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

In discussing 'honesty and leadership' David Cameron said: "What Britain needs is leadership that is clear about the depth of the problem we face…and honest about the fact that public spending needs to be reduced. I passionately believe our country will be able to cope with and come through the tough times ahead…but only if – and I mean only if - we tell people the truth about what’s happening." Whilst acknowledging that this was referring specifically about Britain and our national debt, the words 'Britain needs is leadership that is clear about the depth of the problem we face' and 'we tell people the truth about what’s happening' can be applied to other matters, namely to the costs of our membership of the European Union.

David Cameron says: "The good news is that I want to give you a lot more power". If he wishes to be 'honest' then it would have been more truthful to have stated that he would return to local people the power that had been undemocratically taken from them, in the first place, by politicians - not just in the field of local government, but also in the question of national government.

David Cameron promises 'to allow for real local discretion on spending', yet this is, to a certain extent, a shallow promise as, for example, local authorities will not have real discretion on getting best value in the matter of waste disposal due to EU regulations.

Another statement that has a decidedly 'hollow ring' is: "The first is that the whole philosophy of the modern Conservative Party is about decentralisation – trusting people and giving them more power and control over their lives." If that were true then again David Cameron would not be an advocate for continued membership of the European Union, from which 75% of our laws originate.

In saying "Just as I believe in devolving power from central government to local government, I want you to devolve power down from local government to local communities.", presumably this is in the belief that local people should be able to decide what type of community in which they wish to live. If this is correct, then surely, on a national basis, the British people should be able to decide whether they wish to be governed by Westminster or Brussels, regardless of whether the Lisbon Treaty is operative or not?

Discussing 'getting more for less' - a new buzz-phrase that he and the Conservative Party have now adopted - Cameron said, using companies as an example: "They are constantly finding creative ways to get more for less....but by thinking smart...." and "together we’ve got to kill the lie that getting more for less means swingeing cuts and show that instead it means real improvements". Perhaps some 'smart thinking' might involve not paying the EU £40million per day, might not mean 'swinging cuts' - or at least not such deep swingeing cuts' - and might just show 'real improvement'?

Finally David Cameron, discussing 'transparency', said: "Publishing information about spending, .........will be painful......This will lead to lots of tough questions. " and "But it is right." If David Cameron believes 'it is right' to publish information, whilst 'leading to tough questions' then surely it is right that a full 'costs benefit/deficit' of our membership of the European Union is carried out - something which all governments have refused to do, on the basis it is 'self-evident' - and that, as a result, 'tough questions' can be raised?
It is about time that a truly open debate was held with the British people on Britain's membership of the EU - something, it would seem, all three Leaders of the main political parties do not wish to have.

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