By Peter Hoskin
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last Tory
made much of what it called “collaborative democracy” — pushing
power away from Westminster and towards the public, whether to individuals or
to local communities. This restless form of localism was also an area of easy
overlap with the Liberal Democrats. And so a great deal was expected of the

yet the progress of “collaborative democracy” has not been what we might have
hoped. This is true in both the round (as Nadhim Zahawi MP admitted in a post
for ConHome
this week, “I know I'm not the only Member of Parliament to have
been let down by Localism in action”) and in the case of specific headline
policies. Plans for directly-elected mayors were stymied by immense public
. And there are signs that the police commissioners agenda is,
as Janan Ganesh put it in his Financial
Times column (£)
this week, “another good idea let down by neglect”.

is why David Cameron’s comments
to the Times (£)
today are worth noting, despite their brevity.  He concentrates on police commissioners, and basically
admits that the policy is — in electoral terms, at least — unlikely to get off
to an explosive start:

takes time if you have a new role, it will take time to get going,’ Mr Cameron
told The Times. ‘It’s always difficult when there’s a new post,
trying to get people to turn out and vote in an age of cynicism and apathy,
it’s difficult. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do.’”

then he moves on to directly-elected mayors:  

also signalled that the next Tory manifesto would include a commitment to
legislate for directly elected city mayors without the idea having to win
approval in a referendum first.”

snippets are a remarkable turnaround from the rhetoric of that 2010 manifesto;
which was, don’t forget, sold as an Invitation
to Join the Government of Britain
, and seemed to be predicated on the
notion that people are desperate to take up that offer. Now Mr Cameron talks
instead about “cynicism and apathy”, and seems to have diluted his commitment
to bringing about localist ends by localist means. So, don’t be surprised if
the next manifesto reads differently.

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