Perhaps this is just one of those lessons that needs to be relearned every generation or two – that conservatism works. That his is all being hailed as a great victory for the left is amusing of course but the point still holds up.
Note that I’m not saying that Conservatism is what works, rather conservatism:
Helen Carroll still remembers meeting two officials from Glasgow city council two years ago. She was then secretary to Springburn community council, and the meeting seemed to confirm their fears. “I asked if there was anything planned and they said: ‘No, there’s nothing planned in the foreseeable future for Springburn. There’s no money,’” she said.
“We were literally coloured grey on the map. I couldn’t believe it. They just didn’t expect anyone to ask the question.”
Her riposte to that hangs on the wall of the community drop-in centre that Carroll helped found earlier this year in Springburn shopping centre. A laminated aerial photograph of Springburn has been pinned above a table carrying a coffee pot and tea bags.
Taken on a bright cloudless day, the image picks out the neighbourhood’s parks, industrial estates and housing schemes. It is clustered with stars and dots in red, green, blue, yellow and gold. The red stickers mark out places the locals want to see improved, green and blue the places they cherish, and yellow marks out homes.
The particular piece of that conservative ethos I mean here being Burke’s one about the little platoons. What makes a society – not just what makes is desirable or pleasant, but what actually makes it and makes it work – is the little platoons. Peeps see that something right by them needs to be done. Or it is desirable that it be done, or just what the hell they’d like that it be done even if they’ve got to do it. So, it is done, they do it, and their corner of the world is that little bit better because it has been – even if at the price of their own labour.
The Conservative, reactionary, option is often enough that no one should do anything on their own, it’s for their betters to either do it or insist upon it. The point being that British leftism got tangled up in this idea too. It wasn’t good enough that community hospitals existed in every place, were financed by those places, instead there must be the one, single, national, health service which gave people what they damn well should want. Local government moved from locals providing government to their extended families and friends into monstrous centralised bureaucracies. Perhaps the greatest problem with it being the professionalisation of it.
Once council housing is provided not by the bloke who grew up three streets away but by the professional who has been to university – that class being recruited not locally at all but from the national pool – then much of what made collective provision work no longer does.
This insistence today upon localism, upon peeps doing it for themselves, it’s all being hailed by hte modern left as being just wondrous. Which it is, of course it is. It’s just that there’s nothing lefty about it at all. It’s pure and simple conservatism.
Now all we’ve got to do is get the Conservatives turned on to it and we’ll be golden.