On reflection, all politics is local after all
6 July, 2005

Ian Parker, Head of Strategic Communications, NLGN
PR Week

Having long adopted an ‘all politics is local’ take on life, the past few weeks have had me doubting my own hackneyed wisdom. Notwithstanding the global media dimension to last Saturday’s entertainment in Hyde Park, the issues at stake have appeared genuinely anything but local in both scope and solution.

I didn’t actually go along to Hyde Park, still aghast at the somewhat Jurassic line up on offer. Did someone confuse UB40 with the ‘8 men in one room’? But, in terms of offering crowd-pleasers I fully understand the means to an end argument offered by the organisers. And of course, it would be churlish to deny that from what I saw on TV, the whole day looked great fun (Especially if you were among the chosen ones at the front – what was that all about, eh?). I do remain pretty dubious however, about the post-event media guff that the day counts as the greatest in the history of everything. An irony perhaps in a week that marks the joint commemoration of VE and VJ days.

More importantly, there is no denying that the event, in tandem with those at Versailles, the Tiergarten and elsewhere, served to do the two key things it set out to do: raise awareness of the issues and voice the necessary discontent. So, job well done Sir Bob and co..

Later this week of course, it will become more than apparent whether the real ‘8 men in one room’ who all of this is primarily aimed at have actually bothered to listen. Let’s face it, a few of them have in fact been fairly proactive themselves, and that it’s actually a smaller number – the G3, G2 or G1? – who hold the key.

Nevertheless, we need to remain rational about the real outcome: one big global financial gesture on trade and aid, while making us all feel a little better about the world is not going to change it beyond recognition. The answer lies in the much more sophisticated and ongoing rules of political and economic engagement: between trading blocs, between individual countries across the pitch; between the central powers of each state and its devolved institutions and/or whatever passes for civil society; and between every one of those tiers of governance and the communities and individuals whose lives are ultimately at stake.

As the old command and control systems of both the Soviet Union and many a Whitehall scheme have long revealed, top down only approaches never really work in the long run. The essential safety-nets and guarantees aside, making a difference is actually about giving local bodies and local communities the greatest possible role in the governance and delivery of the services they provide and receive. Anyone for global localism?