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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Newslog
In Newslog, Nick Robinson keeps a unique diary from the heart of the news. Add your comment too.

Tuesday 21 May


Sexy politics?
posted by Nick | 1258 BST | Add comment
Lo! Iain Duncan Smith has laboured and brought forth a big idea. It's... wait for it... localism.

It doesn't sound that sexy, does it? But if he means it, it marks a pretty fundamental break from both Labour and his party's own past.

IDS argues in a speech today that by setting too many targets and dictating too many rules, central government is stifling local schools, hospitals and community initiatives.

He envisages a Britain in which local towns and cities can run local experiments - altering the benefit system, changing school hours and curriculum, treating patients differently, for example - just as happens in the states of the US.

There's a big difference, however. America's local government is strong, is popular, and vitally can raise its own funds.

So it can ignore the centre. If IDS is serious, he's got a lot of thinking to do about how to replicate that in Britain.

I have spent this morning in Hackney, East London, where the Tory leader has been making his speech. It's easy to be cynical about this occasion - "He needs to be seen with black people", "He wants to be seen in poor areas", "He's trying to reposition his party".

But people forget that democracy creates its own momentum. The fact that the Tories need to show these things will produce - and is producing - changes in what they stand for.

That's the whole point of "kicking the rascals".


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