Ashdown calls for ‘radical’ shift in power
By Vivienne Russell | 9 July 2012
The government should learn to do less and pass power back down to citizens, former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown told the CIPFA conference in Liverpool last week.
Giving the conference’s closing address on July 5, Ashdown said political institutions had become distant and disconnected. A centralised model of government was being ‘torn apart’ because of a shift to a way of living that allowed people much more control and choice over their own affairs.
He said: ‘Unless we are prepared to change that in a radical way, no amount of reform to political culture of better behaviour is going to resolve the issue.
‘We have to take the power present at the nation state level and hand it back down to people so that they can take their own decisions.’
Ashdown noted that, across the world, the centre-ground of politics was ‘collapsing’ and giving way to more extreme political movements of both the Right and Left. He also predicted that it would be ‘very remarkable if we get through the next two or three years of this recession without social disturbance on a grand scale’ in some cities.
In order to stave these threats off, Ashdown said there was a need for a ‘new form of government’, one based on networks and relationships with others.
‘Government should learn to do less and learn that governing in the modern age is about being a network enabler,’ he told delegates. Other organisations, including those in the voluntary and private sector, needed to be brought in and used, Ashdown said.
Watch PF’s video interview with Lord Ashdown