The One Who Decides

We, by which I mean Gloucester Green Party members, had an invitation recently to go for training as local government councillors. It was addressed to women members in particular; there is evidently a shortage of women councillors. One of our members said she had, some years ago, been on one of these courses. The course itself was all right but  the more she found out about local government the more disillusioned she became. To put it simply, the real action was somewhere else.

If that was true some years ago, it is almost certainly more true than ever today. In recent years local government has been systematically disempowered. I was reminded in this context of the saying attributed to Carl Schmitt, the political theologian: ‘sovereign is the one who decides’. The big question is: ‘who gets to make the decisions round here?’

I think this is a question we should ask more frequently. We talk rather glibly about individual sovereignty, that we all have the right to choose, but in how many matters are decisions being made over which we have no control? Politically perhaps we should start at the bottom and work upwards. Is my vote worth much? (Bring on Proportional Representation.) Does local government work? (Change the system whereby all the important decisions are made at Westminster.) Does parliament work? (See Caroline Lucas’s book, Honourable Friends?.) How much is government influenced by big business? (Whose decision was it in the final analysis to build Gloucester’s huge incinerator?). And so on and so on.

‘Sovereign is the one who decides.’ Good point Mr Schmitt.