Nonetheless, our lowliest form of democratic body enjoys substantial democratic legitimacy. There are open elections, decision making is open and transparent, meetings can be attended by all. In law, the Parish Council is still a 'Corporation Public' and has existing powers to do some extraordinary things; it can run cemeteries and crematoria, swimming pools, build and run a conference centre, provide public toilets, run car parks, build and operate a theatre, cinema or opera house, build and run a golf course and operate and manage parks and greens.
Parish Councils do few of these things in reality. Some of them are done by District or County Councils, and many are subject to funding decisions made in Whitehall. But the structure is there; switch funding from the centre to local, and provide Parish Councils with two or three full-time officers, and we have already in place a ready-made structure to which to devolve more powers.
So why is Cameron totally ignoring them?
We've heard about how he sees the 'Big Society' working; informal groups of local people taking over the pub, or the school, or the village hall. No mention of whether they're representative, of whether they've been elected, and no mention of any structure of democratic governance within which they may operate. Thus a narrow interest group with no democratic legitimacy may, with direct Whitehall support, take over my village hall. Local referenda have also been mentioned; why go to all the cost and bother? Why not place matters within the competence of the existing Parish Councils?
I really don't get it.
Unless, of course, Cameron is running scared of creating a truly local, strong and legitimate democratic framework that threatens an existence wholly independent of the corrupt big parties and their bloated Metropolitan dags, the scum of the nation's Political Class.
Ah, yes. 'Localism Lite' - localism without any actual shift in power or democracy from the centre. But it really won't work.