The result of the Scottish Referendum should be a wake- up call for all involved in the political process, not least in Horsham and District. That 45 per cent of Scottish voters voted to leave the Union is an indictment of the current system and parties.
It was not just about Independence but a cry for people to be heard, properly represented and not dictated to by a remote, detached, often haughty, elite with limited understanding of the consequences of their actions on the rank and file.
The UK now has one of the most centralised forms of government, in the world. The result of successive Tory and Labour administrations and, in particular, the Thatcher suspicion of local government and her mantra of ‘no such thing as society’. More recently the Tory side of the Coalition sabotaged two Liberal Democrat initiatives to bring greater democracy and accountability to government by voting against Proportional Representation (PR) for Westminster elections despite the fact that PR is used in the devolved assemblies and for European Elections and no post war UK government has been elected by more than 40 per cent of the people it purports to represent!
The Tories also ensured that Liberal Democrat proposals for reform to the House of Lords as a more democratic, representative, elected chamber were thwarted. Not to be outdone, successive Labour administrations led by the Blair Government then imposed the Cabinet system on local authorities, reducing the role and level of scrutiny of backbenchers and their contribution to the development of policy.
We all know the consequences of the Cabinet system and their cabal on HDC with the lack of accountability and secrecy that has accompanied the majority of the most recent controversial decisions locally, particularly on planning issues, by a southern dominated Tory administration imposing development on the north of the District. This is Horsham’s version of the West Lothian question, where people unaffected by their actions have made decisions adversely impacting the lives of thousands of others even though based on false premise but largely unchallenged due to the system!
The Scottish referendum also confirmed the opportunism, irony and inconsistency of UKIP with Mr Farage calling for Scotland to stay in the Union whilst advocating the UK leaving Europe!
Only the Liberal Democrats have a proud and consistent record of advocating and, when able, implementing greater democracy and accountability to the lowest possible level.
Horsham residents still benefit from the right of residents to speak at planning meetings; an initiative introduced by the Liberal Democrats when they ran Horsham District Council in the 1990s; an administration that was independently commended for its efficiency and competence.
But it is for the voters of Horsham District to consider their priorities and vote accordingly next May in both national and District elections. If they truly value democracy and accountability by the group that invented pavement politics, then the only answer is to vote Liberal Democrat.