Michael Howard (Baron Howard of Lympne to you out there) was giving the lecture. And he made a most compelling argument. He talked of the "perfect storm" currently in progress to create the conditions favourable for localism. The three factors he cited as contributing to this storm were the General Power of Competence, the need for austerity, and the major imperative for growth. Rather disarmingly, he did say that he hoped that this "perfect storm" would not end with the boat sinking, as it did in the film of the same name of course. But the thrust of the address was that, with some imagination and determination, certain local authorities (by no means all, that is the logical concomitant of localism) could seriously lift their localities, create conditions for real economic growth, and manifestly improve the lives of their communities.
Kent County Council of course, under the leadership and stewardship of Sandy (and Alex King), and indeed even before that, was responsible for creating the platform for investment that resulted in Kings Hill. And frankly no better exemplar of localism (a local authority exercising its powers in consultation with its community) could you find. Just because it doesn't have any pavements, and just because it was started over 20 years ago, before "localism" was invented, doesn't mean that it does not populate that policy exactly and entirely...
Incidentally Lord Howard also said a rather radical thing about DCLG, saying that it should exist to serve local authorities, "that is if it should exist at all". For some time I have been wondering whether the intent, the political trajectory, was eventually to wind up DCLG. It seemed logical to me, but I'm not sure I've ever heard it mooted by a senior coalition politician. So I tweeted this (of course) to see who would respond. And my mate Stefan (ever reliable) came onto Twitter (bless him) to demand why local authorities have to be served at all? He thinks they should just manage with the Cabinet Office connecting them and checking them for ultra vires business.
Well it is certainly a thought. Less central government means more... localism. And that works for me.