Monday, 28 May 2012

British governance: more success stories

Simon Jenkins, in this month's Prospect magazine, points out something that I've been writing about here for the last couple of weeks: the way in which we're richer, better housed, and probably better governed than we've ever been. As he puts it (registration required):

Britain's GDP today (adjusted for inflation) is roughtly four times what it was in 1952 [at the time of the Coronation]. Its welfare state, though straining at the edges, is incomparably more extensive. Its health and education are better. Brtain is not just more prosperous for virtually all its citizens, it is more tolerant, generous, caring, creative and outward-looking. It is almost certainly more fun. 

Quite right too... And while I'm about it, here are some more success stories of British governance:

Right-to-roam. The legal presumption is now that ramblers and walkers are allowed to roam pretty much wherever they please in the British countryside. Naysayers said it couldn't work. It'd be challenged in the courts. It'd be a tangle. Government would have to retreat. The result of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000? More people accessing the great outdoors, more easily, as of right.

Long-distance national trails. Another Labour Government, that of 1945-51, passed the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949. This not only set up our National Parks, but also the fifteen long-distance National Trails that snake across the English and Welsh countryside, from the South West Coast Path (above) to Hadrian's Wall. They're wonderful examples of community power in action, building on the defiance of inter-war campaigners who insisted that access to the land belonged to the people as citizens.

Children's Commissioners. One group that's often not listened to in the legislative process is children. Who will benefit cuts hurt the most? Often children, as their parents are forced back into work, as their child tax credits are cut, and as school access in England becomes ever more competitive and chaotic. The Welsh Government's 2000-2001 decision to appoint an advocate for children, and the Scots and English following suit, has been universally welcomed as providing a new voice and a new vision for public policy.

Cynical? Not me. There's lot that can be done, and lots to be done.