Two stories from yesterday’s Eastern Daily Press illustrate perfectly the disconnect between government and the people. And in some ways, as well as illustrating the problems which politicians face, they both go to show how powerful our unelected quangocracy and bureaucracy have become. The two stories I have in mind are the sketchy plans to allow parts of the North Norfolk Broads to be flooded, with several villages disappearing under the water, and the government’s apparent willingness to keep the villages around RAF Coltishall in the dark about their real plans for the former air base. As the former Conservative Candidate for the area of the broads concerned, and a former resident of the picturesque village of Swanton Abbott, next to RAF Coltishall, I have a real interest in what happens to both.
The fact of the matter is that the government continues to go through sham consultations. They spend huge amounts of money in a vain attempt to convince people that they are being listened to, and then they blithely go ahead with the plans they had already developed anyway. This is exactly my experience on hospital closures in North Norfolk when I was the candidate there from 2003 to 2005, and it seems history is repeating itself on the Broads and at Coltishall. No amount of lobbying from the local politicians seems to do any good. No amount of press publicity on behalf of campaigners seems enough to divert the bureaucrats from their chosen path. No wonder people feel impotent.
They feel powerless to protect the properties they have invested blood, sweat, tears and money in over decades – and all because of a stroke of a Labour minister’s pen. They see their property values plummeting, all because of something few of them could have foreseen when they or their ancestors bought their houses.
It’s no good for local politicians to promise to “write to the Minister”, hold a public meeting or any of the usual failed tactics. A new approach must be found. It’s a heavy burden for local politicians to bear, and they will come in for a rough ride, but the ground rules have changed. It’s time for a bit of anger.* From my Eastern Daily Press column today.