by Andrew Coulson, Institute of Local Government Studies The University of Birmingham
With 430 large pages, 1,800 references, 14 appendixes and an unusual bibliography, this is no small contribution. It discusses local government in the context of Marxist, or Gramscian, theories of the state. It includes considerable empirical material about local government, mostly from Britain, but also from South Africa, Cuba, Venezuela, Porto Alegre in Brazil and Kerala in India. The author was associated with the Labour Campaign for Open Local Government, which campaigned successfully against directly elected mayors and in favour of councils being governed by the committee system, and many references are to the publications of members of the Communist Party of Britain - but the Foreword is by the left-wing Labour MP Kevin Hopkins, and the book is sponsored by Croydon Trades Council, the Labour Land Campaign and various trade union and related interests.
Few will read this book from cover to cover, or agree with all that it asserts. But the treatment is so different from conventional approaches that most readers will find some original insights - not least from its willingness to be critical equally of the neo-liberal policies of Mrs Thatcher and the current Coalition in power in Westminster on the one hand, and on the other, of Tony Blair and New Labour, and especially the business interests that lie behind them, epitomised by the board members and publications of the New Local Government Network.
Read more: State & Local Government: Local Government Studies Vol. 37, No. 4, August 2011