Localism comes into fashion

Robert Colvile (London, Direct Democracy): If you've ever had that weird feeling when other people suddenly discover your favourite band, you'll know what it's like to be a localist at the moment. When Direct Democracy was set up in 2005 by a group of young Tory MPs, the idea that we needed to return power to a local level across the policy board seemed outlandish: now it is a mantra mouthed (with varying degrees of conviction) by politicians from Cameron to Brown.

Unfortunately, this brings problems of its own: for starters, people tend to recite the words without adopting the content. Our aim with our recent series of pamphlets, The Localist Papers, was to flesh out our policies in six different areas - welfare, criminal justice, the constitution, foreign policy, the environment and education - and thereby shape the agenda of both Brown's new regime, and Cameron's policy groups. The Daily Telegraph, a staunch supporter of the localist agenda, chipped in with 'Think Local', a six-week serialisation of the pamphlets, with extra pieces and debates at a special site online where MP supporters would discuss the points raised in the forums, and rather than just being read by policy wonks, we spread our message to hundreds of thousands of people.

As the last few days show, with new constitutional initiatives and Hazel Blears's plans for "participatory democracy", it's an intriguing time to be a localist - we hope that The Localist Papers, and Think Local, will have made a few people think a bit more deeply about what that entails.