Monday, 1 November 2010

Aye but, what is it!!!???***

On the ConservativeHome website someone called Oberon Houston has (yet another) go at explaining what the Big Society is and how it will work.

This must be the websites twentieth attempt to explain why the "big Society" is a good thing. So far they have had little success. Sad to relate, Mr Houston's "explanation" leaves the reader as bamboozled as any of the previous atempted "clarifications". It turns out that the bold Oberon has no more ability to explain what the elusive policy is about than any previous Tory interlocuter.

One of his prescriptions is that;
"...What it means is saying that central government won't decide what your kids' education will be, where they go to school, or what they learn (within prescribed requirements). Or which hospital you go to for treatment, your GP - the one you chose - will send you to the treatment centre which has the best provision and the best expected outcomes for you...."
But Michael Gove has comprehensively sunk the idea that "...central government won't decide what your kids' education will be...".   His so-called "free" schools will report directly to the Department for Education, i.e. more centralisation, not less, will be the result of the one policy which the coalition has enacted so far. So when Houston writes
"..Imagine all public services, still paid for by the state, but accountable to the people they serve instead of faceless politicians and bureaucrats in London. "...
...he has to explain how the Big Society aligns with Gove's insistence that his new part-private schools report directly to him and his "faceless bureaucrats in London"... What's that about? How does reporting to Westminster mean that "..... central government won't decide what your kids' education will be... "?

If Tory Ministers insist on policies which contradict David Cameron's big idea, and David Cameron let's them implement these policies, how is anyone to judge, let alone act on, what the "Big Society" really means?"

Needless to say, ConservativeHome has no reasoned explanation of this, very apparent, conflict.

In my analysis the Big Society has three possible meanings;
1. It is pure PR, and given that its creator has had only one "real" job (if you can call PR Officer for a  TV company a real job), that would be a reasonable assumption.
2. It is no more than currently happens when local councils work with charites and other groups to find economical ways and means of delivering effective services. In which case, it is no more than the long established Labour commitment to the cohesiveness and interdependence of government, local government and wider society, and owes a lot more to existing methods of achieving that cohesiveness than any supposedly new and fresh thinking. Not that it's a bad idea for that: partnership working is obviously key to the efficient and effective delivery of high quality services and the Tories stealing Labour's clothes is all right by me as long as it results in better services to the public (not that I think the Conservatives are motivated to deliver better public services).
3. It is a smokescreen for disguising the impact of the Osborne cuts, and a method of misdirecting attention away from the ideological nature of the cuts and the Tory Party's primary aim of cutting public services to the bone for ideological, not economic, reasons. In which case it's just a lie and a cynical lie at that: it will achieve nothing for the people of Britain.
There is, of course, possibility 4, and that is that the "Big Society" is a load of ill-thought-out meaningless tosh and should not have been made so much of by David Cameron, and he should drop it now before it becomes even more embarrassing to him and his party.


  1. Trouble is, that it has been trailed as David Cameron's passion. It is, in fact, his only idea...

    I've done a little piece on the latest I've heard about it across at Munguin's Republic. I'll link to here if that's OK.

  2. The Big Society is all about communitarian philosophical change to society - demonstrated through the Big Society passion about devolving powers to local government [see Pickles pushing for the abolition of local government ring fencing].

    I rather think the Big Society would make Elzioni proud - it is leftwing communitarianism. And I rather like some [much] of the implied philosophical ideas.

    However, being a tad of an Alistair MacIntyre myself I have my reservations...