Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Big Society

Although David Cameron is constantly pushing his "big idea" of the Big Society, he never seems to explain clearly what it may mean in practice. Let me have a go.

I think a reasonable definition of an organisation which promoted and encapsulated the Big Society would have several characteristics:

independent of local and national government: organising at local and national level for the common good; involving all interested parties in promoting common aims; self motivating; self financing; self organising: effectively representing your own group.

Any group meeting this definition would, IMO, be eligible for inclusion in Cameron's pantheon of concerned citizens acting independently of the state and for the common good.

I also think that is a reasonable defintion of a Trade Union. But the Tories, despite their devotion to The Big Society, seem to have trouble with Trades Unions, i.e. The Big Society in action. The Big Society in reality. The Big Society on the ground.

In fact the Tories hate the Unions, because they are independent of government and they do act in the common good. The Conservatives are always thinking up new ways to limit TU power and undermine the rights of workers. David Cameron hinted so at PMQs yesterday.

The latest is Boris, threatening the underground train drivers.

Now, I have no real knowledge of the Union's grievances in this case, and I have absolutely no opinion on the proposed industrial action. It just seems ironic to me that, at the very point when The Big Society manifests itself in action, the Conservatives do an about turn: they don't really want independent groups operating independently of government in the public good at all.

Either that or The Big Society is a fiction, a "we're all in it together" cynical joke on the public to try to fool us that the caring conservatism actually means something concrete, when it does no such thing.

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