...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 3695: What's WRONG With a Big Society?


Well, obviously it's the wrong idea at the wrong time and it's got a silly name.

The SAD thing is that with a bit more THINKING, and a bit more PATIENCE, Mr Balloon's big idea might be quite a GOOD THING.

This Parliament HAS to be about fixing the economy. That means CUTS and PAIN and lots of UNHAPPINESS. But those cuts, you see, are a result of – and done by! – BIG GOVERNMENT.

THAT is the message we should be putting over: BIG GOVERNMENT BAD!

NONE of it should have ANYTHING to do with the "Big Society".

So why is the Prime Monster banging on about it so much?

Well, clearly, Mr Balloon wants to be seen as a Prime Monster with political BOTTOM. He wants to have a PHILOSOPHY in the same way that Queen Maggie had a philosophy (you remember: it was called "the SITH"). He wants people to think that his policies come FROM somewhere rather than being cobbled together by Oliver Leftwing and Auntie Maude on the back of an old manifesto with the words "Are You Thinking What We're Thinking" hastily scribbled out.

So they rolled out the "Big Society" last April in their "Invitation to Join the Government" to universal cries of "Huh?"

But the ROOT of the idea is, to put it optimistically, a trust that people are ABLE to make their own decisions about the important things that affect their lives, whether that is running a jumble sale for the local cubs or organising a street party for the Olympics OR (and this is where it gets radical and scary) setting up a new free school, choosing your own treatments from the NHS, or running the local library.

Hard Labour HOARDED power, and tried to convince people that they were POWERLESS, that they had to RELY on the almighty State for handouts and services and tax-credits and rights. Typical "we know best" Socialist thinking. This at least is trying to hand power BACK, to tell people: actually YOU have the power, not us. And that's GOOD.

Where this has all gone wrong is that it should be about ALLOWING people to do these things, but in the age of austerity it comes across as REQUIRING people to do these things.

That's why Mr Balloon's "Big Society" is so easily TRADUCED as a cover for spending cuts: the allegation that the Coalition want volunteers to do for free what the Government won't pay for.

Really, the "Big Society" should have been put, well not on hold, but kept out of the limelight for the duration of this Parliament.

It would have been far better for the Conservatories to keep their proverbial powder dry: work away quietly at encouraging people to do more of what they want to; chip away at the unhealthy idea that you HAVE to get support from the State if you ever going to do anything; reawaken those British virtues of self-reliance, invention even eccentricity.

And then at the NEXT election, go to the electorate with a proposal that says: look at what you've achieved for YOURSELVES; you don't need the Government to organise street play or community gardening – YOU'VE done it and you can be PROUD of what you've done. Now, here's how it forms a COHERENT part of our policy, and here (now that we've fixed the finances) is how we can offer support where you might choose to take it.

Obviously the NAME really does not help. Conservatory thinking has evolved (from primordial slime) in response to and in direct opposition to Hard Labour's nanny state "Big Government"; hence the "Big" in "Big Society".

Which is FINE, but you'd be better off by defining what your idea IS (and why it's GOOD) than by what it's AGAINST!

And you can't help thinking that the "Society" in "Big Society" is in there as part of the Prime Monster's patented, brand-detoxifying formula: look, look, we're NOT like we used to be; we DO believe in such a thing as "Society" now!

It's a pity, because put the two words together and they're just horribly CLUMSY. Society covers all the people that are around, the idea that it might come in "big" and presumably "small" versions is obviously daft. And it doesn't even SOUND pleasing, instead being the sort of clunking management-speak that only a committee suffering from focus-groupthink would end up with.

The fact that it sounds silly is actually quite important; an idea has no chance if people won't give it serious attention because they've already dismissed it.

Lord Blairimort was a dab hand at coining a convincing sound bite; this inaptitude on Mr Balloon's part is one of the few areas where he is no "heir to Blair".


Apologies for diaries being a bit thin on the ground; Daddy's work has been heavy going for the end of year accounts and he's been doing a weekly trip to Basingstoke to see his Mum too.

1 comment:

JohnM said...

CLUMSY like Alarm Clock Britain!?! Sometimes best to avoid the slogan and say 'decentralisation' or 'reduced tax for low to middle income earners' me thinks!