Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Big Society

 Let optimism beat pessimism declared Cameron in one of his best remembered lines after taking on the party leadership in 2005 - Let sunshine win the day. Five years on, it seems those lines now define the political future for a generation. A call to arms - a statement of intent - whose purpose is to transform the very relationship between people and the state. For the first time since Lloyd George and another memorable coalition government which set the political course for the next ninety years - state pensions, welfare, social justice and universal sufferage - Cameron has set a new and radical agenda that puts people - and no longer producers - at the heart of government.
In office, Cameron is not only keeping that pledge to the British people, he is building it from the bottom up. Day by day, policy area by policy area, Cameron is transforming the relationship between people and the state in every area of political interaction. In education, free schools will be directly answerable to parents. In health, GP commissioning will put patients in control of their health service. In welfare, local government, policing and even the electoral system itself, people are being empowered in a way that must terrify the reactionary forces of top-down, bureaucratic and centralised control that so terrifyingly dominated the twentieth century.

From the left, no arguments are presented against the Big Society. It is seen simply as a cover for cuts - Labour's deficit cuts at that. Whilst charities say it is incompatible with the an age of austerity. And no wonder. These are Labour's children - nurtured by a profligate state swollen by the revenues of dishonest and incompetent bankers on whose sands the house of Labour were built. But as Rachel Sylvester wrote in yesterday's Times, just as Facebook seems pointless, or incomprehensible, to people brought up to communicate by letter or telephone, so the Big Society is hard to understand when viewed through the conventional political prism.