Further to this post, if you haven’t already heard or read the PM’s ‘big society’ speech delivered recently in Liverpool, the text can be read in full here. It makes genuinely interesting reading — partly because he has better speechwriters than either Brown or Blair did.
Read about the ‘vanguard communities’ — Eden Valley in Cumbria, Windsor and Maidenhead, Sutton, and Liverpool — which will be the coalition’s ‘great training ground’ for change, and the three ‘big strands’ of the big society: social action, public service reform, and community empowerment. Cameron is billing this as the biggest redistribution of power — in favour of citizens and away from Whitehall — that there has ever been.
What I find most curious, most notable in many ways, about the emerging big society theme is not its ideas — New Labour banged on for the best part of a decade about community empowerment and community engagement, after all — but the attitude. Francis Maude, Cabinet Office Minister, was interviewed recently on R4. He more or less said that of course not all voluntary action would work, not all would necessarily succeed. But so what? Most would be good and in any sphere of endeavour we are used to some things not working. Cameron seemed to echo this more relaxed management-averse attitude in his Liverpool speech saying, “This process is all about learning. It’s about pushing power down [to the people] and seeing what happens.”
In many ways this attitude couldn’t be more different to Labour’s micro-managed, technocratic, centralising urges, which seemed to become ever stronger the further it tried to disperse power and activity.
Maybe what the coalition really means is this:
Don’t get so hung up on success and outcomes. Some social action will work, and some won’t — but what the hell, it’ll be free. We may as well give it a bash…..