Monday, 14 February 2011

The Big Gamble

Here’s why the Big Society won’t work:

(1) It’s too conceptual. Nobody understands what it means, not least its champion-in-chief who is having a very difficult time taking it from concept to specifics. At face value, he appears to be willfully confusing the public sector and the public – or maybe he’s not. That he seems to be is bad enough.

(2) In the public’s mind it is already sitting on the same shelf as “back to basics” and the “cones hotline” to name a few. Once you’re on that shelf, you’re not coming off.

(3) It’s a terrible name. It sounds a bit like a political funfair ride, which patronises many and perplexes just as many. You can’t trivialize community spirit in a time of austerity, nor can you dress it up. It comes from the same stable as Royal It’s A Knockout - and reeks in this case of an attempt to couch a piece of pernicious policy-dressing in a language that an elite believe will be appreciated by the hoi polloi. It doesn’t help matters that an upper middle class pronunciation of the word “society” rather sets the dividing lines between the haves and the have nots.

(4) It comes from the wrong quarter. Wealthy people who have never known debt have no credible locus in these matters. Asking people to invest their time to look after their communities is no bad thing. With everything else that voters have on their minds these days, though, it risks sounding a lot like “Operation Sort It Out You Lot” rather than “Operation We’re All In This Together”.

The PM is a former director of communications. He is supposed to have a decent appreciation of the way that announcements and initiatives will be received. On this occasion he appears to have a cloth ear, or to have been poorly advised, or both.

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