David Cameron has referred to it as his ‘mission’ and his ‘passion’, but it does seem that very few people are entirely sure what the ‘Big Society’ is actually all about.
This isn’t too surprising when even those well and truly behind the idea are not helping matters. Phillip Blond, director of the think tank ResPublica, and – according to the Telegraph – ‘a driving force behind David Cameron’s “Big Society” agenda’, has argued the case for the policy in the Independent. He guides the people thus:
‘Public sector mutualisation and budgetary takeover by citizens of the state is a crucial initial phase in endowing ordinary citizens with the power to ensure that the services they run are operated in a way that combines public interest with economic efficiency and localised employee ownership building in all the gains that this model delivers.’
Writing this convoluted and opaque will do very little to clarify the concept for the ‘ordinary citizens’ it claims to want to empower. In relation to this, one letter to the Independent quoted Nobel prize-winner Peter Medawar: ‘People who write obscurely are either unskilled in writing or up to mischief’. The writer then commented: ‘I don’t think Mr Blond is unskilled in writing.’
If Cameron and co. are to defend the ‘Big Society’ as more than (as some rumours have it) a slightly sinister cover for the cuts, they need to put away the thesaurus and use considerably fewer big words.