Well, we know it's big

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.

Writing to the Government

Will you have something you just have to say to the next government of this country?

It seems fitting somehow (not sure why) to follow-up our last blog with a quick clarification on how to write to MPs.

After all, the wait is nearly over. The campaigning is all but finished. We know the results are a tough one to call, and that whoever rises victorious from the hustings will have some tough calls to make.

So if you’re interested in sharing opinions, suggestions, recommendations, congratulations, or even a selection of budget recipes with whichever party (or parties) makes it past the post, here’s how to do it.

It’s considerably more straightforward than politics.

Prime Minister

For the new/re-elected PM, begin your epistle, ‘Dear Mr [insert surname here]’, or even more simply: ‘Dear Prime Minister’. Finish ‘Yours sincerely’.

The Cabinet

For the rest of the Cabinet, it’s just ‘Dear [appointment]’. For example, ‘Dear Minister’, ‘Dear Home Secretary’, ‘Dear Lord Chancellor’, ‘Dear Under-Secretary’ and so forth. If the appointment in question is particularly long-winded, it’s better to use their name. ‘Yours sincerely’ is the sign-off.


Members of the Cabinet are known as ‘Right Honourable’. The formula for addressing them on the envelope is:

The Rt Hon [title] [name] [honours], MP, [appointment/position]

Bear in mind they may not have a title (eg ‘Sir’), or any honours (for example, KBE, CBE etc).

So the next PM’s envelope would read (in your best handwriting):

The Rt Hon [Gordon Brown/David Cameron/Nick Clegg/Shock outsider], MP, Prime Minister.


Now, after you’ve written your X, you’ll be well-equipped to write anything else you feel you must. Before then, of course, there’s just the small matter of counting the votes.

And you can also always have your say on what appears here. Just leave a comment below, or contact us directly. Write Now aims to address any questions you may have about business writing: blogging with the people, for the people.

The anatomy of a good speech

Whether you think David Cameron is Blair MK II or the saviour-in-waiting of UK plc, the BBC’s analysis of his speeches down the years here and here makes very interesting reading. Top of the list of most-used words is ‘people’, which Emphasis has always cited as one of the most powerful in the English language.

The UK’s Conservative Party (of whom Cameron is leader) is currently riding high in the polls with a nine point lead over Labour, and many put this down at least partly to a well-orchestrated communications policy. This is unsurprising given that Cameron is the former head of corporate affairs at a large media company. But credit must also go to the speechwriters on the Tory campaign team, who clearly know how to turn a phrase or two to their leader’s advantage.

The analysis reveals how they seem to have chosen words very carefully to support a deliberate strategy. For example, Gordon Brown said in his speech last week that this was ‘no time for novices’, in a sideways swipe at his opponent’s lack of experience. So Cameron this week gave Margaret Thatcher a name-check purely to give his speech weight, apparently.

The BBC uses ‘word clouds‘ to show how the latest conference speeches from the leaders of all three main UK political parties compare. It’s all fascinating stuff.