Photo by Mike Baird
Great Edelman event this week all about the Big Society. Nick Hurd MP explained his view of what Big Society actually means. Peter Oborne journo’ed it out with Kevin Maguire while the other two panellists – Greenpeace’s John Sauven and London 2012 Chair John Armitt CBE – both provided interesting perspectives.
Maguire was cynical of the Big Society whilst Oborne was clearly a big fan. Oborne’s perspective though was not whole-heartedly pro the government. Whilst he is a fan of the One Nation Tory stance of Cameron, Hurd, Duncan-Smith and Hilton et al, he is far from impressed with George Osbourne who he described as a fiscally regressive ‘right wing republican” who he sees as very much the hawk amongst doves.
I agree with Oborne that the cuts agenda risks undoing what I think is a sensible vision. As I have said elsewhere my concern with the Big Society is that it’s all very well expecting society to roll forwards as the state rolls back but if you cut their legs out from under them it’s not going to work. Oborne was clearly of the same mind in that he fears Osborne’s drastic and regressive cuts agenda will undermine the Big Society vision.
Nick Hurd was outspokenly adamant that the Big Society did not mean an end to the state. Indeed he said “The state is not going to disappear. There is going to remain a very major proactive role for government” and followed that by saying “The state is going to stay very, very big.” I’m not sure that will please all his party but it was good to hear that he sees an important strategic (not nanny) role for the state. Hurd promised that the Localism Bill, the Public Service Reform White Paper and the Big Society work on stimulating social action will all deliver on the exciting vision and narrative of the Big Society.
Responding to a point made about Miliband jnr’s Good Society, Oborne made the point that he saw no conflict in the left also championing the Big Society as it is in fact based in many ways on David Marquand’s ideas of the ‘public domain’ which sits outside both the state and the private sector.
Time will tell if the Big Society works out. And right now it’s tough times for crystal ball gazing as much of next year looks at best misty and at worst fairly unstable. Watch that space…..