Big society and Thatcher revised

Big society is characterised only by what it is not; that being “top-down, top-heavy, controlling” government.

There are plans to give people more say in how local money is spent, but guarantee that you will be listened to will probably be as likely as it is now.

You can get a group of people to lobby this or that and you have every bit of chance to be heard; big society might just be a name to this, but the option to gather a group of people to either demand spending on a school, to stop the closure of a post office, or oppose the building of nuclear generator outside your house exists today.

Is it possible that what was meant to be a rejection of Thatcher’s famous comment that there is no society is a return by other means; since big society is empty and vacuous and is predicated in the negative (that is, by what it is not and not what it is) perhaps there is no such thing as big society.

David Cameron insists that big society will be something like the following:

a broad agenda of decentralising power, expanding the voluntary sector and encouraging people to take more responsibility for their lives and neighbourhood.

I’ll say it’s broad: state cut back, working for free and “responsibility” – a word used as if created anew. But it has been uttered before of course.

Margaret Thatcher, in that speech, which big society is supposedly a rejection of, said:

There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.

Exactly the same; a game of guesses and fingers crossed that better off people will help the lesser off under the guise of self-responsibility; in other words Victorian philanthropy.


The Right Wing in Europe

Far-right politician and murder inventor Richard Barnbrook was invited to join the launch of England’s bid to host the football World Cup in his role as a member of the London Assembly, the Times reports.

But two further parts of the story, found on the Evening Standard website, here, made for troublesome reading. First is the unconfirmed report by a BNP spokesperson that Barnbrook also has an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace (links in this circle had already been uncovered, back in 2006, by Guardian journalist Ian Cobain when he discovered that Peter Bradbury, a leading proponent of complementary medicine who has links to Prince Charles, was a member of the BNP). The second uncomfortable truth, announced by the spokesperson, was that the public should get used to the BNP getting more public invitations.

Will we have to get used to that? Why has it only been relative affluence and economic stability that have before managed to neutralise the far-right. Like Charlie Brooker referred to in his recent article, on the subject of the expenses and the terrible party political broadcast by the BNP, “by referring to “professional politicians”, Griffin is presumably suggesting we should elect amateurs instead.” And, too, for the public, in times of crisis, like now, is the correct protest voice at the polling booth the one that condemns the establishment so much, they are willing to send the country back 1,000 years?

Will it be that the BNP get the same level of political favour as Le Pen’s National Front? If so, it is looking unlikely that the two will be natural allies, not since David Cameron has dropped the Tories from EPP (European People’s Party) memebership. This move will see the Tories sit nicely with other “non-attached” MEP’s, the xenophobes, the neo-nazi’s, the protectionists.

Pro-Europe Kenneth Clarke said over the weekend, it emerged in the Guardian, that the Tories will not be aligned with “neo-fascists or cranks or anything of this kind”. They may not be hugging one another, but they will certainly share the same bed. That bed inhabited by the infamous Polish Law and Justice Party (I’m sure you know all about them, but if you don’t, and to save me repeating, see Nick Cohen’s Observer article, and a blog entry written by Andy from Mind Robber). This won’t prove to be a wise move with the European community before the general elections, but June the 4th will show that it unfortunately won’t undermine the Tories. The UK is set to be represented by our own “non-attached”, detached.