Monday, July 19, 2010


The Big Society' is being unveiled by the Conservative/Lib-dem government, the main spokesperson being the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose political campaign dream it was.

The largest society work force will be volunteers, any kind, from all age groups and educational levels. They will be volunteering instead of earning salaries; many will be building up C.V.'s of experience, to help them move on to what? More volunteering, training volunteers to volunteer, while remaining as a volunteer.  So, the big society will be a huge population of people in unpaid community activity. What is going to be the definition of activity in the community? 

When everyone has become a volunteer, managed and mentored by volunteers who in turn will likely be managed by paid directors, dying to skill up all these volunteers to take a director's role, (not on your life!) where will the government purse obtain its income from? 

You would expect that there has been government preparation for the daily survival for this massive army of unpaid people; of course you would if you were in charge of it.  There has to be a strategy, doesn't there, to run alongside the reconstruction - or is it destruction - of ways of earning a reasonable living, such as realistically remunerated employment opportunities.


Vincent said...

You sound like a deep-dyed socialist, ZACL. Implicit in your thinking is that the government has to control everything? Job opportunities, remuneration---this is the role of private enterprise, surely, not of government.

Volunteering is a way to create wealth without involving government, so as to reduce the size of government. We should applaud a government which wants to curtail its own powers. Makes a change, anyway!

ZACL said...

I am reminded of a certain Mr Redhead, who roundly berated a certain minister who assumed what his politics were.

I have been around long enough to see how these wonderful sounding lofty ideals pan out in reality.

One thing is certain, we have it confirmed that there is such a thing as society. The market, though, which we were told would provide last time round, (Margaret Thatcher) did not.

Vincent said...

Yes, apparently Margaret Thatcher does not approve of Mr Cameron. Which is another point in his favour.

Anonymous said...

They all have to have 'a big idea' don't they! Mind you it's all too often not a good idea just a seemingly well intentioned one. They invariably fail due to lack of detail, drive and money, which makes this one a non-starter I reckon!
Still you never know it just may prove to be the exception!
Flighty xx

ZACL said...

Mrs Thatcher's dislike of David Cameron could radically change. While we are told she was/is a conviction politician, we also have to bear in mind, according to her daughter, she has a degree of dementia. I wonder if he reminds her of 'Ted Heath".

Cameron was around in Mrs Thatcher's government period, a new-ish boy on the block learning his craft at her feet.

ZACL said...

Hello Mr F

Your conditionality is interesting. Of course, the idea is being sold in anything but conditional terms. It is offered as unconditional tough love. There will be a sense of rough justice, disparity of opportunity, all of which, is likely to lead to a restless underbelly.

But, then, as you say, the big idea may just prove to be the exception.


TG said...

This "Big society" idea reminds me of Mao's "Great leap forward". We all know how that ended, don't we?

ZACL said...


My stomach rumbled and my heart sank as I read your comment. But you know, a right wing government, may not be that far apart from a strong conviction left one.

TG said...

Sorry to shock you with my comment. I went a bit over the top, of course, just to stir the debate into different waters. When you wrote "volunteer" so many times, suddenly the images of those poor Chinese farmers came to mind, that was the first association I had, so I commented straight away. That's legitimate, right? I totally agree with your reasoning, too many volunteers "spoil the soup".

Vincent said...

Yes, but the point is to allow a society to come about in which we don't blame the government all the time (which has been easy enough in the past) but participate more than just once every five years at the ballot box. Nothing could be more opposite than Chairman Mao, than to remind the people that the government is not going to be responsible for everything.

ZACL said...


I'm fine with your comments; stimulating thought and comment is always welcome from whatever perspective. I understood your thinking. It could have much relevance. I hope the big does not go as far as Mao's 'Great Leap Forward', that would be horrendous.

The philosophy behind all this hyperbole appears to be to make urban areas more community orientated. We don't really have a definition of what that sort of community means. It dresses up cuts in official local (community)support services, of that there is no doubt. It is supposed to reduce the input of central government, (read that to mean cuts too), therefore reduced employment opportunities or very low paid ones.

In rural communities there has always been the social community spirit. Volunteering is high, though not at the expense of the relatively few jobs that there are, most of which are part time. In some communities, there was little in the way of local or central government support, so much so, that vulnerable people's basic needs were seriously neglected. Obligation (law and human rights) altered that.

So where are heading to?

ZACL said...

Oops, left out an important word in the first para, it should read
...' the Big Society'

ZACL said...

One name of the game is outsourcing, Vincent. That has been happening for years. It's more of the same activity but with extensions. Abnegation of responsibility where it should lie is probably what will be happening. The remainder is hyperbole about sharing responsibility officially, so as to outsource away from any level of official governing responsibility, which is what I understand you to be saying.

Urbanites have pockets of local activities, many of which go unsung. They are valuable and are under threat. In this climate they should not be.

Rural areas would not survive without their community networks and the massive amounts of volunteering that have always existed. I might add that the generosity and the benefits of volunteering in small communities, ends up benefiting the urban dwellers. It is perverse.

The trial areas for the big idea are going to get massive encouragement with input in money and guidance to generate exemplars. The exercise should give us some sense of where else, (apart from cost-cutting)this idea will develop.

Vincent said...

Right. There was an excellent discussion of the "big society" on Radio 4's "You and Yours" just now. I'm sure it's available to listen again online.

ZACL said...

I got called away from the programme before it got into the substance. I will try and find space to 'listen again'.

The various avenues of chat that I have heard thus far, confirm what was already started with the previous government, was to be continued and expanded. The rest is somewhat theoretical and reliant on a massive number of unquantifiable variables at this stage.

The Chancellor's proposal on simplifying our complex tax code will be another one to carefully study. The English language being what it is, words can be used to mean other than the concrete meaning. Nuances are multitudinous, the possibilities of interpretation endless, until we have the facts up front.