Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The "Big Society" relaunch fiasco

What a difference a day or two makes in politics.

We have only recently noted that the British Prime Minister is to relaunch his political campaign slogan, about building the "Big Society", and now his plans are facing major turmoil. The PM had appointed Lord Wei the so-called Big Society Tsar to take a lead on seeing through Big Society reforms. These reforms were to involve more volunteer work (and often replacing services affected by government spending cuts).

The problem is that the Lord Wei, well, doesn't seem to have the free time to volunteer to lead the Big Society. He has announced he is standing down.

This is highly embarrassing for the Prime Minister. By some estimates, this is the fourth relaunch of the Big Society and Lord Wei's departure could not come at a worse time -- literally within days of the relaunch.

It is perhaps ironic that all relaunches have been "led" by the Prime Minister for an approach to governance meant to be "bottom-up" instead of "top-down". Perhaps it is not for government to launch the Big Society, but local communities instead....?

It goes without saying that if the Prime Minister cannot find anyone willing to volunteer and lead this political vision the idea has "lost the argument" and failed to grip the popular imagination. Better to drop the obscure "big ideas" and focus instead on improving the economy. Voters will reward the government if they believe jobs are more plentiful and more secure: it is hard to see them as interested or excited about an abstract political vision.

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