Monday, October 24, 2011

Phillip Blond's Big Society

Phillip Blond is a self-styled "internationally recognised political thinker and social and economic commentator" who rose to prominence with PM David Cameron calling Blond one of his favourite thinkers. Blond leads the pro-"Big Society" think tank Res Publica and he has taken a lead at trying to popularize "Big Society" thinking far and wide in the UK and abroad. Blond was previously a lecturer in theology and philosophy at the University of Cumbria.

Today, it has been alleged that money raised by Res Publica has been used to fund a lavish lifestyle:

"[. . .] David Cameron’s former Big Society mentor was facing embarrassment yesterday over claims he ‘raided’ the coffers of his own think tank to pursue a jet-set lifestyle.

Phillip Blond, stepbrother of James Bond actor Daniel Craig, was revealed to have withdrawn £40,000 to cover personal ‘expenses’. These included exotic trips abroad to meet women and £165 on a garish Regency-style chair decorated with pictures of women in bikinis and high heels sitting astride motorbikes. The payments came at a time when his fledgling think tank ResPublica was struggling to pay its rent and staff wages. It also that emerged Mr Blond once ‘treated’ Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin and his wife to tickets for a performance of The Magic Flute without mentioning they had been paid for by the company which owns the Canary Wharf complex.

A friend of Mr Blond last night acknowledged that the 45-year-old academic theologian, who is not married, ‘enjoys the good life’ but insisted he had ‘done nothing wrong’. [. . .]"

Many have critised the Big Society as a euphemism for cuts. We have seen countless relaunches (not that its failure to capture the public's imagination has prevented the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council from including several mentions of the "Big Society" within its current delivery plan spelling out the AHRC's strategic research funding priorities which we have noted before).

The latest allegations will do little to improve the difficult public reception of the "Big Society" -- but will it spell the end? I suspect so.

1 comment:

G.B. Sadler said...

This is the same Phillip Blond as the Radical Orthodoxy guy, right? The one who was the sort of movement bulldog to John Milbanks what Hook was to Dewey?

I have to admit that I have not followed his career since the early 2000s when I came into contact with the RO people. Sad to see if these allegations are true.