The Biggest Society


Communists and fascists agreed that an efficient society requires a strong element of focused terror – the fear of physical attack. We may think we have moved on but in fact, ever since the 70s, we have been moving back, back towards an older idea that an efficient society requires a strong element of unfocused terror – the fear of economic insecurity.

Nothing better illustrates this slippery slope than the Coalition’s plan for privatisation by stealth in the NHS, which having been waved through the Commons by the glove puppet party has recently begun its progress through the Lords. At our policy meeting last month we agreed a statement on health, namely that the Party:

· condemns the introduction of market forces into the NHS and the corresponding erosion of democratic accountability for the use of public funds;

· notes and condemns the fact that the drive for marketisation has been and continues to be supported by all the major London parties, denying any effective choice of direction;

· notes that in Scotland and Wales the NHS remains true to its founding principles and is organised through local health boards, co-ordinated by the respective devolved health ministers;

· notes that health policy for Wessex is made nationally by the London regime and is imposed on Wessex regardless of local or regional opinion;

· believes that health care should be provided by, or in close collaboration with, elected local bodies with unfettered powers to make decisions and to scrutinise and correct the decisions of others in this field, where not solely concerning the exercise of personal clinical responsibility;

· sees a role for regional action to support local choices, similar to the role of the health ministries in Scotland and Wales and the former regional health authorities in England, and demands that Wessex should form one such regional unit;

· recognises that a major cause of ill-health is the pressured nature of our society and calls for a fundamental reassessment of priorities so as to improve future health at source.

The Coalition parties claim as their aim the replacement of the Big State by the Big Society. Underlying this thinking is no great philosophical depth but simply a desire to rebrand more public assets for private benefit. Having found the State mired in debt, thanks to their banker chums, the only room for manoeuvre they perceive is to get the voluntary sector into debt too.

Less stupid folk will recognise straight away that the biggest society of all, the most comprehensive expression of the common good, IS the State. The real challenge is not to monetise and dismantle its institutions but to decentralise and democratise them, recreating opportunities for volunteers to exercise their skills and enthusiasm WITHIN the public sector, not through some amateurish substitute for it. The ongoing process of stripping out democracy, cutting the number of councils, cutting the number of councillors, giving them less to do, tying them up in rules that ruin their role, handing power to paid officers, executive members and elected mayors to do secret deals with the propertied and moneyed classes, is but the doing of a clueless flock of sheep, now well on their way to be butchered.

3 comments on “The Biggest Society

  1. October 14, 2011 Westcountryman

    Actually the Big Society is based, partly, on the views of Philip Blond. He is not a superficial thinker and has combined many of the key views that should be dear to any sustainable decentralist party. Of course Cameron's Tories aren't going to actually pay much notice to him, but in his ideals he is largely on track.

    I'm an old-fangled monarchist. I believe the greatest expression of the common good, so to speak, is, at least on one level, is not just the state but the crown; her Sacred Majesty. I'm an old Shakespearean/Platonist/Tory/Byzantine at heart. Long live the Philospher-Kings! However I think your comments on the role of the state need a little tightening up, as they stand they can be seen as advocating a very extensive role for the state. Thee is a key role for government, at various levels, but something like the Big Society's ideal is still a part and parcel of the decentralist vision. A growth of private, local charity and community is required. Obviously the modern 'Tories'(this term is a misnomer.) have little intention of achieving this vision, but, as I said, this doesn't destroy the vision.

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  2. October 16, 2011 David Robins

    ‘Her’ Sacred Majesty? Or ‘His’ Sacred Majesty, King Francis II? That’s the true test of a Tory: divine right or parliamentary grant? Either way, the foundation of the argument is tainted by usurpation, back in December 1066.

    Party members have a range of opinions on the Monarchy, though republicanism has been gaining ground. As with everything else to which we relate, loyalty has to be earned and the Monarchy of today has done too little for Wessex to ask what Wessex can do for the Monarchy. Our view is that political sovereignty rests at parish level, so the idea of a single person, in a remote palace, being ‘sovereign’ is pretty much the opposite of that.

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  3. October 17, 2011 Westcountryman

    Sovereignty lies with God. My idea of monarchy is an older one than some of the ideas of the 17th century, I do not subscribe to the view that the hereditary nature monarchy is so central that the nearest relatives of James I, let alone Edgar the Atheling, are the next in line to the throne. Jacobitism would of had its attraction in the 17th and 18th century. The 1688 revolution, as Cobbett saw, was the victory of Whig oligarchs with their bank, their mercantilism and eventually capitalism. Dr. Johnson was as usual correct when he quipped that the first Whig was the Devil. If the party were republicanism that just seems like another strange instance of taking an unnecessary, unpopular policy.

    But my main point was not about monarchy. I simply mentioned that to show I have a quite organic and, in the medieval sense, realistic conception of the state and society. However the state is not simply society. The Big Society has a lot of promise. It won't get anywhere because the Tories have no intention of lettng it, but it is just the sort of thing decentralism in England needs.

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