Archive for October 7th, 2010

Society: Big, Good or just Civil?

October 7, 2010

David Cameron yesterday in his Conference speech returned to the theme of the Big Society. However the term remains contested with Ed Milliband in his speech the previous week talking about the Good Society.

Can any consensus be achieved on the elements that both government and opposition will subscribe? I have written before about the term becoming politically contested in the same way as phrases such as “Privatisation” or “Poll Tax/Community Charge” were, as has TCC Chairman Jonathan Upton here.

Perhaps Phillip Blond writing in the Observer has a solution?

He writes: “Civil society is the new centre-ground of British politics and it is the only alternative to a repetition of a past none of us want to revisit.”

He might have hit the nail on the head when he used the phrase Civil Society, which is also an academically recognised term too. Indeed the Government already formally recognises this with the Cabinet Office having a Minister for Civil Society.

Perhaps the best approach is a for a group of respected non-partisan organisations to come up with a branding and terminology which is acceptable to the widest possible number of people? In the spirit of localism it should also be encouraged and allowed to develop in its own way at neighbourhood level, whatever people choose to call it. It can be “Big” and “Good” and politicians will of course go on using the terms they prefer, but fundamentally it will surely be about the expansion of civil society irrespective of the economic circumstances. For the good times as well as the bad.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer at The Campaign Company

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