If you replace the word ‘localism’ with ‘privatisation’, it is not that different in some ways from the Thatcher government’s agenda.
Image: Political Scrapbook
I do however have some problems with this new localism agenda. As I listened to Blond’s talk, I thought, well is it actually true that we live in a country with not much society, that society has now disassociated? I remember just before the election hearing Eddie Izzard, who had just run all around the country, doing 50-something marathons for charity. He said he didn’t believe in ‘Broken Britain’.. everywhere he had gone people were much more community focused than he had expected. My experience from visiting Transition initiatives is that community is there, everywhere, sometimes more obvious than other places, but the point is that community will organise when it wants to, it doesn’t need permission from government.
In the short film at the top of this post, Cameron says “I don’t believe that civil society springs up of its own accord”. Well there are thousands of community organisations around the country, run mostly by volunteers, Transition initiatives, Low Carbon Communities, Greening groups and so on, none of them waited for permission from government. They certainly sprang up of their own accord. What matters is for the State to offer such projects meaningful support, and to remove the obstacles strewn in their paths.
Of course the cynic might point out that the reason for the Big Society is the sweeping cuts in public spending that are only just beginning. If you replace the word ‘localism’ with ‘privatisation’, it is not that different in some ways from the Thatcher government’s agenda. There is a challenge within it around what people are actually capable of doing in their spare time. Working full time, and also running a school? Working, managing a family, looking after an ailing relative, and running a Community Land Trust? Of course there are incredible people out there who do that, but it will have its limits unless people are supported in other ways too.