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With Big Society and NHS reforms in trouble, Cameron keeps press on side with superinjunctions support

Posted on 23 May 2011 | 8:05am

With his Big Society still no clearer now than it was when he first coined the phrase to distance himself from Mrs Thatcher, with his NHS reforms now so confused that he may have to start the legislative process all over again, David Cameron continues to do a good job at keeping secret from people any really clear political identity.

The problem with his Big Society is that it was a tactical ploy to aid the so-called detoxification of the Tory brand, rather than a thought through strategy. Maggie said no such thing as Society. Dave says yes there is, and it’s Big, but it is not the same thing as the State.

But in survey upon survey, citizens of the Big Society make clear their view that it is in effect a cover for cuts. As the cuts begin to bite in earnest, and as the charitable and voluntary sector struggle to pick up the pieces, that view will harden.

Labour had active policies to strengten communities. Cameron’s Year Zero government has put an end to many of them, and put a slogan in their place.

Today’s is his fourth big speech aimed at giving life to the one political concept for which he has managed to build awareness if not comprehension. But it is destined to fail again without clear signs of how policy can make a difference. Cabinet ministers volunteering for a day a year doesn’t do it.

With Barack Obama in town this week, he will get something of a respite from domestic issues, and the US President remains enough of a political star for the visit to be a guaranteed success for both of them.

Another bonus he has is that the press continue to want to give Cameron the benefit of any doubt, and Ed Miliband none. They got another little reward this morning when he took their side in the argument over superinjunctions.

It is interesting to note the difference between the zeal with which the papers are fighting for their rights to name footballers who stray from the marital bed, and the complete disinterest – The Guardian excepted – in pursuing stories of systematic criminal activity by their own profession.

Cameron may feel tactically sound in focusing likewise on one rather than the other. But if he were truly to assess the seriousness of both sets of circumstances, he would surely conclude that the second is more important, and worthy of his attention, than the first. That’s why it will not go away as quickly as the phoney furore over the footballer will.

  • Chris lancashire

    Cameron is doing as well as Blair did in hiding any clear political identity. 

  • Protonproton

    All you need to know about Big Society idea here :

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n08/jonathan-raban/camerons-crank

    for those who can’t be bothered then in summary Big Society = small fascism

  • Paul Harper

    I do not care which footballer slept with which TV star. I do care about whether we have a well functioning democracy, and we cannnot if we have a media that pursues its own interests at the expense of the public interest whilst claiming it is the public interest it is pursuing. The hypocrisy is breathtaking, as is Cameron’s small mindedness

  • Thomas Parkes

    If Tony Blair had been unable to explain New Labour five years into his leadership, I think people might have decided he could not communicate. Why do the press still describe Cameron as a good communicator? …thanks for supplying the answer … he says that they want to hear

  • Jo Willcox

    Cameron’s Big Society I imagined to be the idea that communities mobilise themselves to address the problems in society (well I suppose saying there is one is a step forward). Well the people who have the time and money to pull through this ‘big society’ idea are I fear the kind of people who would decide what and who should benefit from their effortts. And I cannot imagine this being helping ex-offenders find work, addressing the problems of the underclass in this country or anything to do with sex offenders programmes or drugs/alcohol.

    It will be much more palatable causes such as children, dogs, fluffy animals and people with physical diseases that people can understand. Am I being horribly cynical?

    Yes, the superinjunction thing is boring now and I’m sure the papers will not be focusing on their own criminality (phone hacking etc) but someone should. The media is a frightening force.

    It’s not a completely worthless issue though.Balancing freedom of speech and human rights is a complicated as we know, but I guess on the scale of things, a highly paid footballer’s right to pay to keep someone quiet about an affair and someone being tortured for being gay or stoned to death for being raped, surely we have to get some perspective here.

    India Knight talked about the average Joe/Josephine being able to take drugs, have affairs and break ever moral code in the book, whilst looking smugly at those in the public eye and tutting about them.

    Well, this isn’t true because if I got a conviction for example drug taking (I don’t) or breached my code of practice, then there would be consequences. I know that because of my profession, I cannot do certain things or I would risk that. This may be a populist view, but celebrities have many priviledges that most of us don’t. If it’s too hot, get out of the kitchen, and stay in the marital bed. 

  • Anonymous

    ‘ Labour had active policies to strengten communities. Cameron’s Year Zero government has put an end to many of them, and put a slogan in their place.’

    Nice.  Have to pull you up on your deployment of the word ‘disinterest’ later on, though.  

  • Olli Issakainen

    A rare defence of Mrs T from me today.
    Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. This is not the case with David Cameron´s “visionary” Big Society.
    It is widely believed that Big Society is the brainchild of Mr Cameron´s guru Steve Hilton. But “Red Tory” Phillip Blond also claims to be behind the idea.
    In reality the father of David Cameron´s Big Society is EF Schumacher, the German-born socialist intellectual.
    Schumacher argued for state monoliths to be broken up to foster a greater sense of social and personal responsibility.
    Cameron has long been an admirer of Schumacher, the author of Small is Beautiful.
    There is more to life than GDP, Schumacher has said. Hence the happiness agenda Mr Cameron promotes.
    Mr Cameron will now launch his central vision for the fourth time. It will not be the last! The Tory-led government has failed to explain it. And 50% of the Tory members do not like it.
    I sort of understand what it means, but the problem it faces is that it lacks £3-4bn in funding.
    Big Society is intended to devolve power and foster a greater sense of responsibility by loosening the role of the state. It is the KEY IDEA of Mr Cameron on which almost everything is depending on.
    If Big Society fails, Mr Cameron fails.
    And now to Mrs T.
    “There is no such thing as society.” Margaret Thatcher said these famous words which defined the decade in an interview with Woman´s Own in 1987.
    These words have often been used against her. But people are wrong!
    Mrs T was talking about people casting problems on society. What is society, she asked.
    Her answer was that individual men and women and families. People should look to themselves first. Our duty is to look after ourselves and our neighbours. People have obligations.
    Then she said the famous words.
    This was thought as praising individualism. To maximize economic efficiency it was necessary to destroy social ties.
    But Mrs Thatcher meant the opposite.
    She was attacking the then-current use of “society” as expressed in the phrase “society is to blame”.
    Mrs T cared about social order and social obligations. She was hostile to the egoistic hedonism of the Sixties.
    She wanted people to understand that society was made of them. People should have more sense of their obligations.
    She believed that too much government had weakened social institutions: families, churches, schools and voluntary associations. She was talking about welfare dependency.
    David Cameron has tried to differentiate from the past by saying that there is society, but it is not the same as state.
    But as I have said before, there is no such a thing as Big Society. And never will be! 

  • Robert

    Quick explanation of BS:

    Dulce et decorum est. 

  •  AC, Ed Miliband is NOT Tony Blair, you used to have your finger on the political pulse, but so far with supporting AV and now with this comment, “ press continue to want to give Cameron the benefit of any doubt, and Ed Miliband none. ” your losing your political credibility, would the AC of the great diaries have know the difference between what you want and the political truth. Darn good second volume of Diaries, was blogging late night, started the 2nd volume and read for hours, they are very unvarnished! Get you political nose back!

  • Mabozza Ritchie

     Olli,

    I may be wrong but I don’t recall Thatcher trying to correct this (so called) misinterpretation of her words. Actions speak louder than words and for me, Thatcher destroyed the communuties (local societies, if you will) that made up many of our staple industries, primarily coal and steel. For this she should never be forgiven.

  • Jo Willcox

    I really don’t think the general public are actually that interested in which footballer slept with who. Lets give Joe/Josephine Bloggs some credit.Most people are too busy trying to earning a living to keep head above water, may cast their eye over a newspaper in their break and see this nonsense, but what gets to us is not the gossip, it’s the INEQUALITY.! And I think most people have been getting more than just a bit pissed off about footballers pay, as well as bankers bonuses. 

    As for Cameron, I don’t think anyone including him knows what the hells going on and as soon as someone comes along with a clear vision, we’ll (NHS workers) just carry on with this white knuckle ride, trying to keep other people from drowning…

  • Jo Willcox

    I really don’t think the general public are actually that interested in which footballer slept with who. Lets give Joe/Josephine Bloggs some credit.Most people are too busy trying to earning a living to keep head above water, may cast their eye over a newspaper in their break and see this nonsense, but what gets to us is not the gossip, it’s the INEQUALITY.! And I think most people have been getting more than just a bit pissed off about footballers pay, as well as bankers bonuses. 

    As for Cameron, I don’t think anyone including him knows what the hells going on and as soon as someone comes along with a clear vision, we’ll (NHS workers) just carry on with this white knuckle ride, trying to keep other people from drowning…

  • Wisemanager

    Phone hacking strikes at the very heart of democracy. President Assad supporters in Syria are using such methods to identify and persecute pro democracy leaders. What worries me is the low profile given by prime minister and press to such methods used in this country. I have to give full marks to the Guardian newspaper for their stance. 

  • Yonks

    Sadly, most of those industries destroyed themselves due to their work-practices or in the case of the dockers non-work-practices!
    You should be thanking Thatcher for starting to turn round Britain; if it had been left to Blair imagine the mess.

  • Anonymous

    “Another bonus he has is that the press continue to want to give Cameron the benefit of any doubt, and Ed Miliband none.”

    The military have a dictum about not reinforcing failure. What good can Miliband, E, do the press right now? Power? Influence? Inside access to what, exactly?

    I rather thought the Telegraph had been a tad disparaging about the government.

  • Iain Maciver

    I am so disappointed in your views. I expected so much better from someone with your background.
    The issue is not the ball-booter’s loose morals. For anyone remotely connected with the Labour Party, the real issue should be that this type of “justice” is only available to the super-rich. No one else has any such option.
    That is why super-injunctions are the tools of arrogant deviants with interest in neither democracy nor real justice. Giggs is responsible for any detrimental effect on his family. No one else. Not the press and not the MP who rightfully shredded his cloak of anonymity.
    You seem so obsessed with attacking Cameron you have taken your eye off the ball. Sadly, today he seems far more reasonable and in tune with the nation than you do.

  • Gilliebc

     I would probably agree with that Robert, if I knew what it meant 🙂

  • MicheleB

    Re NHS ‘reforms’, I do hope Labour never stoop to the type of propaganda that was in force a few years ago against them.

    PCTs have already been broken down; the buying/bargaining power that such a huge customer as the NHS had is lost.  It bought at far less than other countries (one example was pacemaker parts, made in USA and bought by UK for 1/14th of what US hospitals pay).

    The so-called ‘postcode lottery’ re what your local PCT provided vs: another patient’s will surely become even more prevalent and broken down (oh, and harder to compare)?

    During the debacle a couple of years ago about the woman with breast cancer that was ‘denied’ Herceptin as NICE had not yet approved it and sold her home to import it and  medicate herself :
    – it’s only relevant for a very small proportion of breast cancer sufferers, a single figure percentage
    – the claims that it improves the 2+yrs post-op survival by 50% missed off the other stat (being that without Herceptin that very small percentage of people average 3.5yrs and with it they average 5.3)
    plus
    – none of the papers mentioned Herceptin’s own side-effects on the heart (and maybe changed diagnoses of eventual death)

    The woman that so medicated herself happened to be a Tory councillor, I’ve only seen that info recently.

    ,