It is generally agreed that the idea of the “big society” has not gripped the public imagination, and is seen by many as simply a cover for privatisation.
Nevertheless the basic idea of the “big society”, that ordinary people should somehow be more involved in society than they are, and decisions should be made in a way they can influence, is a good one.
It would also fit into the “One Nation” concept and sit comfortably with the ideas and outlook of many Labour voters. So I am going to explore here exactly what a socialist vision of the “big society” would be like. I will try and do it in a way that makes sense to the ordinary voter, rather than as a theoretical concept.
We need to think carefully whether the “Big Society” concept has any relevance to the programme Labour would want to put before the electorate. Many Labour voters are community activists already, and might feel that the “Big Society” simply describes what they are already doing, and they would simply like more resources to go on doing it. No need to get tied up in meaningless mumbo-jumbo. They would certainly have a point. There has also been a thoughtful debate in Labour circles about food banks. Many people are appalled that we need food banks in the 21st century, but it is often Labour activists who organise and support them. There is admiration for the willingness of people to help but disgust at the policies which made them necessary. Thoughtful policy makers like John Cruddas have argued that Labour must find a way to mobilise this community spirit.
This book is also a contribution to the debate ont the ideas and programme Labour is going to present to the electorate at the next election.
Opinion polls show that Labour has a clear lead, but most agree it appears “soft” in that it could evaporate before the next election if challenged by circumstances which do not yet know about.
What Labour appears to lack are clear basic ideas of its policies, in short what it is “all about”.
Table of Contents
Introduction Chapter 1 What exactly is the Big Society? Chapter 2 Labour and the Big Society Chapter 3 The Big Society in practice Chapter 4 Social enterprises. The way forward? SHED (Social Housing Enterprise Durham)‘The Store’ Chapter 5 What sort of society do we want? Chapter 6 Aiming higher Our companies and how we run them Chapter 7 The way ahead: some practical proposals Chapter 8 Conclusion References
About David Taylor-Gooby
David Taylor-Gooby was a senior lecturer at East Durham College, and ran the Health Studies Degree course in conjunction with the University of Sunderland. He later worked for the Commission for Public and Patient Involvement in Health, and completed a research project on public involvement at the university with Dr Stephen MacDonald. He also served on Durham County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He is the author of What sort of NHS Do We Want? (Searching FInance 2012).
"David is an expert in the field. He has dedicated his life to the study of health care reform. His opinions are formed after much reasoning and focus on empirical data. For these reasons it is always worth reflecting at length on what he has to say. Given his particular experience of health care in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, his grasp of narrowing health care inequalities is of particular importance.
Dr Eoin Clarke, social justice campaigner
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Published, November 2013.
(Roughly) 100 pages