14 December 2011

Thinking Paper # 213: The Big Society re-visited

The IIPBA has always loved the Big Society. We love it like we love an injured dog with a skin infection.  But we find ourselves agreeing with today's report by the Public Administration Select Committee (PAC) which asserts that the policy needs some leadership.  Step up Sir Francis Maude, Minister responsible for the Big Society.

Sir Francis Maude
Franny Maude was born in 1896 on a colonial plantation in Bermuda.  Since then he has made it his mission to implement the Big Society.  This has seen him project lead at least fifteen relaunches of the policy and change his middle name to "the Big S".  But is this enough?  The IIPBA feels that he may have been spending too much time of late pushing the line that all "public sector workers are bastards with big fat gold plated, tax payers money led pensions" rather than batting for the Big Society. 
The report
The report from PAC is terribly dull.  A paragraph in and this think-tank co-director was asleep at his desk dreaming about living in the Bronze Age when vegetation was lush, shirt-tie combination sets were yet to be invented and no one knew what hummus was.  The following quote made him laugh though and he decided to read on: 
"The Prime Minister has described the Big Society project as his "mission in politics" and has pledged "to fight for it every day, because the Big Society is here to stay."
 I genuinly wonder sometimes why, with soaring political rhetoric such as this, 40% of eligible voters in this country refuse to vote.
In his written evidence, Franny Maude stated that the Big Society project could not be built "through the old top down approach to government, which tried to control too much from Whitehall".   Oh that old implementation trick.  The old, say something in a speech and then leave it to fester and stagger humiliated through the blogs and newspapers strategy.  Still, a little bit of energy, communication, explanation and leadership would be really useful.
Concluding comments
Onwards we plod to the sixteenth relaunch of the Big Society and this think-tank feels that the government's heart isn't quite in it.  We suggest that they make Steve Hilton a Minister of the Big Society and give him 3,000 civil servants to shout at.  This think-tank would strongly support such a move.

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