Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Archive for the tag ““big society””

Privatising Welfare

Part of the present Government’s philosophy is that Government should be small. If something does not need to be done; it should not be done. If it does need to be done; it does not necessarily need to be done by the Government.

Hence “Big Society” – the idea that volunteers or the voluntary sector can take over from government – particularly in the areas of health care, social care and education.

The problem is – what happens if a voluntary provider of these services fails? Read more…

Volunteers – In a Pickle

The Conservatives’ latest whimper from their Big Society study group – or what ever it is that thinks up these ideas – would be worrying if it was not so contradictory.

Under the Conservatives’ volunteering plans, a new law would be passed requiring public sector employers and companies with more than 250 employees to give staff up to three days a year to do voluntary work.

Employers would cover the cost.
BBC News Website 10 April 2015 : Election 2015: Cameron pledges ‘paid volunteering leave’

This is deeply “unconservative” and rather undermines the idea of people “giving their time to good causes”. Read more…

Army Reserves: Outsource and Big Society It

I find the latest revelations about Army Reserves recruitment staggering and worrying. Read more…

Food banks: Big Society in Action or Society in Failure?

The use of food banks (a staple part of America’s “safety net” e.g. Feeding America) are a growing part of our society.

In 2011-12 food banks fed 128,687 people nationwide, in 2012-13 we anticipate this number will rise to over 290,000. Rising costs of food and fuel combined with static income, high unemployment and changes to benefits are causing more and more people to come to food banks for help.

The Trussell Trust partners with churches and communities to open new food banks nationwide. With over 325 food banks currently launched, our goal is for every town to have one. Trussell Trust

The Conservatives, who seem to have a desire to ape so many aspects of “the American System” probably view food banks as welcome evidence of the “Big Society”. Read more…

The Demographic Gap

With the increased emphasis on “Big Society” and the use of Charity, it is possibly worth pausing to consider where we are going to find the required army of volunteers and paid charity workers.  With the cuts being passed down (see No hope, not much faith, but more charity?), I cannot see the funds to enable charities to employ more people (at all levels).  Neither do I believe that the Government is so cynical that it believes all these volunteering jobs will be taken on by the newly unemployed – have you ever tried to explain to a Job Centre Minus advisor why you are not available for work or not searching for work full-time? Read more…

That first debate

I found it rather strange watching three people asking me to vote for them, when I can’t actually vote for any of them.  OK, so I can vote for the parties they represent, but:

  1. The system is flawed and outside the marginals, our vote has no impact
  2. “Our representatives” tend to follow the party line – is that “our line”?

If we were really happy with such a system we might as well just vote for a national party list and delegate to the parties the allocation of MPs to constituencies.  But that is the implication of Presidential style debates.

I found the first debate rather boring; three men reciting from briefs (that they had learnt well) and trying desperately hard not to make a mistake.  The press have been on gaffe-watch saying that a gaffe is the most likely result – other than a stalemate.  It is a bit like watching snooker players playing “safety play”; much appreciated by the cognoscenti, but boring and pointless to the occasional viewer.

To those of us outside the marginals it would not make much difference, but it would be more entertaining if we could have:

  • Home Affairs: * Alan Johnson vs Grayling (I would buy tickets for this) vs Chris Huhne
  • Foreign Affairs: * David Miliband vs William Hague vs Ed Davey vs Angus Robertson etc.
  • etc.

* Update 19/04 – this is actually happening at 2:15 pm today (see) but without the Nationalists

* Update 20/04 – this is actually happening at 2:15 pm today (see) but without the Nationalists. I have got my ticket!

Then the final debate could be between the leaders and could focus on key themes:

  • Big State or Big Society?
  • Support the Economy out of Recession or Cut to Survive?
  • Economy vs Environment
  • What is meant by National Sovereignty?
  • etc.

Big State vs Big Society

Is this going to be one of the “defining themes”?

Labour say the (big) State will look after you “cradle to grave” – but our increasing expectations do not match the reality (no matter how much that reality is better than say 30 years ago).

The Tories seem to be saying let “Big Society” do it.  This seems a bit amorphous, but seems to rely on active citizens “doing it themselves”.   I wonder who are these “active citizens” – everyone I know seems to be too knackered and I suspect that the active citizens may be drawn from very narrow demographics (which is probably not a good thing).

There seems to be some level of agreement that the status of most of the existing “public goods” (health, education etc. “free at point of use”) is unchallenged (or that it is politically unacceptable to challenge that status).

Two questions arise:

  1. How to pay for them?
  2. How to ensure that they are effective? Read more…

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