Charles Graham - Big confusion over Big Society

Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

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YOU know when a joke’s gone badly when you have to explain it to a sea of blank faces.

I wonder if David Cameron is having similar feelings about the Big Society.

I have heard so many commentators and politicians, the PM more than any, trying to define it that I fear the penny will never drop for some.

Surely the best ideas - like advertising slogans - are the ones that are easy to digest?

I don’t for one moment think that someone shouldn’t introduce what they think is a cracking notion just because folk might struggle to get the hang of it at first.

But it clearly presents interpretational problems, especially when the whole nation apparently needs to be swept up in it in order for it to work.

And no amount of passion from the Prime Minister is going to change that, by the looks of it.

The concept of ditching parts of the nanny state and giving more self-determination to individuals and communities I understand and even agree with to an extent.

But because this idea is so broad-brush and means different things to different people it is very difficult to unite behind.

The timing of its introduction has also been dreadful.

Mr Cameron avers that this is not a way of getting services on the cheap.

But it certainly looks that way to many, especially as it has been introduced amid all the austerity measures.

And there has also been widespread concern that the charities and volunteers expected to take on all these responsibilities are having the financial rug pulled out from them just when they need it more than ever.

With so little money around, either an increasing number of folk will have to keep communities ticking over for free or services and facilities will be lost altogether.

I’m not sure that constitutes “buying in” to the Big Society as much as being shoved into it without a paddle.