The Labour Party's response to Cameron's Big Society is 'Blue Labour', so said a programme on Radio 4 on Monday night:
There is a new force in the Labour Party with a radical plan to win back working-class voters and provide the left's response to David Cameron's Big Society.
It is called Blue Labour and it wants a rethink of what, for many, was the party's greatest achievement - the creation of the welfare state in 1945.
The first time that I came across the phrase 'Blue Labour' was when Stephen Bush used the phase to describe the cultural English nationalism of John Cruddas:
While the 'Blue Labour' idea put forward by Jon Cruddas, Jonathan Rutherford, Maurice Glasman and others is superficially attractive, it isn't the way forward for New Labour or for our party.
Beyond motherhood, apple pie and the frequent use of a dog whistle it offers little to the party moving forward.
‘Blue Labour', a new way of doing Labour politics based around ‘family, faith and the flag' is in many ways the inverse of what made New Labour strong. Based on fantasy, not grounded in reality. Frightened of change, not accepting of it. Embracing our own conservatism, not challenging it. And, most importantly, offering not a better tomorrow but a defence of yesterday.
Stephen Bush didn't mention the word 'England' himself - he retreated into the language of Britishness - but maybe he should have mentioned England, because if Blue Labour is a response then it's a response to a Big Society idea that doesn't really extend outside England's borders.
At least Roy Hattersley seems to understand that fact, even if he's not on side:
"Blue Labour seems very nostalgic to me. This is the idea of Arcadian England, the idea that there was some mythical time when we all loved each other."
Over the past few days, following on from David Cameron's speech, you may have noticed the occasional news report or opinion piece on the Big Society and the 'Big Society Bank' that will fund it. You would be excused for thinking that this affected the entire UK, after all there was nothing in Cameron's speech to indicate otherwise, and nothing in the BBC report either. But as I have pointed out before, it is limited to England.
You have to hunt pretty hard to come by this information, but news of the territorial extent of this policy has leaked out to the public:
A Big Lottery Fund spokesperson said:
“We look forward to discussing with Government the precise nature of BIG’s role in using England’s share of dormant accounts funding to support the Big Society Bank. We understand the government will shortly issue the Big Lottery Fund with the formal directions we need to take this work forward.
So if it's just England's dormant bank accounts that are being plundered by Government, why doesn't Cameron say so in his speech?
In Cameron's speech there were no utterances of the words 'England' or 'English', there were six mentions of the phrase 'our country', three mentions of the phrase 'the country', and the usual references to 'our public services', 'our communities', etc.
When listening to Cameron, we must assume that "England is the country, and the country is England", and that anything he says relates to England unless he explicitly states otherwise (as is the case with the Conservative website, which is by default English).
Dear Mr Hurd,
In the recent joint press release on the Big Society Agenda (issued by yourself and Francis Maude) you stated the following:
As initial funding, a Conservative government will use the majority of the future annual revenue from the estimated £160m FutureBuilders Loan Book to provide grants to neighbourhood groups, social enterprises and charities in the poorest areas of Britain.
As I understood it Futurebuilders was set up to provide investment to third sector organisations in England, yet you intend to use it to provide grants to organisations operating in the poorest areas of Britain. Are the funds in the Futurebuilders Loan Book available to projects across the UK, or are they only available to English projects?
Also, could you tell me whether the 'national' in your proposed "annual national Big Society Day" relates to the nation of England or the nation of Britain; and could you also tell me whether the National Citizen Service will operate across the UK or in England alone?
More generally, would it be possible for you to use unambiguous words like 'England' or 'UK' when discussing the Big Society so that members of the public such as myself can understand the territorial extent and scope of your pronouncements? Your use of the term 'the country' is confusing because it could mean 'England', 'England and Wales', 'Britain', or the entire 'United Kingdom'; and your use of the word 'Britain' is almost as ambiguous because it could mean 'England, Scotland and Wales' or it could be shorthand for 'United Kingdom'.
Sort it out please!
The writings of people like Simon Lee lead me to believe that Nick Hurd is discussing England, but frankly I'm too weary of this sort of ambiguity to even be bothered to work it out. Is it really too much to ask that it should be immediately obvious and clear about which part of the United Kingdom ministerial missives and Government policy relates to?
David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ agenda, with its commitment to a new culture of voluntarism and philanthropy, public service reform, and community empowerment, applies to England alone. Control over the resources, policies and services affected by the Big Society had already been devolved by New Labour to the Scots’ parliament and the assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland.
In a similar vein, the Coalition’s flagship reforms of public services, namely the cancellation of more than 700 ‘Building Schools for the Future’ projects and the creation of ‘free’ schools, coupled with the devolution of health budgets to GPs, and the scrapping of Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities, also apply to England alone.
Simon Lee, Parliamentary Brief, 01 September 2010
The BBC report on David Cameron's launch of the 'Big Society' and his plans to use the funds in dormant bank accounts - estimated to be £400M - to pay for it all.
David Cameron has launched his "big society" drive to empower communities, describing it as his "great passion".
In a speech in Liverpool, he said groups should be able to run post offices, libraries, transport services and shape housing projects.
Also announcing plans to use dormant bank accounts to fund projects, Mr Cameron said the concept would be a "big advance for people power".
What the BBC don't mention is the fact that David Cameron only plans to plunder English bank accounts. Bank accounts registered in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will remain un-plundered. There is some sense in this given the fact that his Big Society plans will mostly affect only England (see BritologyWatch), so please bear this in mind as you listen to the media report this as a plan to plunder British or UK bank accounts. They - the UK press and the Tory Party - will do all they can to avoid mention of England.
This is what the Conservative Party's Draft Manifesto told us:
A Conservative government will use dormant bank accounts to endow an independent Social Investment Bank, with a mission to stimulate more social investment financing to help voluntary sector organisations, social entrepreneurs and others take on and overcome the social challenges we face.
The actual Conservative Party Manifesto stated:
We will strengthen and support social enterprises to help deliver our public service reforms by creating a Big Society Bank, funded from unclaimed bank assets, to provide new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other nongovernmental bodies.
No mention of it being an England-only policy.
Analysis from BritologyWatch