Please imagine that question being asked by Chris Morris on The Day Today.
Because whatever you might think of the general principle, or the motivations behind it, or the policies that may be produced in its pursuit, “big society” is a bloody stupid phrase.
Before Cameron coined it, had you ever heard anybody discussing the size of society? Sure, you’d hear about a strong society, a vibrant society, an active society, a good society, a flourishing society, an open society and so on. But had you ever heard anyone complain that society was too small, or argue that society ought to be made bigger?
Yes, I understand why he went for it: “big society not big state” sounds less nasty-old-Tory than “small state not big state”, so it was an effort to change the terms of the debate. But given that “big society” also makes it sound as though English is his second language, couldn’t he have done better? I gather that many on the Tory right thought that the idea was a very hard sell during the election campaign, and that doesn’t surprise me at all: “big society” is a category mistake.
Oh no. I was going to leave it there but then I made the mistake of looking for the Big Society website. It says: “The Big Society is a society in which we as individuals don’t feel small.”
Think about that for a moment. Surely, the bigger society is, the smaller I as an individual am going to feel by comparison.