Tuesday 13 January 2015

What about Society?

Well, what was noticeable about David Cameron's speech yesterday setting out his 6 priorities for the election was that it had no reference to Society, Big or Small. A sharp contrast to the 2010 election where 'Broken Britain' and a 'Big Society' featured strongly.

Will the full manifesto even mention their plans and aspirations for civil society, and the role we play in service delivery, voice or social cohesion? I guess we will have to wait and see, but the omens are not looking good.

I'm surprised. And disappointed. This election campaign has so far been marked by a failure to appeal to aspiration or any vision of a better society. Life is not all about economics, cost of living, GDP and the deficit. David Cameron got that back in 2010. What has happened?

Will we see better from Ed and Nick? And as for other parties I could name, I suspect their view of the sector predates even Queen Victoria.

This lack of narrative means our role as leaders of civil society must be to put the case for a bigger role for the sector. We're central to building a better more cohesive society, and this message needs to be out there. We must also defend our right to speak truth to power - under threat from the Lobbying Act.

Whilst on the subject of the Lobbying Act, all those who thought it would be benign should be aware of the latest nonsense from the Electoral Commission. They have written [http://order-order.com/2015/01/09/electoral-commission-trying-to-regulate-blogsnotifies-guido-conservativehome-labourlist-libdemvoice/] to "Guido Fawkes", the eminent if somewhat right wing blogger, to warn him he may need to 'register' his Blog.

This is not dissimilar to recent advice from the Charity Commission suggesting we should all have 'pre-authorisation' for tweets and blogs!

In the wake of the Paris attacks - and the stirring sight of millions marching to defend free speech - it's vital that we should be alert to any attempt to censor civil society, or try and make us censor ourselves.

As always we need to make the case that a free civil society makes for a better democracy. Our voice needs to be heard - in this election campaign and more widely.

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