Twenty years after Mrs Thatcher left office, we all still have a clear idea of what she stood for. Mention “Thatcherism” to anyone over the age of thirty and you will get a pretty clear response.
We don’t seem to be quite there yet with the Big Society. And there may be some worrying signs of similarity to the last big idea, the Third Way.
PRIME MINISTER’S SPEECHES: BLAIR OR CAMERON?
1. “Let me end by saying this. I know a lot of this won’t be easy. Yes, there will be opponents – vested interests that benefited from the old system will line up and try to stop what we are doing. And yes, there will be mistakes along the way.... But I wouldn’t be standing here today making the case for this change if I didn’t think it was so important.”
2. “Here’s where we must resolve an apparent conflict between old and new, modernisers and traditionalists. The traditionalist mourns the passing of the old familiarities, points to the greater stability of family life in the past; points to the ugliness and disorder of much of the new world. The moderniser sees its opportunities; rejects the prejudices of the past, the old hierarchies, is impatient to grasp the material benefits modernity brings."
3. "In an opportunity society, as opposed to the old welfare state, government does not dictate; it empowers. It makes the individual - patient, parent, law-abiding citizen, job-seeker - the driver of the system, not the state. It sets free the huge talent of our public servants and social entrepreneurs whose ability is often thwarted by outdated rules and government bureaucracy."
GIDDENS OR BLOND?
4. "Freedom from the monopoly dominance of state bureaucracy and market power would allow independence for the formation of community and autonomy and a rebalancing of the demands of work, family and childcare."
5. "Government should provide resources to help people shape their own lives; but should expect people to deliver on their part of the bargain. For instance, in the past, unemployment benefits have been an unconditional right. But this situation discourages personal responsibility and has the effect of locking workers out of jobs. Those who lose their jobs should have a responsibility actively to look for work, and should be given retraining opportunities should they need them."
THIRD WAY OR BIG SOCIETY?
6. Civil society can be the source of this innovation (and in some cases it is already), but innovation requires organisations to be honest about the challenges and priorities. How can the inevitable tensions between service delivery and advocacy, between professionals, members, volunteers and supporters be dealt with productively and lead to creative solutions for civil society?
7. An ethic of mutual responsibility that equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment; and a new approach to governing that empowers citizens to act for themselves
8. It is possible to combine a free market economy with social justice; liberty of the individual with wider opportunities for all; One Nation security with efficiency and competitiveness; rights with responsibilities; personal self-fulfilment with strengthening the family; effective government and decisive political leadership with a new constitutional settlement and a new relationship of trust between politicians and the people.