New Labour poster challenges Cameron’s "Big Society"

New poster declares: “If you’re there for him, he won’t be there for you.”


Here's the new Labour poster, launched at this morning's press conference. It's certainly an improvement on that disastrous Gene Hunt mock-up, and it picks up on a recurring criticism of the Conservatives, namely: who has time for Cameron's Big Society?

It was a point best made by Channel 4's Gary Gibbon at yesterday's manifesto launch. He asked: "What's the evidence that people want to be prised away from their telly or garden to do all this stuff?"

It's one thing to believe that a Conservative government would stimulate a dramatic rise in civic engagement, quite another to believe that this could act as a plausible substitute for the state.

David Cameron's hope that the Big Society will replace Big Government is reminiscent of the old Marxist belief that the state will "wither away" as a result of victorious socialism. We all know how that turned out.

Moreover, given that Cameron claimed, absurdly, that "big government" was responsible for the financial crisis and opposed the fiscal stimulus, it's reasonable to doubt his belief in the power of government.

With the polls still showing a lack of popular enthusiasm for Cameron, the Tories clearly need a big idea to woo the electorate. But I'm really not sure the "Big Society" is it.

Join us for the first TV leaders' debate this Thursday.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.