At last! The “big society” defined

Helping DC with the #BS.

Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech to social entrepreneurs today setting out how his Big Society Bank will help fund voluntary projects underpinning his "big society".

Today we learned – for those who have not as yet understood – that the "big society" is Cameron's "mission", an initiative that will get all his "passion".

Still confused? We certainly were, so we asked for help from our 19,500 followers on Twitter. Here are our favourite replies (so far):

 

quizeye (Quizzical Eyebrow)

.@NewStatesman Hmmm, @krishgm has some useful info on this subject! But actually you've summed it up quite well in your hashtag. #BS

 

stevconor (Steve Connor)

@NewStatesman #bigsociety The less well off help each other and the super rich help themselves. #bs

 

MarkDowe2011 (Mark Dowe)

@NewStatesman Shrinking state, self-responsibility and duty. #bs

 

vivslack (Viv Slack)

@NewStatesman Big society = let the weak fend for themselves, if it gets bad enough hopefully someone will volunteer to help. #bs

 

nicktheowl (Nick Drew)

@NewStatesman Citizen activity expands to fill gap left by shrinking state; we're still not sure quite how. Maybe if we wish hard enough #bs

 

Pattisoapbox (Patricia Walker)

@NewStatesman Osbourne to Cameron 'sack the plebs get working for nothing & we'll laugh all the way to the bank' #bs

 

BillyGottaJob (Stephen)

#bs: An illusion in which voluntary groups are dismembered, but arise Phoenix-like to take on government responsibilities. @NewStatesman

 

ByRICHaRD (Rarrowing)

@NewStatesman Big Society is someone else taking the credit for your life. I woke up today, congratulations to David Cameron. #BS

 

PatsRants (Patrick Osgood)

@NewStatesman The Big Society: 'these aren't cuts! They are negative-value self-enablement grants' #BS

 

Knox_Harrington (Neil Atkinson)

@NewStatesman #bs Fur coat, no knickers. No money for knickers. And that's my fur coat you're wearing.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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