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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The SNP thinks it knows how to kill hard Brexit

The Supreme Court ruled MPs must have a say in triggering Article 50. But the opposition must unite to succeed. 

For a few minutes on Tuesday morning, the crowd in the Supreme Court listened as the verdict was read out. Parliament must have the right to authorise the triggering of Article 50. The devolved nations would not get a veto. 

There was a moment of silence. And then the opponents of hard Brexit hit the phones. 

For the Scottish government, the pro-Remain members of the Welsh Assembly and Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, the victory was bittersweet. 

The ruling prompted Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to ask: “Is it better that we take our future into our own hands?”

Ever the pragmatist, though, Sturgeon has simultaneously released her Westminster attack dogs. 

Within minutes of the ruling, the SNP had vowed to put forward 50 amendments (see what they did there) to UK government legislation before Article 50 is enacted. 

This includes the demand for a Brexit white paper – shared by MPs from all parties – to a clause designed to prevent the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation rules if a deal is not agreed. 

But with Labour planning to approve the triggering of Article 50, can the SNP cause havoc with the government’s plans, or will it simply be a chorus of disapproval in the rest of Parliament’s ear?

The SNP can expect some support. Individual SNP MPs have already successfully worked with Labour MPs on issues such as benefit cuts. Pro-Remain Labour backbenchers opposed to Article 50 will not rule out “holding hands with the devil to cross the bridge”, as one insider put it. The sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, will consider backing SNP amendments she agrees with as well as tabling her own. 

But meanwhile, other opposition parties are seeking their own amendments. Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will seek amendments to stop the Conservatives turning the UK “into a bargain basement tax haven” and is demanding tariff-free access to the EU. 

Separately, the Liberal Democrats are seeking three main amendments – single market membership, rights for EU nationals and a referendum on the deal, which is a “red line”.

Meanwhile, pro-Remain Tory backbenchers are watching their leadership closely to decide how far to stray from the party line. 

But if the Article 50 ruling has woken Parliament up, the initial reaction has been chaotic rather than collaborative. Despite the Lib Dems’ position as the most UK-wide anti-Brexit voice, neither the SNP nor Labour managed to co-ordinate with them. 

Indeed, the Lib Dems look set to vote against Labour’s tariff-free amendment on the grounds it is not good enough, while expecting Labour to vote against their demand of membership of the single market. 

The question for all opposition parties is whether they can find enough amendments to agree on to force the government onto the defensive. Otherwise, this defeat for the government is hardly a defeat at all. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.