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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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.