Support 110 years of independent journalism.

Cameron, can you clarify — are we big or broken?

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

By Sophie Elmhirst

Back to Dave for today’s Guffwatch. The manifesto speech was all about us. They can’t do it on their own, the poor politicians, they need our help, they haven’t got all the answers (part of me wants to ask why — can’t you just get on with it? I’m quite busy). There was a pinch of Obama, too: “we the people”. Always good to sprinkle Obama in your speech: shows originality.

And then there’s society. Oh society, the ever-present, ever-morphing abstract concept that peppers Tory patter. Society was mentioned again. And again. And again and again and again.

Here’s where I get lost. First, society is “broken”. Then it’s “big”. Then, there “is such a thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state”. So is society big and broken? Shouldn’t we mend it before we make it big? Or will it only be fixed once it’s big?

And if society is broken, but not the same as the state, does that mean the state isn’t broken? So why don’t we stick with the state?

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Besides, why do you want us — society (are we society? I’m not sure any more) — to do everything if we’re so bust and malfunctioning? Apparently under the Tories there are going to be “community organisers” to build the “big society”. I hope they know how to fix giant abstract things whose meaning changes all the time.

What else does Cameron say? Be your own boss, sack your MP, vote to change the whole system. But hold on, Westminster’s broken, too. It’s a “gravy train”, our politics is corrupt. But “together” we’ve got to make our country better: “Join us in forming the next government of Britain,” Cameron invites, banging his proverbial drum.

HANG ON A SECOND. If they’re broken, and we’re broken, how on earth is this ever going to work? We’re both as bad as each other. It will be the blind leading the blind ever further down the broken alley. Society doesn’t stand a chance!

Poor old society. I don’t think it ever knew it was broken in the first place, and I’m not at all sure it wants to be big. I reckon it’s sitting at home, grumpily blaming Thatcher for launching the obsession — if she hadn’t gone down the “no such thing as society” route, it might have been left to live the quiet life. Although it was rather rude of her to suggest it didn’t exist at all.

The moral of the story? Leave society (aka us) alone, Dave. Please?

Content from our partners
<strong>What you need to know about private markets </strong>
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action