Dave Hodges has posed the question on the Labour Uncut blog whether it is time to stop bashing the Big Society? He points to an important distinction which many critics of the Big Society fail to recognise: the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan, and the resulting cuts to public services, is not part and parcel of the Big Society vision. Criticising one does not necessitate rubbishing the other. As he says,
Aiming fire at the big society is not the answer. It is a positive, idealistic message that we sour with harsh home truths. We are the grumpy person in the corner who perks up adversely to criticise every time the opportunity arises.
At a recent Compass event in Westminster, Jesse Norman MP and Anna Coote from nef clashed over precisely this point. Jesse Norman, a strong supporter of the Big Society as a vision for a society emphasising mutuality and reciprocal relations, argued that this vision should be separated from the current Coalition plan for tackling the deficit. Anna Coote instead believed that they were one and the same, and that therefore the Big Society could and should be judged by what is happening now. The debate will no doubt continue. But resolving it, and deciding on what grounds the Big Society should be attacked when it resonates so clearly with many aspects of the emerging Blue Labour narrative, would help opponents of the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan have a clearer objective in their sights.