Landale's View: What David Cameron meant
This is my brief synopsis of what I think Prime Minister David Cameron meant to get across to us in his big speech to the Conservative Party conference:
"I like being prime minister. The Tory party is not a dead parrot. Lady Thatcher's great. I know I didn't win the election but a coalition was THE RIGHT THING to do. Nick Clegg's a good bloke. He is in THE WRONG PARTY but he too did THE RIGHT THING.
We've not done too badly in the first few months. We will take combat troops out of Afghanistan in 2015. We will replace Trident, sort of.
Labour are a BAD PARTY and here are lots of long adjectives out of my thesaurus reminding you why you were right to get rid of them on 6 May.
Now, here's my new argument. I am a bit like Lord Kitchener (talk to Michael Gove if you didn't learn about him in double history). He once said: "Your country needs you." He left out the end of the sentence: "..to die for your country". I don't want you to die. I want you to be more involved in your community. Citizenship is not a transaction, with services given in return for taxes paid. Citizenship is a relationship.
But what does this mean?
Well, it is all about what I call the big society. Yes, I know it fell rather flat during the election. But I am going to keep banging on about it because I think it is important. The big society means new ways of harnessing the common good, a better alternative to the old fashioned state, a country defined not by what we consume but what we contribute (copyright JFK), a nation of doers and go-getters.
Yes, I hear you say, but what does this mean? (question copyright Lord Ashcroft). In practice, it means things like a huge transfer of power from the state to the citizen, more freedoms for councils, more freedoms for ordinary people so they can establish free schools, neighbourhood groups, nursing cooperatives, residents' street patrols, and citizen universities. And little girls giving George Osborne their tooth fairy money.
It is NOT cover for spending cuts or government abdicating its enabling role. In other words, I believe that society is not a spectator sport and today I am making a call to arms, urging you to play your part. I know you are busy working, commuting, parenting and sleeping but I am sure you can find the odd spare moment.
Now that you understand the big society, I can tell you why it matters. It shows you that my government is about more than just cutting spending and paying off the deficit. But it also shows you how and in what spirit we will carry out these spending cuts. We are all in this together.
Talking of those cuts, I know you are anxious. But it's not my fault. Labour are to blame for the catastrophic public services and delaying cuts would make things worse. Nota bene, Red Ed and his friend Red Head (copyright Lord Kinnock).
But stick with us and a few years down the line, you will feel the rewards with more money in your pocket and more investment in our businesses. This is THE BIG SOCIETY SPIRIT, facing up to a generation's debts, not shirking responsibility like those Labour folk who shouldn't be allowed near the Treasury ever again.
Now I know some of you are a bit worked up about George Osborne's plans to cut child benefit.
Well I know it is not going to be easy but I am not going to give you any more reassurance. Nor am I going to drop any more big hints about compensatory tax breaks for stay at home mothers. Instead I am going to tell you something that any right thinking, honest to God, socialist type would say too, namely that it is fair that those with broader shoulders should bear a greater load. We are the radicals now!
This is my new definition of fairness. Forget people moaning about how single earner families could lose more child benefit than households with two earners. Instead, think of fairness not in terms of how much cash the state gives people but in terms of how the state helps people out of poverty with a strong family, a good education and a job. Oh and yes, I will stop handouts to benefit claimants living in Kensington mansions with their eleven kids.
So it takes two (copyright Marvin Gaye) not just to tango but to cut spending and to change society. Come on and let's pull together (copyright Eton Boating Song). "