I am rather excited. I have gained an exclusive interview (imagined) with our Dave and he has kindly offered to answer my questions, no matter how critical, about the Big Society. There speaks the bravery of a man with the courage of his own (almost exclusively his own) opinions.
Prime Minister, can I call you Dave, good. Would it be true that the present economic circumstamces when public expenditure cuts are limiting the size of the public sector, is a prime opportunity for you. If I understand it you wish to replace the provision of public services with the unpaid efforts of voluntary organisations and their members and supporters. Is this true? Charlie, there is a need in Britain to fix the broken society. There are unsolved social problems that are best met by the private sector, by individuals who really care. But Dave that isn’t true. Over the past fifteen years there has been a vast expansion of charitable and voluntary services. The activities of government in meeting social needs has created new opportunities for voluntary services to fill in the gaps and to supplement the efforts of government. And it follows that to cut one is to cut the other.
Well Charlie, there is something in what you say, but all this activity has not solved the problems of a broken society. There, Dave, your analysis is sadly lacking. If you are talking about crime, and despite all your efforts to inflate the figures, there is universal acceptance that crime has fallen some 40 percent over the last ten years. And by any reasonable set of criteria there is more caring and volunteering in our society than at any time in our history.
Well don’t you think Charlie that encouraging citizens to voluntarily provide their services is a good thing in itself. No Dave, I don’t. It may be and on the other hand it may not. A great deal depends on the professionalism of those individuals volunteering to replace professional trained staff. What ordinary citizens should do is to get on with their lives, look after their families and pay their taxes. Caring and participating should, in the main, be the task of paid professionals who know what they are doing, not volunteers with more enthusiasm than skill. This is not how I was brought up Charlie. We were taught to care for our fellow citizens, to contribute to charitable endeavours, to join the scouts and the women’s institutes. And a jolly good thing it was too. More of that and the world would be a good and better place. For you Dave, it has always been a good place. Other people, other lives, other needs. Grow up Dave, you’re a big boy now.