A Downing Street Conversation

Three youngish men with bespoke shirts buttoned only to the penultimate eye are gathered round a table.

By the colour of their shirts we shall call them Mr White, Mr Lilac and Mr Peach. Let us listen in.

Mr White:
So. Big Society. Biiiiig Society. This has got to be huge. It’s Dave’s big idea. The project that stops us being nasty ory cutters. What have we got?

Mr Lilac:
Well, Steve sent DC a draft text about unleashing the power of Oomph. DC loves it. Says it’s the natural follow up to the Great Ignored.


Mr Peach:
Sorry, but did you just say “The power of Oomph?”.

Mr Lilac:
Yes. It’s a follow up to the memo about “turbo-charging the nudge”.


Mr White:

Brilliant insights, as usual.

Still, perhaps we could move the oomph a couple of notches down the message ladder.

We need a something a bit more practical – show the difference we can make now if we take the dead hands of the state off the lever of power.

What have we got?

Mr Peach:
Well, Pickles gave me a list of the people who applied for Big Society pilots. We’ve got Cumbria, Liverpool, Cheam and Windsor. Andy wants to go to Liverpool for launch. You know, after the Hunt stuff. Show we care.

Mr Lilac:
Steve says we shouldn’t call them Pilots. Says it’s Jumbo-Jet thinking and the future’s Gulfstream. Wan’t us to call them Vanguards, cause they’re the groundbreakers.

Mr White.
Yes, and usually first to get butchered by the enemy. Fine, whatever. Liverpool? Good idea. Like it.

What are the projects? Tell events no scouse chavs. The little shits don’t know when to be grateful and we end up with DC on the front page of the Mail looking like Little Lord f***g Fauntleroy.

Mr Peach:
Well, as you’ll recall, I was asked to come up with projects without much cost to them. No youth centres, no sports pitches, nothing with a capital spend tag attached. What with the money being less than we thought.

So Liverpool want to keep their museums open a bit longer. With volunteers.

Mr White:
It’s boring as sh*t. It’s so boring, I’ve fallen face first into my great ignored mug. OK. Why don’t we go to Cumbria? I’d quite like to remind Ratboy he’s MP for North Dodderidge on the Moor, not Kandahar Central. What we’ve got there?

Mr Peach:
A pub. The locals are paying for it to stay open.


Mr White:
Are you winding me up? The biggest idea in our government and all Pickles could come up was a country pub and museum codgers? This is supposed to be about running schools and hospitals and setting up your own Safari park. What happened to all that?

Mr Peach:
Well, I had this brilliant youth centre. It’s all community outreach and local firms teaching skills to kids for free.

Mr White:
Well, let’s go there. Sounds perfect

Mr Lilac.
We cancelled it last week.


Mr White:
Sod it then. Power of Ooomph it is. But put in an extra couple of O’s. I want to say this was my idea.

8 Responses to “A Downing Street Conversation”

  1. Will M

    I’m told that the preferred nomenclature is ‘Florence of Arabia’, rather than Ratboy.

  2. Quietzapple

    Just Love Chameleon telling us the “Big Society” isn’t in any way connected to the Cuts.

    His truth shines like a stiletto in a naughty world – eh?

  3. Brian Hughes

    I like the sound of “ory cutters” – are they those mysterious metal things your mum / cook / pastry-chef / nan used in the olden days to make birthday party pastry and such look more interesting?

  4. Newmania

    If Sunny likes something you are probably going badly wrong . Noticee this testosterone drenched posturing of his …

    “Ed Balls is just going out there and repeatedly punching the Coalition government in the face….”

    How lovely….

    Politics is war: you have to fight constantly and continuously. You have to fight the other side to immobilise them, and you have to fight your side …….”

    Puts the Hun back into Hundal doesn`t he…

    In this case ,as you very well know, the ideas behind extending the voluntary sector pre-date the recession and at the time you were complaining , not that they were a cover for cuts but that they were too expensive.

  5. NightJack

    Its harsh but its not a bad way to find out what people with spare money and / or time are really keen on.

    I don’t get why Labour are so against it. Really. It seems like a heaven sent opportunity to show what they are made of. “The Labour Party – Real Help, Real Action, Real People” or some such. There’s a great narrative, a true narrative available here as Labour activists, well any socially minded people really, take up the reins of abandoned community centres, vacant liesure facilities and underfunded community support initiatives. It’s time to shine.

    When the money was tight, who was with you? Who kept the libraries running? Who provided advice to the asylum seekers, who volunteered to stand between you and the evil Tories?

    Its a chance to be judged on what you do rather than what you say. Lord knows people will take a lot of time to trust what you say again.

    Of course it is easier to stand by the sides and snipe as the frontiers of the state are rolled back over the heads of the most vulnerable (ta Steve Bell) but that’s weak and token opposition.

    Go on, snatch their arms off and start to repair some of the damage and mistrust that the implosion of the New Labour project left behind.

    • hopisen

      I think you mistake the reaction of the Labour party to much of this – though perhaps the rhetoric we adopt doesn’t help.

      To begin at the begining, as yu say, the Labour party is a party based on volunteering, on community, on people coming together for the common good. Opposed to these things? Of course not, the Labour party wouldn’t function without them.

      What people object ot is not the idea that community and volunteerism are good things – which is so obvious and universal a statement as to banal – but the idea that these things are in opposition to, a rival to the work of government.

      Do we appreciate the possibilities created by by people who choose not to be paid for their effort- or the work of volunteers that complements and supports the work of professionals? Of course.

      What we oppose is the idea that these institutions flourish only when government disengages – when it withdraws its helping hand.

      Instead, we believe that we should use government as a tool to help people develop those institutions and powers. So we give powers to Tenants groups to run their own estates, supported by extra funding from government, we encourage volunatary groups and charities to provide services alongside hospitals and probations services.

      At a blunter level – if you build an extended school with good facilities and fund Sport England properly, you’re more likely to attract trainers to the athletic club you want to see succeed.

      When I go to Tooting Athletics track, I see people freely giving their time to train young athletes.

      That’s what the PM calls the Big society, and it’s incredible.

      But I also see that it’s a council track that gets state funding, that the trainers themselves are trained by Athletics UK, that the gym they train in in winter was just refurbished by a special grant.

      That’s the great society, and you won’t get a big society by starving it to death. At least not in Tooting.

      You can’t have a big society while starving the funding that makes such possibilities

      • Newmania

        So the good burghers of Tooting are so “incredible “ one is obliged to remove their money , under threat of imprisonment ,pass it through the state’s intestines , add doctrine ,and excrete what`s left of their dosh in the form of an athletics track and some trainers . Confusing .
        What you really have here are two competing views of the role of the state and it is quite disingenuous to pretend that one does not crowd out the other . If resources were limitless that would not be so but last time I looked they weren’t .


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