Monday, June 18, 2007

Shared Ideas, Old Ideas, Big Ideas

The speech that has been touted by the media all day was finally delivered by David Cameron in Tooting. David continued with his 'building a house' metaphor for moving the party to the centre ground and today he added some foundations: a big idea. So what could this idea be? Well: "the big idea on which we’ll build our plan for government. That idea is social responsibility." In answer to a range of questions on security and opportunity, there was one conclusion: "Our vision is built on the truth that no politician, no bureaucrat, no government official, can ever achieve as much as a strong society working together... Social responsibility, not state control". Fair enough and generally a long standing tenet of Conservatism; call it laissez-faire economics or the politics of small government, the idea has been around a while. It needs the policies, or bricks, but as an idea well it is one.

The trouble is that social responsibility seems to be everyone's idea. Every business, seemingly just to appear credible, has a corporate social responsibility policy. In 2004 Blair argued that yobbish behaviour is a problem for all as " the upbringing of children is the shared social responsibility of all", while in 2006 "Business... must recognise a corporate and social responsibility... in support of their role in wealth creation"; in contrast Boris Johnson has mocked Blair's use of such language. Perhaps there are no new ideas, but when this appears to be the silver bullet to all social ills and the bandwagon upon which everyone wants to ride it seems difficult to perceive this as a credible foundation for a policy debate. The Cameron house needs walls, that is a definite, but if the foundations seem shaky and rhetorical will those walls survive the big bad wolf's critical huffing and puffing?

Quite enough metaphor I think!!

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