big society

Jim Pickard

When Vince Cable said the coalition had “Maoist tendencies” no one took it as a literal suggestion that David Cameron was taking inspiration from Chinese communists.

But it has emerged that the coalition’s “Big Society not Big Government” slogan was originally devised by the heirs to Chairman Mao over a decade ago.

The initiative by the Communist Party of China in 1997 even echoed Mr Cameron’s Big Society flagship theme in its promise to encourage civil society and cut back the role of the state.

Chinese officials said their desire for “small government and big society” should mean less bureaucracy, with civic organisations taking a bigger role in society as the “bridges and belts linking the party and government with the mass”.

Steve Hilton, the Downing Street blue-sky thinker credited with coining the Big Society concept, is treated with suspicion by many on the right of the Tory party given his small-l liberal tendencies.

It is even thought that Mr Hilton voted for the Green Party in 2001, before going on to help Mr Cameron rebrand the Tories in a more modern and cuddly image.

News that the coalition’s main concept was first coined in Beijing could prompt bemused 

Jim Pickard

Ed Miliband just quoted Paul Twivy, former chief executive of the Big Society Network, during prime minister’s questions. It’s worth repeating the quotation because I haven’t seen it in any newspaper before.

According to the Third Sector website, Twivy – who stepped down as ceo in October but is still involved in the network – admitted that the BS idea was not popular.

“The big society is a raw ideology promoted by the Prime Minister,” he said. “It is divisive even within the Cabinet, and it is increasingly loathed by the public. The problem with the big society is that we’ve had huge ideologies come and go before.”

It is a striking confession, coming from someone so closely involved in the Big Society, and one which Miliband used to deadly effect.

Cameron came off worse during today’s clash between the two leaders, attempting without much success to defend cuts to charity budgets.