David Cameron may not been seen as a visionary, but he does nevertheless have a vision. Or rather, if agree with Rowenna Davis in her piece for the New Statesman, he did have a vision:

  • “Has anyone seen Dave’s ‘big society’? It’s an odd loss, because according to many, this was the closest thing Cameron had to a political philosophy.”

Davis writes from a Labour perspective, but, unlike many on the left, she has informed and insightful things to say about the Big Society. For instance, she makes the vital point that if you want your big idea to succeed you have to give your full backing to those responsible for its delivery. You shouldn’t, in her words, “drop them like a stone.”

Phillip Blond, quoted in the article, puts it this way:

  • “A new approach to the state, business and society (call it the big or the good society) still lacks a politician of genius and vision to broker its future.”

Genius and vision would certainly help, but Rowenna Davis also makes the case for depth and subtlety:

  • “Research shows that British people love to volunteer and are proud to be active citizens, but this is not a party political thing. When their proud reputation is seen to be used for political advantage, it undermines it. To thrive, the big society needs to be owned and built from people’s experiences. It needs leaders and champions; it needs some roots behind the brand.”

Though she doesn’t spell it out, the implication of Davis’s argument is that the Big Society shouldn’t be a brand at all. Indeed, when it comes to translating the vision into reality – as in the case of free schools, elected police commissioners and neighbourhood forums – it is doing best where the label is all but absent.