To take the King's shilling?
David Cameron put a little more meat on his campaign pledge to 'fix broken Britain' yesterday when he spelt out his vision for how a governement lead by him would build a 'Big Society'.
The term 'Broken Britain' gives me a lot of concern as it feels like a lazy short cut and a nod to Daily Mail-reading malcontents.
There were social problems in the 1980s, there are social problems now and there will be social problems in ten years time, no matter which party is in power.
On the face of it, the voluntary sector looks like playing a big part in Cameron’s fix for the nation and the would-be prime minister talked of:
"Opening up public services to new providers and saying to charities and private companies - 'if you've got the ideas and the people to tackle our most deep-rooted social problems, come and play a role in our public services."
This might be music to the ears of some in the voluntary and community sector who are worried sick about future funding but we need to look into these words with caution.
I guess the first point is that we should be happy the Tories are talking about society at all.
Margaret Thatcher famously said:
"There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families."
That Cameron has come around to the idea that there is a society and that the voluntary sector will always play an important part in nurturing it, is something to celebrate.
The tireless and often thankless work of voluntary organisations has won the argument and now all parties recognise our value.
The part of this that concerns me though is that we might be so keen to grab the King's Shilling, we might not stop to ask about the ship's route.
If the voluntary sector is to be the service arm of prospective Tory Government, where does this leave our independent voice?
The fact that Cameron mentioned private companies along side the not-for-profit sector when talking about service providers should give us a reason to be worried.
We are not the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. Our incentives shouldn’t be about earning money they should be about helping those we were set up to help.
If the Conservatives win the upcoming election the voluntary sector may find itself faced with some tough decisions that go to the very core of our nature.
Of course, this is just my take on David Cameron's announcement. Read NCVO's official response
On a lighter note, the prize for best April Fools joke this year goes to the Guardian for their excellent spoof Labour election campaign -Step Outside Posh Boy.
It very quickly became the most talked about April Fool's gag on twitter and the boys and girls at the Guardian are now hoping to encourage Gordon Brown to use the phrase in PMQs at some time before the election.
In an article written by mysterious reporter Olaf Priol, we learnt that:
"Labour were set to embrace Gordon Brown's reputation for anger and physical aggression, presenting the prime minister as a hard man, unafraid of confrontation, who is willing to take on David Cameron in 'a bare-knuckle fistfight for the future of Britain'."
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Maurice Mcleod, editor of Engage magazine, discusses news and views from the whole of civil society.