Monday, 17 September 2012

The Internet is Making the Big Society a Reality

Whatever a dead loss David Cameron is generally, one thing he was right about was the need to reinvigorate the "little platoons" of the voluntary society: social atomisation has been one of the saddest and most socially destructive trends on the past few decades, both  because of the personal isolation it has caused and also because New Labour's Big State stepped in to fill the gaps, sapping community initiative and self confidence, as well bankrupting the country in the process.

Where Cameron got it spectacularly wrong was to believe that something that is by its nature bottom-up, organic and incremental  could be presented as a top-down, big picture vision to the electorate. Not surprisingly people were left baffled and bemused. Cameron's obsession with the concept is widely credited with the failure of the Tory Party to win a majority at the last election.

But belatedly, people are beginning to get it. Voluntarism was rightly praised as a major factor in a successful Olympics. There are other straws in the wind as well, such as rises in Church attendance.

Now social media seems to be about to turbo-charge these trends. New social sharing sites such as and zipcar are creating a new ethic of collective consumerism, where individuals will share resources and skills to build more organic, cohesive communities. However much we may mourn our declining individual material wealth, it must be regarded as a good thing that people are prepared to leave their silos, look over their high fences and finally get to know their neighbours.

It will also in the long term help our economy. For far too long our economy and society has been driven by a rampant, shallow consumerism, fuelled in part by a feeling of spiritual emptiness and lack of meaning many people feel to their lives. Under New Labour it became a runaway train, and as we all know we have know racked up huge personal, corporate and government debts that will take decades to unwind.

The consumerist model is now plainly unsustainable, and voluntary sharing of our resources within organic communities will be an important part of enhancing our lives, both materially and spiritually, in the years ahead. UKIP can help drive this process by emphasising a genuine commitment to localism and getting involved at a local community level.  Secondly, the party should commit itself to reversing the morally grotesque nationalisation of the charity sector: under the New Labour government, huge numbers of fake charities were set up to do the governments bidding in a covert way and also provide jobs for the boys and girls.

Both the Big State and shallow consumerist societies are widely seen to have failed, as have the LibLabCon parties which oversaw the rise of these malign trends over several decades. Driven by both economic necessity and information technology, the society slowly replacing it will plainly be very different from the one that most of us have known all our lives, and the people within it maybe willing to vote for new political parties who offer a fresh vision and approach. Now that our exit from the EU is arguably within sight, UKIP may also need a new direction in the years ahead, and should be prepared to meet that challenge.