“Whatever happened to the Big Society?” Having written a book on the subject a few years ago, I am sometimes asked that question. It reminds me of that moment in Sunset Boulevard when the journalist says to Norma Desmond (the magnificent Gloria Swanson) “You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big,” only to receive the withering response “I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
In some ways, the same thing happened to the Big Society. It’s a big, bold and brilliant political idea, and conservative to its core. But, like Norma Desmond, it fell victim to being framed in ever-smaller ways. So: what happened, and why does it matter?
It’s sometimes said that the phrase “The Big Society” was coined by Samantha Cameron.