We began with some excellent input and debate from Andrew Stunnell, Jon Cruddas and Debra Allcock Tyler. Jon Cruddas was, as is usually the case, particularly good value. He supported several initiatives with which I was involved in Barking & Dagenham, including the launch of the Faith Forum. More recently, of course, was the General Election campaign in the borough and in his remarks he paid tribute to the involvement of the churches in the Hope not Hate campaign which contributed to the defeat of the BNP.
These are some highlights from what he said:
- Big fan of the Big Society which could become the cornerstone of a new politics; the new centre ground? But a somewhat elusive concept.
- Irish Catholic, working class, Labour background -communitarian disposition. Therefore, Big Society not new.
- Change in Dagenham. Church has been central - held the line in tensions of change.
- Big Society - sphere between ineffective markets and over-heavy state. Notion of 'good' society fundamental critique of market-led economy. More than earning and money.
- Big Society - critique of statism. Labour has become statist and secular as opposed to being, in Dylan Thomas' phrase, "parochial and magical".
- Aristotle spoke about the release of virtue - just institutions that allow human flourishing.
- People in the community are currently struggling because of the withdrawal of 'safety nets'. the least well off are paying the price for the recession. Where the axe is falling is making the Big Society less likely.
- This is a radical Government, although I disagree with their decisions. It could be a vehicle for ther unfinished business of the Thatcher era. An exercise in economic and cultural disenfranchisement.
- "Aspire not to have more but to be more." - Oscar Romero.
Staple Singers - Reach Out, Touch A Hand, Make A Friend.