Shared society is a sham - and Tories must keep off our territory

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​Graham Martin argues that Theresa May's shared society is a cynical attempt to encroach on civil society territory - and it must be exposed as a sham

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12th January 2017 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

A new year is a time for making predictions.

So here’s one. By the time this week is out – possibly by the time you’ve finished reading this – you’ll have forgotten about Theresa May’s ‘vision’ of a shared society.

If you need a catch up, she announced it at a speech given to the Charity Commission.

Don’t ask for details though – because there are none. Her shared society is, apparently, about the “bonds of family, community, citizenship and strong institutions”.

The Tory party is the party of austerity. This party is the main driver of division in our society. It is what it exists for.

In other words, her shared society is the actual society that most of us live in.

It’s perhaps telling that this £995-trousered mouthpiece for the corporate mega-rich sees something new in the values that, for the rest of us, have been forged through our every day lived experience.

It perhaps says a lot about the vacuity of May’s ideological world that her vision crawled out from under the ripe corpse of the grand idea propagated by the predecessor David Cameron.

That, you’ll remember, was the widely ridiculed and subsequently dumped big society.

There were all sorts of reasons why Cameron’s big society failed and why May’s shared society will be forgotten.

Both were attempts to portray the Tories as a party of social justice. And that’s where they come undone – because Tory ideology and policy just doesn't and can’t fit with social justice.

This is the party of austerity. This party is the main driver of division in our society. It is what it exists for.

It’s telling that when the Tories take a social justice turn, they try to use the charity sector as cover. Hence the big society’s civil society trimmings – and the fact that May used a Charity Commission speech as her launchpad.

As a sector, we should reject this. These people think we should stick to our knitting. These people are actively taking steps to muzzle charities.

I don’t think we should be ‘welcoming’ her input, as some English third sector groups did this week.

We don’t have a vision of society – we have the reality. But we have conceptions of very different worlds.

If we are to give the Tories a platform at all, it should be used to counterpoint their cynical, stillborn conception of society with ours - grown from below, suffused and enriched with solidarity.

Graham Martin is news editor of Third Force News.

13th January 2017 by Rose Burn

A rather political statement requires a political response. Holyrood has the power to raise income tax and therefore spend a lot more on pubic services if our MSPs agree - so why isn't Holyrood deciding to raise the sums which Mr Martin is looking for?