Ed Miliband has described it as a “failure” while his Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said it was just a “big con”.
But now it has emerged that Labour is ready to embrace David Cameron’s much maligned concept of the ‘big society’ as part of its forthcoming policy review.
Members of the Shadow Cabinet are to meet for party “away day” in two weeks to sign off on a programme of policy development which will form the basis of Labour’s manifesto for the 2015 General Election.
Speaking at a fringe event at Labour’s conference in Manchester the shadow cabinet minister in charge of the review said a new version of the big society would form a central part of its work.
Jon Cruddas, who unlike other senior Labour figures has always voiced support for the big society concept, said the party had missed out by not embracing it when it was first raised by David Cameron.
“We have to acknowledge that actually Labour missed a trick and failed by not connecting to the debate about the big society,” he said.
“It seems a long time ago now but there was a compelling story there. It was a way of rebuilding the language around compassionate Conservatism – about what are out civic duties and what institutions should be built to nurture the common good.”
Mr Cruddas said that Labour had criticised the big society at the time when it should have embraced it.
He added: “So we are setting up some (policy) work to do precisely that. We want to build our own version of the big society. That’s going to be a big part of our policy review over the next 12 months.”
Mr Cruddas said while Labour’s version would not be called the big society it would be based upon similar principles and designed to create a wider narrative about what Britain would look like under a Labour Government.
He also criticised what he described as the “Balkanisation” of politics where parties tried to tailor their message to key voters in marginal constituencies rather than providing a message to the whole country.
“We need to talk about what unites people rather than putting them into silos. We need to create a language that transcends ‘boxes’ and the precise calibration of a message for swing voters. We need to have a unifying story about where we want to take the country.”
Mr Cruddas said he also wanted to think about ways of rehabilitating Tony Blair in the eyes of the party that he led to three election victories but which has largely repudiated his legacy.
“We have to have a much more subtle conception about who he was,” he said.
“He was not all bad. We have to reclaim the best bits and learn from the worse.”