Simon Carr: How we long to believe that our leaders know what's actually going on

Sketch: The state's apparatus is so enormous and so intricately regulated no one can describe it all

Share
Related Topics

While the launch of the Big Society's fightback was under way in London, an Even Bigger Society was announced: China overtook Japan as the world's second-largest economy. We really ought to get a move-on.

Why has the conventional wisdom gathered around the idea that no one understands what the Big Society is supposed to be? In two words: Oliver Letwin.

What I don't understand is why volunteers get paid, how big charities speak the same feculent dialect as politicians, why aid workers travel business class, and how anyone would intervene to stop a fight knowing they'll be arrested if the police come.

So much of this campaign depends on the personal qualities of its proponents. The amateurs have and haven't got the goods.

A peppy and engaging Cameron said a couple of things you don't expect from a prime minister. The cuts "will make me unpopular". On past evidence, being prime minister makes you unpopular, no wonder he's moving at speed. When a headmistress told Cameron his plans to devolve power were likely to increase centralisation he said, "Give me a for-instance." Neither of his predecessors would have said such a thing. They firmly let it be known they knew everything worth knowing.

Again, he related how he'd got a number of charities into a room to ask "What is stopping you? Tell us the national laws and rules that are getting in your way."

We are still inclined to believe, even we cynics, that our leaders know these things already. How we long to believe someone knows what's going on. But the state's apparatus is so enormous and so intricately regulated no one can describe it all.

To their credit, the amateurs don't mind admitting this, and operating accordingly. But to their debit, the amateurism has failed to win hearts and minds because they haven't taken the precaution of gaining attention.

A small for-instance. Cameron mentioned the CRB checks that Labour put in place as a child protection plan. Eleven million adults were to be on a central register. Ed Balls took his radical axe to the matter when he was the minister and reduced it to nine million adults. The coalition has reduced it to two million. It's an opinion-forming figure but Cameron failed to mention it. Maybe it was in danger of sounding like a soundbite.

It may not be necessary to have a Head of Story Development, a rapid rebuttal unit, some declarative laws to send a message out and a Tsar. But some crisp little examples, surely, wouldn't pollute the amateur ethic?



twitter.com/simonsketch

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker