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

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Project Manager

£35000 per annum + £5k bonus, car: Ashdown Group: A successful business that h...

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes