Thursday, 21 July 2011

Cameron's Big Society has nothing to say about corporate excess

The recent scandals that have engulfed News International have - despite the recent efforts of parts of the Tory press to downplay them - shocked many people. The sheer scale of apparent collusion between the legal establishment, the press and the political classes have been surprised even to the most cynical observers.

News International, and its parent company, News Corporation, appear to have wielded such immense power, that they were able to exert influence over the key established power centres of a liberal democracy. That they were able to do this surely leads to one conclusion: that they are too big.

It isn't just political influence that comes with such immense size. As the banks amply demonstrated, large corporations can act in a manner that may be detrimental to the general population. That is because large corporations can become too big to be worried about the concerns of ordinary people. Even individual customers without major wealth ultimately become unimportant.
Strikingly, David Cameron's Big Society agenda - which is relentless in its attacks on the dangers of 'big government' -  has nothing to say about the problems that big business can create. Amazingly, despite the abject failure of a deregulated approach to the banking sector and to the press, Cameron's project remains firmly concerned with dismantling the supposed 'barriers' to business growth.

It is this failure to address these issues that creates cynicism about the Big Society project. If it genuinely is about localism, about returning power to local communities, then surely it would have something to say about how large corporations can - and do - act to disempower ordinary people.

And that is why Ed Miliband's recent comments on corporate irresponsibility are so important. Indeed, in identifying the increasing lack of power held by ordinary middle class people (alongside lower income groups), he may have finally rediscovered the purpose of a social democratic party - to represent the collective will of people whose individual voices are increasingly marginalised. 

And that is a potentially very powerful message.

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