Hazel Blears and Jon Cruddas are joining forces to wrest the “big society” from the Tories. The two senior back benchers have established the “social action forum”, a committee of MPs and stakeholders tasked with taking the fight to David Cameron over his flagship policy.
The inaugural meeting will take place in the House of Commons this Wednesday, with Ms Blears expected to be elected chair of the new grouping. The Labour leadership has been consulted over the formation of the committee, and has given it the seal of approval, including authorisation to extend membership to representatives beyond the PLP.
Speaking at Saturday’s Labour policy forum, Ed Miliband urged the party to “take back” the big society from the government. “It sticks in our throat when David Cameron tries to claim he’s the man for the big society because he has an old fashioned view about the big society. His is essentially a view that says look, if government gets out of the way then society will prosper. None of us believe that”, he told delegates.
“We were slow off the mark in appreciating the dangers of the big society agenda”, Hazel Blears told Uncut.
“It’s more than just a cynical cover for cuts. It’s a much more fundamental realignment of public services, and of Tory politics. This is a very clever piece of rebranding. If you have a big society that says to your right wing ‘you can have a smaller state’, it’s nice blue meat to them. But it also says to the Liberals, “what we want is more people being involved. There is such a thing as society”. So what it does in one easy way, in just two words, is continue that detoxification of their brand which was a key foundation of them getting into power. And now is part of the realignment of politics. It’s a very big strategy”.
She concedes that Jon Cruddas and herself represent unlikely political soul mates, but believes this will add political ballast to the committee.
“One of the best bits of the last six months for me is discovering that Jon and I have got far more in common than a lot of people might have thought. We’ve always chatted and talked, but when you come to think about it we come from a similar background. Ordinary families, represent similar working class constituencies, he has a very strong family background, so do I, and were both Labour, Labour, Labour. It will confound some people, but we’ve increasingly discovered when we talked, and we talked at length, is that wherever you are on the party’s spectrum there are some issues that transcend where people would traditionally place themselves”.
Hazel Blears’ first major political interview since resigning from the Brown government will appear on Uncut tomorrow.