David Cameron's Big Idea, also known as Big Society, is anything but new. The idea of working people controlling the resources of society is a very old idea and ironically one that grew up in opposition to just the politics Cameron espouses.
Unlike one of his Tory forebears, Margaret Thatcher, it seems Cameron doesn't believe that "there is no such thing as society"; rather he believes that it's not big enough. His neo-conservative approach to politics is the undying belief that market competition and privatisation of the state's assets is the best bet for improving the social good. It's clearly not based on any empirical evidence since the latest round of market-inspired competition for profit led to the biggest financial crash anyone can remember. So it is definitely a gamble, a bet, and one which has a history of losses.
But it is interesting to see how the right wing ideologues have appropriated key words such as "radical", "progressive", "modernising", and even "reforming", to describe a project which involves a substantial transfer of control away from democratic bodies to private industry and their owners. And since the Tory party has been so committed to handing over more and more of the state assets to private companies, how do they square that with claims from Cameron that they want to see a shift of power to ordinary working people?
Of course, Blair, Brown, Mandleson, Alistair Cambell, et al, were masters of spin, redefining and using their own vocabulary to shift the political agenda to the right, so much so that the word "modernise" came to represent privatising, selling off, sacking people, but without evoking a public response to the carnage. Such is spin.
The radical left, as contrasted with the pretend social democratic left, has long given strong support to the idea of working people having control of the means of production. So where's the difference between Cameron's idea and the long-standing idea of workers' control?
Are local neighbourhoods going to get the veto on the placing of yet another mega-market in their area? Are local people going to be able to decide that instead of building luxury homes for the rich, the property company will have to build affordable homes for working class people?