David Cameron, the repeating, responsibility advocating parrot…

They called us a dead parrot.

They said we had ceased to be.

That we were an ex-party.

Turns out we really were only resting.

A parrot wasn’t probably the best animal Cameron could have used, in his keynote speech, when forming a metaphor to describe the Tory party. As we all know, parrots repeat things – not something the Tories really want to be compared to when they are  desperate to distance themselves from the Thatcher era (well the media/mainstream attentive ones are) of bitter cuts (but as Cath Elliot proclaimed, a moment of his speech was like a Thatcher rally). Also, his parrot comparison is a testament to psbook’s rightful remark regarding the weakness of Cameron’s jokes.

The cabinet was arranged in the background and provided a spitting comparison to the famous Bullington club picture Cameron and Osborne have been so liberal and accepting about. Yes, they have made it  a bit too easy for us to mimic – fingers crossed Cameron’s rapping will be reformulated into another funny YouTube video too.

There obviously isn’t going to be much that I can say I agree with re his speech. Specific concerns would be with the continuation of New Labour’s obsession with a notion of citizenship that focuses on ‘responsibility’. I was reading an article earlier (O’Neill & Scoular 2008) addressing the way in which New Labour provided multi-agency provision regarding prostitution to supposedly replace the punishment doctrine.

However, in fact all that happened was a change in rhetoric, when actually these multi-agency institutions worked solely on the basis that only those who took ‘responsibility’ and ‘realised’ that they had no ‘right’ to be involved in sex work (they concentrated on a very specific form, prostitution) and went into a ‘normal’ job – only then would they be seen as citizens and have ‘rights’. On this basis, all these ‘new’ forms of prostitution organisational support were only an extension of governmental control, but mainly through subject control. His musings regarding prostitution were very poor as well, and showed little hope for a move in the right direction (decriminalisation).

The same line of thought (New Labour’s responsibility obsession) can be applied to the Conservatives’ and Cameron’s emphasises on the big society. What a success that has turned out to be so far. He may claim that it is providing people with more power or whatever, but central to it – as he clearly stated in his speech – is the role of ‘responsibility’. Thus, instead of providing people with agency to undertake in processes in creative local democratic structures and organisational roles, the state will set the perimeters of debate. They will cut the support that already exists, with the view that people have a responsibility to coordinate things like this on themselves. All the big society does is provide the state more ability to dictate what subjects do.

If we really want a radical change to local power, I have already referred to ways in which they can be done, and how through specific organisations such as SilenceBreakers, this can be achieved. The notion that the Conservatives are a radical party is just ridiculous – radicalism actually seeks to change the structures and cultural basis of what our society stands for – not seek to uphold and extend it.


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