Keith Newbery: Beware politicians with a mission

LET US give David Cameron the benefit of the doubt – even though the benefit has to be considerable because the doubt is so enormous.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, he really does believe in the ‘Big Society’ idea and it is not simply a clumsy attempt to deflect attention from the pain his spending cuts are starting to inflict.

My first concern is that this personal vision had to be re-launched, which rather implies it sank first time round.

My second concern is the strident tone of exasperation Cameron is beginning to adopt whenever he discusses the subject.

It gives the impression he has already had a tough time getting it through a wary Cabinet and is becoming impatient with the similar scepticism with which it is now being received by the public at large.

My third concern is his use of the word ‘mission’. Beware politicians with a mission because it means they are invariably blinded to the realities of life.

My fourth concern is his use of the word ‘passionate.’ Beware politicians who are passionate about their mission because they think we are the ones blinded to the realities of life.

Yet despite the refurbished, re-burnished re-launch, I’m still not entirely sure what David Cameron has in mind with his Big Society.

He says it’s a plan to get individuals and communities to take more responsibility for themselves and in doing so improve their quality of life.

This opens up some intriguing possibilities – not all of them as idealised as Mr Cameron might wish.

For example, what if a group of young fathers got together with some mates from the local rugby club to deal once and for all with the problem of teenage scumbags who make life in their street a nightmare every evening.

How would the local constabulary react to this obvious attempt by decent people to take more responsibility for themselves and their community?

The Prime Minister must start to accept the Big Society is not just about gentlefolk running their own libraries or local co-operatives getting together to take a tilt at Tesco.

There are far more fundamental actions required to improve society – big or otherwise – and he should be careful what he wishes for.

WHEN 38 long-serving soldiers were informed by email their careers were over, suspicion fell upon the legion of pen-pushers at the Ministry of Defence.

Yet the man who did the dirty deed was an officer – a so-called ‘career manager’ – Major Andy Simpson.

The result of his callous behaviour was a grovelling apology from Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, and a claim that Simpson himself was ‘devastated’ by what he had done.

Before the top brass decide the fate of this man, they have one simple question to answer. How on earth did he reach the rank of major to begin with?