Phillip Blond, the Anglican former theologian, likes to claim he is the instigator of the “big society” vision. But it would be closer to the truth to say that when Blond burst upon the political scene his Red Tory thesis put the boundary of what could constitute “Conservative” thinking much further left. In the process, having previously marked the boundary of Conservatism, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) suddenly appeared mild and mainstream.
Far more than Blond, and not withstanding the crucial influence of David Cameron’s director of strategy, Steve Hilton, it was the slow, patient work of the Roman Catholic Iain Duncan Smith and the evangelical Phillippa Stroud at the CSJ that formed the ground out of which the big society vision grew. And it is another evangelical, Lord Wei, who is charged with implementing the big society as a policy agenda across all government departments. So the first thing for churches to realise is that the big society is as much an intramural discussion within the church as it is an external policy agenda to be responded to.
The second thing for churches to realise is that, whether they like it or not, in the eyes of the coalition government, they are already enacting the big society policy agenda.