Stop bashing the big society, Lord Wei tells Labour

Government adviser tells parliament the opposition is advocating a selfish society, but Labour says cuts are the problem

Lord Wei
Lord Wei

Lord Nat Wei has urged Labour to stop "bashing the big society" because it could deter people from getting involved.

Wei, the government’s big society adviser, told a Lords debate on the subject on Wednesday that the more politicised a topic becomes, the less people might want to engage with it.

"With this, I must urge the opposition in particular to be more responsible," he said. "Just as Labour's love of spin-doctoring has eroded at times public trust in politics, the danger of bashing the big society may be that people end up wanting to get involved less."

Wei suggested Labour’s criticism risked "undermining their own ideals for participation in society" and that it was "advocating a selfish society to protect special interests".

The Labour peer Baroness Pitkeathley responded by saying the big society was not a new invention and that spending cuts were hampering the efforts of infrastructure organisations to support volunteers.

"The danger is that once the support networks for volunteering have disappeared – and many of them are disappearing: we hear horror stories every day – how long will it take to re-establish them?" said Pitkeathley.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield, the Liberal Democrat peer and chief executive of the relationship charity

Relate, said the voluntary sector had been "rather lukewarm" about the big society because the concept wasn’t considered to be new.

She said the problem of funding cuts to volunteering needed to be recognised, otherwise "we are in danger of turning the clock back to the 1950s, when virtually all volunteers were middle-aged, middle-class women not participating in paid employment".

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