VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 08 June 2010, in Blog

Famously, visiting Easterhouse triggered Iain Duncan Smith’s Damascene epiphany and the Centre for Social Justice was the result. This was seen as the development of a different type of Conservative attitude and policy towards poverty, exclusion and injustice and how to address it. Check out the site at

Now, our Coalition Government is looking to the Canadian experience to inform their decisions on the massive cuts we are going to experience. Cameron’s “whole way of life” warning has softened up the media and now Osborne is looking for the public to engage and help decide where the cuts should be made. We live in interesting times as the media and public are hypersensitive to hypocrisy and will not thole sacred cows being excluded from the cuts programme.

The Scottish Government and the Scottish municipal defence system will of course adopt a “fight the cuts” rhetoric and strategy. This to me is a strategic error because it is a supply led defensive approach that seeks to protect their sacred cows and an unaffordable status quo. Our politicians ought to be thinking about the (changing) demand for public services – not how they are currently delivered but how they could be better delivered in the future.

This then is a time for social entrepreneurs to step up to the plate. Passivity is not a virtue.

I can’t see the point in talking to any Scottish Tories and the Scottish Lib Dems seem to have gone to ground on this issue so the first thing I’d do is ask Antonia and Laurie to invite IDS back to Scotland for a public debate. What I want to know is how support for social enterprise is squared with the cuts programme – and I don’t want platitudes. If the Coalition Government is serious about social entrepreneurs being part of the solution, “where’s the beef”?

So, what are the new social enterprise solutions for culture, health, employment, criminal justice, community cohesion, education, the environment and financial inclusion etc? What can we learn from our English neighbours about the Coalition’s attitude to social enterprise? What can we learn from Canadian social entrepreneurs who have undergone their nation’s cuts programme? With hindsight what would the Canadians have done differently and how replicable is their programme anyway?

I think we should book a venue (the Parliament Chamber?) for this debate and stream it on the net. It’s about our ongoing contribution to the future of the nation and as times are going to get much tougher than any of us have experienced for a long time, we owe it to our clients, beneficiaries, employees and stakeholders to consider everything and that includes our sacred cows.