The Big Society agenda is an exciting governing philosophy but it should never have been put at the heart of the Tory election campaign
The Big Society slogan was the crystallisation of "social responsibility" - a consistent Cameron theme, and an expression of his belief that "we're all in this together". The society it points towards is an ideal shared by One Nation Tories and smaller state liberals alike. The Big Society catch-phrase was first unveiled during the October 2009 Party Conference. However, it wasn't followed through afterwards, and made the central focus of campaigning. Indeed, it was largely dormant until the campaign launch. It wasn't even poll-tested until the middle of April. When it was tested it received a thumbs down. Such testing might have helped to close down Labour's main line of attack on the idea: that hard-pressed voters, struggling to juggle family and work, would be expected to take on further burdens that politicians themselves should shoulder. A more fundamental problem may have been that the Big Society is a big idea requiring much explanation - and in any event isn't a voter-friendly "retail offer". Some Party sources claim that Steve Hilton used his power as Strategy Director to place more weight on the Big Society than a testing election campaign could bear.