LONDON—Fellow Conservatives said it had lost them their seats, commentators said it would be dropped as soon as David Cameron got to Number 10, and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg had said it was like being invited to the pub only to pick up the tab for everyone’s drinks.
But they were all backpedaling on Tuesday as “The Big Society” was wheeled out as a flagship government initiative by conservative leader David Cameron just a week into office. Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg had formed a coalition government after the conservatives failed to win sufficient seats themselves, necessitating a spirit of cooperation on such programs.
Mr. Cameron emphasized that the policy was the first step to be taken in a more comprehensive coalition agreement document.
Mr. Cameron said, “It's a big signal that the first part to be published is actually that part about having a big society, decentralizing power, about empowering communities, about all the work you do to help build the big strong society you want to see in the United Kingdom.”
“I hope this is the start of something very big.”
Speaking to community leaders sitting round the Cabinet table, Mr. Cameron said he wanted to shift power away from politicians sitting around that table “telling us all what to do, issuing orders and instructions, and passing laws and regulations.” He said that the state was “often too inhuman and clumsy” to tackle the country's social problems.
“It's something I would like to be one of the great legacies of this government, to build the big society,” he said.
“Yes, we have to deal with the deficit, yes we have to make sure we secure the future in Afghanistan, and bring the troops home. But to me personally what I would most like to be a legacy is actually helping build the big society and the work that all of you and many hundreds of thousands of people in the country do.”
Many Tory campaigners and candidates had said the concept had little traction with voters on the doorstep during the election campaign. They said the concept was too elusive and complex and had needed introducing much earlier in the campaign.