X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

The ‘shared society’ seems to be a gloomier version of the ‘big society’

9 January 2017

2:13 PM

9 January 2017

2:13 PM

Is Theresa May’s ‘shared society’ speech just a rather empty rebranding exercise, or something serious that will shift social policy in this country? The Prime Minister today set out more of her thinking on domestic reform and defined what her ‘shared society’ will look like. It’s something we have only caught glimpses of up until now, because of the truncated leadership contest and the focus on Brexit.

She painted a very gloomy picture of life in Britain today, focusing on all the things that are going very badly wrong for many people: ‘We live in a country where if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you’re likely to be paid less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home.’


This was a repeat of her speech on the steps of Downing Street, so May clearly thinks it is important to sound gloomy about Britain. It is a clear contrast to the sunlit language of both David Cameron and George Osborne. Perhaps the new Prime Minister felt as though her colleagues appeared too complacent and unaware of the struggles of many ‘ordinary’ Britons when they were in office.

But this, and the language around the ‘shared society’, is still just about a pitch, not a policy. The closest we got in the speech to a sense of how the ‘shared society’ would be different from the ‘big society’ was in May’s announcement that the government will move ‘beyond’ the social mobility agenda and ‘deliver real social reform across every layer of society so that those who feel that the system is stacked against them… are also given the help they need’. She then announced a load of measures that seem indistinguishable from the agenda of the previous government  – unless of course the main difference in May’s mind is that her government will actually deliver on housebuilding.

As for the announcements on mental health, these are of course important and the mental health charities have welcomed them as a step in the right direction, but the situation in mental health care is worthy of a very downbeat speech indeed – and will require far more than tiny pots of money here and there.

So the most striking thing about May’s speech today was not that it was policy rich, for it was not, and not that she has a radically different view of society to her predecessors. Instead, the most important takeaway is that May believes she must speak to those who currently resent the government’s lack of interest in them and their struggles.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close