James Forsyth

The Big Society reincarnated

The Big Society reincarnated
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The Big Society is a great idea. But its problem has always been that it lacks definition; voters and even some Tory MPs aren’t quite sure what it means. But an idea being floated today gives you a sense of its practical and political potential. It is being suggested that the community right to buy, the idea that the community should have first refusal on any asset being sold off, should be applied to the port of Dover.

The last government wanted to privatise the port but the new MP for Dover, a Tory called Charlie Elphicke has proposed that a community trust be allowed to buy the port and then lease it out to an operator. This scheme would provide the instant cash hit that the Treasury needs but would also be politically acceptable in a way that privatisation would not be.

Given how much time the Tories have spent talking about localism and the Big Society one imagines that this proposal will receive a positive response. If it does, it could become a model for the sale of other government assets such as the Dartford Crossing and British Waterways.