Friday, 27 April 2012

Wealth of a Nation

" ... though a great number of people do not labour at all, many of whom consume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times, more labour than the greater part of those who work ; yet the produce of the whole labour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantly supplied ; and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniencies of life..." Adam Smith in his introduction to 'The Wealth of Nations'.

In the years since Adam Smith wrote his detailed analysis of economic power and strategy for the 18th century many other have laid claim to his legacy as supporting their own politico-economic theory or view from Karl Marx to this decade's neoliberals. That so many diverse and opposing theories claim justification in the words of Adam Smith leaves me wondering if rather than understanding what Smith was saying to the politicians and businesses of his day, there is not just a bit of leaning on the great and good going on but frank and total manipulation of what Smith was saying to fit theirm own cause. This essay is not any attempt to make an objectively evidenced scientific economic or socio-economic point but to seek to ask the appropriate questions to begin to understand what we mean in the 21st century by the term: 'Wealth of a Nation'.

Over the last five decades I have been employed as an officer in the Royal Navy, built three business from scratch (of which only the first 'failed'), worked for a multi-national as a quality assurance consultant and ISO auditor in their healthcare scope and been involved in co-project managing a $4.5 million hospital in a developing country. In all these situations I have observed how people work both for and against themselves and have become increasingly cynical about modern economic theories as they focus more and more on capital and move ever further away from the one thing that still holds true in Adam Smith's writings, the importance of 'labour' or better known to you or I as the people of the nation.

I picked the above quote simply because it demonstrates that people (and not capital) are at the heart of Smith's thinking, as without people capital does not exist because it has nothing to exist for. Yet in today's neoliberal political and economic hamster wheel the talk is all about the bottom line (capital) and not how the wealth is actually created by people carrying out skilled work and endeavours. Further Smith reflects that the non-productive part of any socio-economic system is reliant on those who actually produce goods and services for their own well being and wealth - an idea currently turned on its head given that the UK Government is currently actively wrecking the UK's product and service base, the bit that actually creates the capital side of the wealth of a nation; always hold in your mind that capital can not exist with out people.

Looking simply at the capital wealth spread in the UK in simple terms 20% of people hold 80% of the capital wealth. My first question is this: How can any nation be considered 'wealthy', as Westminster Government claims the UK is, when 80% of the nation holds only 20% of the capital wealth. Analytical logic surely defines 20% of the people of the UK as wealthy while the other 80% clearly are not. If the majority of the nation is not wealthy, how can a nation be considered wealthy in purely capital terms? Yet it is in these 'bottom line' terms the UK Government bases it case -  it ignores the majority of people in the UK it is supposed to represent, almost as if the majority do not count - people are no longer important to the UK Government.

Given this appears to be the case is it any wonder that there is a growing sense of London and the SE's detachment from the rest of the UK which in turn is increasing the resentment between the English regions and Westminster while in Scotland there is ever increasing support for our own nation to withdraw from the Treaty of Union and go our own way. For people, people remain more important than 'capital', we measure our 'wealth' in other equally tangible ways. For most people the wealth of a nation is its people and for politicians who can grasp this fundamental need and create a vision and policies to deliver their vision, success awaits.

So how do my experiences in the Royal Navy and the rest of my career to date inform this argument?

As an officer (leader) in the Royal Navy my core task was to deliver results based on the concept of ordinary people, doing extraordinary things, in an ordinary way. My main assetts were the people I was responsible for and to. I had to be aware of the capital available for the task, be that in materials or cash, but fundamentally I succeeded or failed by the labour of the people. The fascinating result of this method of 'creating wealth' or as we would say 'achieving our aim' was they way people worked together to succeed with out the need for much else than encouragement and simple reflection on how well we were doing or not. Miles away from the rigid hierarchy of work of Adam Smith's theory (misinterpreted by both Marx and the neoliberals) but in terms of bottom line demonstrably efficient and effective. It was notable that when top-down directives were promulgated in the RN by the MoD they invariably reduced the effectiveness and efficiency of the system. People need a bit of flexibility - capital does not, it just lies in the bank doing nothing in particular.

My business experiences were shaped by the working practices I learnt in the Royal Navy making people my chief asset while capital was just something that resided in the bank where it was safe, warm and preferred to be. After my intial false start, mainly due to the bank deciding not to release capital, I then was involved in a dental partnership which in five years went from a turn over of £30,000 to £250,000. We involved our staff asset to develop our business, they gained through job security, good working environment, shared goals, treats and our ability to pay them higher than standard dental nurse and staff wages. My partner in the business and I benefited by being left to do what we had trained to do - dentistry - and focus on our patient's needs, deliver on those needs which in turn created return business and gave the capital in the bank more playmates to cuddle up to. For those of you who wish to state it would not work in the world of multinationals here are a couple of words - John Lewis, Delta Airlines: smart businesses are coming round to the idea their main wealth is their people. Yet the UK Government continues to hoard capital, while throwing away people.

I am an instinctive social democrat all my own experiences over the last 50 years lead me to one simple conclusion, the wealth of any nation is its people and that governance must focus on the needs of its people for health, welfare and public utilities while the people have to be released from out dated and outmoded ways of being thought about by Governments of any stripe, as a mob to be ruled rather than a people to be listened to. In return the people will create the capital to ensure it can happen because it is mutually beneficial for all to make it so.

There will be abuses by both sides, as that is the nature of the small numbers of humans who want it all for themselves and think there is never enough to go round. This is in fact ironic as Adam Smith pointed out back in the 18th Century:  "... yet the produce of the whole labour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantly supplied; ....."

Monday, 23 April 2012

Free Childcare in Scotland - where is it?

I just did some research, as a friend was moaning about the lack of free nursery place in her particular area of Scotland, and it turns out funding for childcare via tax benefits is reserved to the UK Government. A report by an NGO, called 'The Scottish Child Care Lottery', states that 118,000 children in Scotland will loose out on childcare thanks to UK Government actions in the recent budget through the reduction in tax credits and some 80,000 children will drop into their absolute poverty category.

Provision of childcare comes under 'welfare' a reserved issue rather than 'education' over which Holyrood has control. Given the further reduction in tax credit capping of 80% for childcare to 70% in the child care element and other alterations to the UK system by the Tory Libdems, those at the bottom end will loose some £534 from their income over the next year which of course hits those at the lower end of the income scale the most.

The SNP aspiration is free pre-school for all children in Scotland, but they recognise the social and financial impact that increased reduction in UK tax credits and their own block grant is having in real terms. The standard SNP response is Scotland needs control of its own taxation and welfare budget to achieve its aims.

Currently each council is funded by the Scottish Government to provide 475 hours of free care for each child per year (which is just under ten hours a week and is a slight improvement on the 7.5 hours per week of the previous Lab/lib coalition) with a incoming bill to push that up to 600 hours. The Councils decide how their funding is used and which families directly benefit from truly 'free places'. For working parents, the real need is nine hours per day of nursery / childcare for four to five days a week - some 2,000 hours of free nursery funding a year, such is the gulf between the real need and the ability of current UK Tax and Welfare funding policies to deliver.

For details of the recent Holyrood debate on this isue go to:

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The 'Auld Firm'

I was watching 'The Mission', a great film which explores the problems of when doing what is right and moral gets in the way of political necessity and political necessity wins. I then took my ex-wife's wee dog out for a walk round the streets of the SW town I live in taking in the stars and low down in the SW the international space station. After bagging the wee dugs doings and stuffing them in the bin I then had a bit of time to think in the quiet stillness of the night and that old chestnut for folk with depression - just what's the point of anything?

I was thinking about UK politics in general and Scotland inmore detail then this wee idea popped into my head - what would happen to Celtic and Rangers if their faux religious difference were actually done away with?

The mutual dislike for one another is a marketing man's wet dream, it means that the failings of either side and their management can be glossed over with a 'sectarian bile' provoking or otherwise press release. The blogs relating to Celtic and Rangers will then go into melt down as old 'wounds' and out of date politics (PIRA / UDF) are vomited up. Celtic fans will then go into a self justfying tirade about how nobody likes them while Rangers fans, in general, just resort to clusters of swear words in a random order apparently to make their point. The Daily Record is good for at least one 'Old Firm' upset story a week on top of the standard bile which hides the reality that Ranger's are all but in liquidation and a lot of folk (within and without Celtic) see Celtic's current manager as a liability. Hatred enables an effect business model status quo between the two sides, it may not be in the best interests of Scottish football or Scotland in general but it keeps folk going through the turnstiles at Ibrox and Parkhead.

If we move to Westminster what do we see?

Labour and the Conservatives playing exactly the same marketing game of hide what is realy going on behind a screen of faux hatred. In the Westminster political machine's mind why changes a formula that has worked very well since 1945 for both sides. There is the same steriotypical view of the Westminster 'old firm' in that Labour are useless with the economy and more interested in trousering cash while the Tories are detached from the ordinary people and drop their knickers with ease and regularity. A quick read through the Mail or Telegraph (and unless you have a strong constitution I would recommend making it a quick read) or its Larsson 'Otherside' competitiors the Gruniad or Mirror you see this steriotypical view being played out on a daily basis.

This avoids political journalists having to ask themselves the difficult questions such as 'Why was British Leyland / Steel / shipbuilding a 'lame duck' while HBOS- Lloyds is worth throwing more money than British Leyland ever cost the tax payer?' Maybe the same papers could run articles on how appalingly badly built PFI hospitals are rather than blaming the doctors and nurses for the state of the place, poor moral and lack of care. There's a reason doctors and nurses are fed up - its called PFI Management Companies, their fat risk free profits, badly designed buildings, crap service and poor maintenance.

That's right you have the 'old firm' scenario between Labour and the Conservatives where pretending to knock lumps out of each other at PMQ's neatly avoids any chance of discussing policies or, heaven forefend, the needs of the UK electorate. The comparison goes further because like Celtic the Tories have a manager even his own side has doubts with even though he won the 'Westminster Quadrennial League' on goal difference and Labour (minus Unison and Unite cash) are in all reasonable accounting terms, bankrupt. All in all it meets both partys' needs not to have their actual activities closely scrutinised.

Yet something has come along and upset this 'Old Firm' style status quo in Scotland. it seemd to work quite well for the first four years Labour 'two legs' good, SNP 'four legs' bad. While Dewar played 'Batman' to Wallace's 'Robin' the Scots went along with it but it all started falling apart when the wrong person (McLeish) stepped into 'Batman's' shoes in the eyes of the West Coast Labour cabal. In usual Scottish Labour tradition there was a back stabbing and off went Henry and in came Jack McConnell - Jim Murphy's safe pair of West Coast hands. We were back to a Labour First Minster sneering at the SNP, yet with no real ideas for Scotland, no ability to think outside of 'New Labour speak' and clearly under the control of Murphy. In the meantime the SNP stopped sniping at Labour and started promoting positive ideas for Scotland, the need to progress devolution to the next stage of full fiscal autonomy or even independence. More and more often during the latter part of Jack McConnell's stay as First Minster he was left spitting bile in the traditional 'Old firm' manner and finding the SNP would not play the game. The SNP had this annoying trait of being positive about Scotland and its future. You would think after having fewer seats than the SNP in 2007, a loss in anyone's thinking, Labour and the Westminster political machine might have started to analyse their opponents style of play to understand why they were Auchenshoogle Athletic to the SNP's Barca. The answer? A resounding no! 'Bring it on' Wendy got short shrift and the Greyman was annointed leader - apparently from the East but in fact a West of Scotland apparatchik and another Murphy protege.

Was there any change of substance or style by Labour?

I am afraid not as Labour's attack dog style looked more and more out of place against an increasingly assured and effective SNP machine. So then we come to Holyrood 2011 with Labour still lining up in their outmoded five, three, two formation, and after being soundly beaten and a whining of it wisnae fair, thon Mr Electorate the ref's bent, Eck wis offside, it wis never a penalty - from them and their media supporters just like the 'Old Firm' but a lot sadder and even more embarassing.

So what now for Labour's Scottish region?

Surprise, surprise we have another Murphy protege, still sticking with Murphy's five, three, two formation still playing 'Old firm' politics, the littler of the 'stairheid rammy' duo - Johanne Lamont. Labour is still leaking support to the SNP in Holyrood and Westminster voting intention polls and the 3rd of May will give a further look at how badly Labour are in decline by how much further behind the SNP in terms of councillors they fall.

Given Jim Murphy's track record, since having Henry McLeish stabbed in the back, makes you wonder who actually sees him as Labour's Scottish Region's saviour.

The advantage the SNP have is they do not have to put political necessity first, defending the Westminster status quo, and have more opportunity to do what is needed and is right. To complete the footballing analogy Labour in Scotland have two of the same sided feet (right or left - pick your own preference).

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Why Labour's dying a death in Scotland

The Labour Party's Scottish Region can not agree whether is is against a further council tax freeze according to Lamont and Sawar, maybees aye, maybees naw according Glasgow's head honcho Matheson or cutting council tax - as Labour did in supporting a Conservative ammendment budget vote in Stirling Council.

Then there is the current deselection civil war going on in Glasgow's heartlands with Murphy's deadwood springing willow wand like back into life and standing against New Labour. There's the problems in the Glasgow ALEOs where mainly Labour backwoodsmen and women have lost their directorial perks and are not happy with that and the 10% tytheing of the councillor's salaries Labour's Scottish Region wants, in an attempt to try and build up their 'No to Independence' War Chest - as potential backers are few and far between.

The real problem with Labour's Scottish Region is their stance of opposing anything put forward by the SNP for no other reason than it has been put forward by the SNP. A New Labour national position confirmed, by the number 2 Scottish Shadow, in the aftermath of New Labour's failure to vote on the 50p tax issue at Westminster because it was a Plaid / SNP ammendment.

Lammont and Sawar are puppets of Murphy, if you look carefully you can see his hand manipulating them. Labour's Scottish Region has no policy for Scotland apart from more of the same negativity and running down of Scotland to please their London masters. There was a time a monkey in a red rossette could get elected in Glasgow, the problem for Labour's Scottish Region is they still believe that is the case and have failed to notice, even in the aftermath of May 2011, Scotland has moved far distant from their narrow view and as a nation are more likely to be talking sensibly about the pros and cons of independence - a subject Labour's Scottish region is scared to engage in with the 'cybernats' because the evidence increasingly appears to be if you wish a competent, left of centre Scotland you'll have to vote SNP.

To increasing numbers of Scots, New Labour is now a 'me too' Conservative Party - as right wing and even more authoritarian.

Scotland warned Westminster in 2007 it wanted a confederated Union and the warning fell on deaf ears. In 2011 the failure to listen was rewarded with New Labour slipping to 23% of vote share. Currently New Labour are lagging the SNP by 14% in Westminster voting intentions. If the pundits (and remember most of the pundits are BBC Scotland Labour lovies) are wrong and New Labour fails to hold Glasgow then the road back for the party will be hard, if next to impossible in Scotland with out a root and branch clear out of the Scottish Region. The deadwood is not the problem, the party's backward and demeaning view of Scotland is.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

"New Labour is dead, long live New Labour!"

"Ed Miliband insisted today the Labour Party was embarking on "real, deep, genuine change" to reconnect with disenchanted voters......

"The next election will be about us as much as them," he said."
(Independent - Thursday 12th April)

Nope Ed, not buying it this time - just more putting icing over a pile of steaming cow dung but New Labour remains a pile of steaming cow dung.

New Labour has wrecked their safe heartland in Scotland to the point that it looks as if they will loose control of West of Scotland councils in May.

They are 14% behind the SNP in Westminster voting intentions in Scotland.

The Scottish Branch is in open civil war over New Labour 'selection policies' and tytheing of councillors. Murphy, whose big idea it was, is loud in his silence.

Lamont and Anas Sawar are shooting each other in the foot and at odds with even the New Labour loyalist Matheson over council tax freeze.

Is it any surprise that the Northern English look at what has happen to New Labour in Scotland and are now coming to the same conclusions - New Labour are no different to the Tories and Moribund and Cameroon are interchangeable.

Worse for New Labour they look to Scotland and see social democratic policies being upheld by the SNP that they thought 'New Labour' should also be upholding in Northern England.

Northern England looks at Scotland and sees the principles of the 1948 Welfare and NHS bills being upheld. It looks south of the Watford gap and sees the same principles being destroyed by a Westminster in the thrall of right wing neo-liberal conservatives in all the 'English' parties.

Is it any surprise they would rather vote for a self publicist and champagne socialist like George than any of the above?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Thoughts on the problems in the English NHS

If you commercialise health care in a way that is ineffective and inefficient, focussed on spurious targets, government initiatives (which change with the Health minister), and the lunacy of working inside a PFI contract. The restrictions on what different folk can or can not do, what is within their budget you will end up with the increasing mess that is the NHS in England and let us be frank it is NHS England this report in the Independent is about. Things are not rosy in some parts of NHS Scotland or Wales either but often that is related to PFI contracts so beloved of New Labour to keep the real costs of their jobs for the boys and girls out of the public view.

You are a new nurse in a PFI hospital, your nursing manager will probably tell you that as there is a contract for cleaning hazardous biowaste (spilt blood or urine) it is not your job to clear the mess up - now it is on record this can take up to two and a half hours to happen, so all you can do is prop one of those daft yellow sandwich boards over it - maybe you would start to find your morale starting to slip.

Maybe you will also get fed up with visitors telling you how manky the place is as a third of the contract cleaning staff have pulled a sicky that shift to watch Eastenders and the ones who have turned up will make sure they take every minute of their allowed time to clean their specified ward first.

Then you'll find that design flaws in your PFI hospital means there is no where to store dirty laundry or yellow low risk bulk bags so they have to sit in the corridor further annoying visitors.

The basic need to provide an environment condusive of quality of care is just not in place and to save money the Trust will not fill the expensive nursing posts leaving wards short handed because the senior nurse has had enough of covering for two colleagues and thrown a sicky to get a break of chasing well meaning but inexperienced nurses while filling in the piles of bumpff, line manager's require to measure performance of what they think important but has little bearing on meeting patients needs or expectations - and while they are getting prizes from the DoH for meeting targets (like North Staffs) patients are dying unecessarily for reasons any nurse or doctor would quickly identify for you but as management have stopped giving a stuff and the recent wheeze from DOH England has been to shut up whistle blowers - you do not bother.

How do I know this? Well I have taken part in enough clincial governance and quality audits of hospitals and seen this as work in progress ince 1996 while the DoH English Quangos pass the buck and no one tells the truth because God knows what new initiative the politicians in DoH England will think up next.

I hope the Kings Fund Sociologist (in the original Independent article) reads this - it is not standards are low amongst junior doctors and nurses who do the bulk of ward work, it is morale (on which pay has no impact) and Lansley's latest political wheeze from the DoH is going to make things far worse in NHS England as the patient is further and further from the centre of care than ever.

Monday, 9 April 2012

BBC Bias is confirmed by academic research

Seumas Milne writes that in Britain "a Mélenchon or Bradford-style platform could not of course make up a winning national strategy" (George Galloway and Jean-Luc Mélenchon expose a huge political gap, 4 April). Yet he also notes that withdrawal from Afghanistan is supported by 70% of the entire country.

When we suggested a wealth tax to raise £800bn out of the £4tn held by the richest in our society, to stop the cuts, we found very strong support with a YouGov poll showing 73% in favour. The problem is not the potential support, but the fact that most people are not offered such alternatives either in mainstream media or by the main political parties.

The BBC should be featuring alternative views, but its news programmes are largely a parade of vested interests. We analysed interviews on the BBC's Today programme in the period in which UK banks were part nationalised and found that 81% of the interviewees were either, "City sources", "free market economists" or "business representatives". The limiting of the range of alternatives impacts on public understanding of what is possible. Our most recent focus groups show people believing that the UK debt relates only to the actions of the last Labour government, rather than as a typical feature of how governments operate over long periods of time. Most plaintively, it was said in a group that there couldn't be alternatives to the present policies or "they would have heard of them". They certainly wouldn't at the moment, from most of our politicians and media.

Professor Greg Philo

Glasgow University Media Group

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Scotland; the Scots' Country

What does Scotland mean to you?

The stereotypyes; Burns, shortbread, whisky, tartan ... a wee hoose on the hillside that my Granny's no seen for years?

I ask because I believe those of us who support independence have a more unified view of what Scotland means than seperates us.

I have put off writing this essay because I was concerned that I would be out Hassaning Gerry Hassan in extreme navel gazing, yet as we approach, potentially, the most important council elections in Scotland in the last 50+ plus years I feel there is a requirement to go beyond the 'anybody but Labour' discussion and in doing so establish more clearly what an independent Scotland means to us at many different levels.

Given the many threads of what Scotland means to us I intend to look at what I see as the core belief that informs the Scottish social society and its actions, the concept that we are 'All Jock Tamson's Bairns'. Yet what proof is there that this ephemeral concept has a telling hold on how Scots view themselves and the world around them - containing, as it does, this strong sense of inclusiveness and fairness?

I would suggest this idea is buried deep in the impact and aftermath of the Scottish reformation during which many of the core ideas of looking after others were enshrined in Scots Law, placing clear responsibility for the welfare of the poor, the sick, the elderly and core education of children on church parishes. This legal responsibility was enforced and there are a number of cases where parishes, such as Tranent in the 17th Century, were indicted and fined for failing to meet these statutory requirements.

At some point during the 17th Century the legal obligation to provide welfare becomes an accepted social norm which by the begining of the 18th Century has Scotland with amongst the highest rates of literacy and numeracy per head of population in Europe. Scots were attractive to employers because of these skills and so educated Scots become a sought after commodity in cities such as London to run what is now called the 'middle management and administration' of businesses such as the burgeoning English stock market and in the Low Countries to run trading houses as international trade grew.

There was also the tradition in Scottish cities of folk of 'aa the airts' sharing the same close or vennel with the shop keepers on the street level, lairds, lawyers and the growing Scottish middle class in the big flats on levels two and three with the housing becoming more and more cramped as you moved up higher in the tenament building. A situation which was the norm in cities like Edinburgh until the arrival of the 'new town' concept in the late 18th Century. The shared close and the infamous Edinburgh mob ensured there was no avoiding the mood of the public. In turn this informs the Scottish aversion to class, privilege and folk with a fine conceit of themselves. The Union would never have happened if the Edinburgh mob had succeeded in finding and lynching the Scottish Parliamentary Union commissioners hiding in the Cannongate. The power of Scottish Socialists of the early part of the 20th Century, men like John MacLean, has little to do with Marxist/ Leninist theory and everything to do with our innate sense of fairness, equal opportunity and an equal chance in life which is part and parcel of us all being 'Jock Tamson's Bairns'. Scottish people are routinely pleased and have pride for folk from their communities 'who hae done well fir thirsel, an thir fowk' it is only when these people turn their back on the communities they came from that the communities then do the same, with an added sense of betrayal.

So for Scot's success such as Tom Farmer in business, Paul Lawrie in golf or Ewan MacGregor in Holywood films there is an acceptance because they all still put back into Scotland and their communities where as Billy Connelly is no longer viewed in the same light as his seperation from his community grows ever wider and in the case of many Scottish Westminster politicians it has become terminal because they have forgotten what it is to be an integral part of 'Jock Tamson's Bairns'.

What about immigrants and does this social concept of 'Jock Tamson's Bairns' work for them?

Recent UK research suggests that incomers of all stripes find they quickly feel included and at home. Studies of SE Asian and African immigrants indicates they call themselves 'Scottish' full stop, rather than British Asian or British Afro-carribean as is the norm in the major English conurbations.

At the heart of this idea of 'Jock Tamson's Bairns' are conservative social politics which reverberate up through the centuries since the Scottish Reformation. In modern paralance they are left of centre social democratic politics which seek to have a balance between state provision for core services such as health, welfare and education while encouraging an entrepreneurial business sector to utilise Scotland's finest minds and in turn create job opportunities for others in Scotland across the board because in the end Scotland can not afford the former without the latter. It is about subsidiarity and the giving up of power for power's sake by the centre to better enable local decision making to be made that meets people's local needs and expectations.

This whole social concept is not about being dependent on hand outs but being of independent means ready to support others who need a hand up back on to their feet again. It is about ensuring we care for our children and our elderly to ensure our future, their future safety and our common weal of Scotland. It is about having respect for ourselves and our fellow citizens, no matter their situation or our views. It is a very different country to the one the neo-liberal policies of Westminster would like to turn Scotland into - a country riven by schism and inequality.

This is the country I know as Scotland, one that does not need any Cameronesque PR 'Big Society' Stunt to paper over the cracks in Westminster's decaying facade of care for the people because we do not need the Conservative UK Government to tell us how to be a 'Big Society'- we have been one for 500 years.