Sign of The Times

From today’s Times leader:  “in order to attend a party conference it is necessary to pass through intense security into an area where only those with official passes are allowed.   But it is not only physically that these meetings are insulated from the world.  Politically, too, they can often be little bubbles in which all conversation turns inwards.”

The National Conversation is about – gently – bursting those bubbles and starting conversations that are open to  everyone.

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Conference season comes around again

For the next three weeks the Big Three parties will head off for their annual jamborees.  Only the Lib Dems will be beside the seaside (Brighton).  The Labour Party will be in Manchester and the Conservatives in Birmingham.

We will try and pick up anything interesting from the conferences on this blog.  But we believe the really interesting conversations happen outside the conference venues (and beyond the Westminster Bubble).

Tougher on immigration and welfare, softer on spending

Today the National Centre for Social Research publishes the 2012 edition of British Social Attitudes, an annual survey which asks around 3000 people how they feel about their lives and how the country is run.

This year’s edition is titled ‘Anxiety Britain’.   The BBC’s coverage focuses on hardening attitudes to welfare and immigration, and a greater openness to higher public spending.

Always interesting as background – but does the British Social Attitudes survey really have its finger on the pulse of public opinion?

Why Beveridge? And why now?

Why is the Beveridge Report so central to the 2012 National Conversation?

The answer is simple: the publication of the Beveridge Report in 1942 was the last time Britain saw a genuine ‘national conversation’.  One that brought millions of people together to discuss the country’s post-war future.

The 2012 National Conversation is inspired by the wave of grassroots debate the followed the publication of the Beveridge Report.  We are very proud our campaign will help mark the report’s 70th anniversary, and the national conversation that followed it.

But we are also inspired by the content of the Beveridge Report.  Sir William Beveridge asked people what kind of country they wanted to live in.  He didn’t shy away from big questions: about work, poverty or fairness.  And he wasn’t looking for consensus: he recognised that different people will always have different answers to these questions.  What Beveridge was looking for was a common ground: something stable on which the country could begin to build a new future.

In 1942, people responded to Beveridge’s call in their millions.  500,000 copies of the original report were published and sold out in months.  People then gathered together – in factory canteens, church halls and pubs – to have grown up conversations about the kind of country they wanted to live in.

Seventy years later, we believe we need to have more of these kinds of conversations: about our society and about the Beveridge legacy.  And we believe the 2012 National Conversation can start the ball rolling, using a mix of new media and traditional formats like town hall debates.

We hope you will want to be part of that conversation.

PS: the Beveridge Report: 70 Years On

We’ve been running this blog since April, to reach out to potential supporters and record interesting snippets of news.  One of the most remarkable things we’ve seen is how all the major political parties have begun to embrace the Beveridge Legacy.  See here for how the Conservatives, Labour (via the Fabian Society) and the Liberal Democrats have made Beveridge part of their platforms in recent months.