Big Tent

The Big Tent: We want to hear from you

BY The Big Tent Team   /  6 September 2017

Since the EU referendum result last year, mainstream British politics has been dominated by Brexit. For many, the domestic reforms laid out in the Prime Minister’s speech on the steps of No. 10 now seem like a distant memory.

Of course, the intricacies of the EU negotiations matter, but the country also faces real, urgent problems:

– The post-Crash Generation frozen out of house ownership

– A rising cost of living

– Chronic social care cost

– Falling public sector productivity

– Entrenched social immobility

The Government is in danger of being perceived to be so distracted by the practicalities of Brexit that it neglects some of its underlying causes. For all of us who fear the further decline of mainstream politics – and the tightening grip of the Corbynite extreme – this vacuum is a serious problem.

It’s been three months since the election, and if ever there were a moment to recapture the spirit of bold domestic reform that the Prime Minister announced on the footsteps of No 10 last July, it is now.

That’s why, this autumn, the Big Tent team is launching the Big Tent Ideas Fest. All over Britain, think-tanks, small businesses, charities, NGOs and individuals are developing innovative approaches to the big challenges we face. From national organisations like Shelter who are exploring practical ways of tackling homelessness, to parents who are revolutionising the way their children think about healthy eating, it’s clear that people on the ground have a good deal to teach mainstream politics about effective renewal.

So, we’re going to start listening.

This is a beginning. Big Tent is not prescriptive: we don’t claim to know the answers, we are not driven by narrow ideology, and we don’t wish to evangelise. What we want is to ask the right questions to get the right people in the right space having a practical discussion on how to get this country moving again.

This is the start of something we hope will grow.

We are convening our first event in three Big Tents, each covering a key element of the task as we see it: political renewal, social renewal, and economic renewal.  Below, you will find some examples of the sort of questions we will be asking at the first ideas festival, which is taking place later this month.

If you would like to get involved, either by contributing an idea, or by registering your interest for future events, please get in touch with the Reaction team by emailing editors@reaction.life. Do not feel bound by the questions below, but feel free to use them for inspiration. Reaction is the media partner, and the site will be hosting a wide range of comment and policy pieces mapping out ideas for the way ahead. These pieces will be appearing on the Big Tent tab. 

This is a pivotal time for Britain: vacuums in politics get filled by populists – from the left and the right – who make easy but unfulfillable promises. Once they are exposed and their popularity disintegrates, they disappear, leaving nothing but anger and division in their wake. To renew and revitalise mainstream politics, we need you, and we need your ideas.

Social Renewal

  1. How do we define a meaningful notion of citizenship with reciprocal responsibilities with the state, which works for us all?
  2. What do the lessons of effective community renewal teach us about what works?
  3. What role can the arts and cultural renewal play in strengthening society and democracy?
  4. How do we build lifelong learning, from antenatal, through the early years, school and adulthood, and incorporating resilience, emotional and social learning, as well as key skills? How do we get parents and communities to support this in the poorest areas?
  5. How do we better support our third sector and encourage volunteering?
  6. How do we tackle loneliness and better foster meaningful relationships, ‘face time’ and direct inter-individual interaction? Is the online world, long commuting and the big state impeding healthy social ties?
  7. How do we fix our broken prisons?
  8. How do we make elderly social care work for everyone?
  9. How do we reform our benefits system?

Political Renewal

  1. What are the causes of the deepening crisis of disconnection between government and the citizens it is supposed to serve?
  2. To what extent has the transformation of public discourse through the rise of social media changed politics? Is the rise of extremism – to left and right – a function of failure in the mainstream centre or simple liberation of the radical fringes?
  3. Is it mainstream, consensual, orthodox liberal democracy that is being rejected, or just the increasingly old fashioned and out-of-touch political Parties?
  4. Can the Parties renew from within? Or do the times call for new models outside traditional politics?  How can a Parliamentary system designed for, and still dominated by, two party politics, adapt?
  5. This insurgency of ‘populist’ politics is sweeping the wider West. What are the real lessons from the recent elections in UK, USA and Europe?
  6. How should mainstream political parties seek to adapt to this insurgency?
  7. What are the lessons from the people, places and parties that have managed to exploit, survive or succeed through or despite this new political mood? What are Ruth Davison, Momentum and some MPs doing that means they are cutting through?

Economic Renewal

  1. Given the public’s rejection of mass low wage migration, how can we achieve the transformational skills and training revolution of the UK workforce which has defied policymakers for 150 years?
  2. How do we embed lifelong learning to increase workforce resilience for the coming tech change tsunami so we do not make the same terrible mistakes as happened in 1980s mining areas (and from which we have still not recovered)?
  3. How can we unleash the entrepreneurship we need to succeed in globalisation?
  4. Do these changes – domestic and global – require a fundamental rethink of our business model and basis of public consent for capitalism in UK plc in the 21st century?
  5. What might the new models of 21st century business, employment, philanthropy, public service and social enterprise be?
  6. What part can Brexit play in helping us tackle these issues?
  7. Are there more sophisticated and granular measures than GDP, leveraging big data, to help direct policy decisions for the benefit of the entire nation, and especially the left behind areas?