You need to make your mind up about Maggie, Mr Starmer

It is the easiest target in the dictionary of British political quotations. “There is no such thing as society,” Margaret Thatcher told Woman’s Own in 1987. “There are individual men and women, and there are families.”

Every politician with a speech to give to charities will reach for it and criticise the Iron Lady’s heartlessness. Even David Cameron did it, coming up with the brilliant inversion: “There is such a thing as society – it’s just not the same as the state.”

So there was a clunking inevitability about Keir Starmer’s invocation of it in his speech to a “civil society summit” of charities. He attacked Thatcher and Cameron equally, blaming her for “individualism run rampant” and him for “the Big Society – a great idea in principle, but when austerity kicked in, we ended up with the Poor Society”.


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