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Episode 1

Episode 1 of 3

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 08 January 2012

When David Cameron became the Conservative leader in 2005, he memorably declared "There is such a thing as society; it's just not the same as the state."

Steve Richards presents a three-part series telling the story behind that famous phrase, tracing David Cameron's vision of a reformed state and a "Big Society" from the early days of opposition to the reality of government.

The first programme explores the period from the beginning of Cameron's leadership in 2005 to the decision to place the Big Society at the heart of the 2010 general election campaign.

Through interviews with Cameron's friends and advisers, such as Danny Kruger, Ian Birrell and David Willetts, and with critics such as Polly Toynbee and Maurice Glasman, the programme shows how the idea was formed and how it was tested, even in the early days.

We go back to the discussions among excited young politicos at Policy Exchange and the dinner tables of Notting Hill. We recall key moments such as the presentation of the Big Society idea in 2009 and the decision to place that theme at the heart of the Conservative general election campaign the following year, a plan which was later heavily criticised.

We show how the idea was difficult to pin down and explore the different versions of the "Big Society" which emerged.

And we examine the impact of the financial crash, revealing the tensions which surfaced between David Cameron and George Osborne.

Producer: Leala Padmanabhan.


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