The Corner

Ask Not

About how far the Tory leader will go to win votes:

David Cameron invoked John F Kennedy and Barack Obama yesterday as he vowed to replace Labour’s ‘big government’ with a ‘big society’ founded on responsibility and respect.

Unveiling a string of policies aimed at reversing social breakdown, the Tory leader quoted the words of US President John F Kennedy in his inauguration address in 1961: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’

He said he wanted every adult to be a member of a neighbourhood group as he pledged to create an ‘army’ of 5,000 trained community organisers to help people tackle social problems.

An “army” of community organizers? Obama and Cameron’s Camelot, perhaps, but surely not JFK’s. Yes, the Peace Corps was designed to “encourage mutual understanding between Americans and other cultures of the world,” but those words, from my reading, were not aimed at creating a “big society,” or government, on our shores. JFK wanted to inspire service, not “pledge to create an army” to help people “tackle social problems.” In Britain at least, a Cold War injunction has become a do-gooder’s rally cry.

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Illegal leaks of classified information should be treated as a serious offense. But they would be easier to prevent if less information were classified.