Over the last few days I’ve had a few emails about Common Purpose but didn’t pay them much attention because I get bloody hundreds of emails. But today I got an email from someone who wouldn’t bring it up unless there was something in it so I hopped onto Google to see what I could find. Why do I do these things to myself?
Common Purpose is an organisation that trains “leaders”. These “leaders” have to be nominated to take part in their training courses and applications are vetted. The training course trains the “leaders” on how to “lead beyond their authority, beyond their direct circle of control“.
Their “vision” contains the following:
For a democracy to be strong, it needs an active civil society, in which citizens are both informed and connected. Common Purpose’s vision is that we can improve the way society works by increasing the number of informed and engaged individuals who are actively involved in the future of the areas in which they live and work.
The leaders of this civil society are likely to be leaders already within their own areas: companies, hospitals, communities. But they need to see themselves as leaders of society too – and use their talents accordingly.
So, what does “lead beyond their authority” mean? Reading their website and translating it into plain English, the objective seems to be to train business leaders to take over local government – a process that’s already started. Regional Development Agencies, City Regions, Regional Assemblies, Regional Observatories, they are all dominated by business. Closer to home for me, the recently-evicted Liebour administration in Telford & Wrekin set up a limited company to take care of regeneration and investment in the borough. There are 11 board members, only 2 of which are from the council and only one of them was elected. The other 9 are “leaders” – company chief executives and directors, the regional development agency, the Learning & Skills Council, Wolverhampton University, Chamber of Commerce. The pattern is repeated throughout the unelected quangocracy.
UK Indymedia has a list with some of Common Purpose’s clients. They include police forces, the Scottish Executive, schools and universities, councils, churches, newspapers, prisons, government departments and some big household names. The founder of Common Purpose, Julia Middleton, was John Prescott’s head of personnel selection when he was Deputy Prime Minister and creating the regional assemblies – the same regional assemblies that are obsessed with the business agenda.
Phil Davies, MP for Shipley, asked questions in Parliament on spending on Common Purpose:
- The DWP spent £240k on Common Purpose between 2002 and 2007
- The Department for Communities and Local Government has given £40k to Common Purpose for “preventing extremism” since June 2007
- The Department for Children, Schools and Families (under its old name of DfES) spent £51,700 on Common Purpose in 2004 and 2005 and Common Purpose has the use of an office inside the Department for Children, Schools and Families at Sheffield
- DEFRA apparently spent £658 on Common Purpose since June 2001 but the courses cost thousands and there’s a cop-out in the answer saying that it’s from centrally-held records only (DEFRA operates regionally)
- DCLG has spent £307k on Common Purpose since 2002
- The Department for Health spent £35,242 between 2003 and 2008 on Common Purpose
- The Home Office spent £33,688 on Common Purpose training and gave £36,500 in grants to Common Purpose between 2002 and 2007
- The Duchy of Lancaster spent £5,688 on Common Purpose in 2002-04
- The Department for Transport spend £19,676 from 2005 to present and is still spending
- The Treasury has spent £20,625 on Common Purpose since 2002
- The Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent £8,460 in 2002 on Common Purpose for 2 employees
- The Foreign Office paid £3,750 in 2003-04 for one senior official to attend a Common Purpose course
- The Department for International Development spent £181,333 helping Common Purpose establish itself in South Africa.
- The Department for Constitutional Affairs doesn’t hold information on how much they have spent on Common Pupose as they made the decision to spend on Common Purpose at a regional level
- The Northern Ireland Office spent £4,395 on Common Purpose in 2006/07
- The Ministry of Defence spent £308,525 on Common Purpose between 2002 and 2007
The phrase “common purpose” appears a disturbing amount of times in government speeches. As does the word “connecting” in apparently meaningless context – this is part of Common Purpose’s newspeak. The EU, of course, operates on a policy of “common purpose”.
PJC Journal has discovered that Common Purpose even has its own reserved network on the internet, something that is normally the reserve of national registrars and large registrars.
Renew Northwest, the Regional Development Agency has already booked up a Common Purpose programme (at taxpayers expense of course) for 2008.
Common Purpose operates Chatham House rules at its meetings meaning there are no minutes, no records of attendees and nobody talks about what happens at them. They are, effectively, a secret society along the lines of the Masons. They certainly have a lot in common with the Masons apart from the charitable donations which, to the best of my knowledge, Common Purpose have no truck with. And, of course, membership of the masons requires a disclosure on a register of interest if you are a Councillor or MP.
There is something very sinister about this organisation and something very wrong about a “common purpose” being instilled into the nation’s “leaders”. I don’t want a civil society run by the business community.
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