Why does Phillip Blond see civic cohesion as a security issue?

11:20 am - June 11th 2010

by Sarah Ditum    

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Things are looking rosy for ResPublica, the Conservative think tank led by official enemy of Paperhouse and original Red Tory Phillip Blond.

There’s now a government that’s broadly sympathetic to ResPublica’s aims (Red Toryism occupies the same sort of self-help space as Compassionate Conservatism). And it’s received a hefty injection of support – enough to be recruiting for six new positionsoffering “competitive + bonus” salaries.

One of the roles it’s looking to fill is “head of the security and civil cohesion unit“. Wait, what? Why does “security” go with “civil cohesion”?

I know I’m approaching this from my standard fuzzy left position, but doesn’t “security” mean “people with guns and things that go bang”? And isn’t that a bit of an awkward fit with “community cohesion”, which seems to mean… Well, I don’t really know what it means. People rubbing along together, I guess. Municipal halls. That sort of thing.

Actually, I can have a pretty good guess at what it means in Blond-world.

There’s his insidious insistence that the “indigenous white working class” have been “marginalised and ignored” (by whom?); he has a “sense” that “racism is returning”, but he treats racism as a rational response to barely-defined social conditions, rather than a repellent attitude that ought to be publically thrashed.

Blond is not keen on difference. He writes about the “ruinous consequences of state sanctioned multi-culturalism and the lazy moral and social relativism of the liberal middle class” as though those ruinous consequences are absolute and their cause confirmed.

Whatever the ruinous consequences are, they were caused by multiculturalism, whatever that is. Clear? Good.

It’s that sort of floppy logic that makes sense of ResPublica’s decision to class civil cohesion with security issues.

Things were nicer, in Blond’s view, before the 1940s – and maybe it’s not a perfect coincidence that his British Eden pre-dates Windrush.

In Blond-world, security comes from sameness and pockets of otherness mean danger. And that, presumably, is why ResPublica puts “civil cohesion” under the same remit as spies, terror and invasions: because if you’re  not like Blond, then you’re against his nebulous, homogenous little idea of Britain.

[Note: article originally said “civil” not “civic” cohesion. Now changed.]

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About the author
Sarah is a regular contributor and a freelance journalist and critic. She blogs at Paperhouse.
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Reader comments

From an academic (sociological) standpoint, “security” is often linked to cohesion. The idea that social exclusion leads to marginalisation and potentially threats to community tensions (insecurity) or much bigger ones than this. It’s not really seen as a problem. You’re right though that it’s worth investigating exactly what is meant in this instance… That’s always where it matters.

Wow, what on earth could he mean by cohesion in this context?

Perhaps feeling sufficient loyalty to your fellow citizens, to the extent of, say, not blowing them up.

Perhaps he has that kind of thing in mind.

Naturally, any who disagree with Philip Bond manifestly lack social cohesion and therefore constitute a potential threat to national security.

All this reminds me of Robespierre, who wanted to construct the Virtuous Society after the French revolution. This seemed to imply critics manifestly lacked virtue and should therefore be sent swiftly to the guillotine before they further pollute society and tarnish the glorious liberation achieved by the revolution.

Plus ca change . .

See this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Securitization_%28international_relations%29

Basically trying to frame an issue as a security issue is an attempt to legitimise extraordinary means as a way of dealing with the issue.

5. Shatterface

I can’t understand where the Tories got the idea social cohesion was a security matter, but then I have the attention span of a goldfish and can’t remember what the last government was like.

Why does anyone listen to what Blond says? It seems to me his main trick is taking two words that are in conflict (say, “progressive” and “conservative”; or “security” and “civil”) and building a spurious “philosophy” around it. The man’s either a fool or a charlatan and it’s worrying that people seem to take him seriously.

Wot Susan @1 said. See the Oldham Review.

8. Flowerpower

Perhaps if you had actually read the ad carefully to start with you would be less confused.

For a start it is ‘Civic Cohesion’, not ‘civil’, and certainly not ‘social’.

If you look at the skillset required for the post you might get a clearer idea of what security might mean here:

The Head of the Security and Civic Cohesion Unit will be an expert on community cohesion, civil society, energy supply, local culture and food security, plus knowledge of procurement, strategy and diplomacy.

Also perhaps noting the international context.

What, exactly, is the difference between “civic cohesion” and “social cohesion”, just in case anyone believes the one is more crucial than the other?


Um, literally? Civic = to do with citizens of a city; social = to do with all of society.

Doesn’t help really. I reckon “civic” is right-wing newspeak for “social” for Tories who are scared of the latter and are reminded of “civic duties” etc in the former – sounds a bit more pull-your-socks-up rather than the touchy-feely we’re-all-in-this-together social.


Civic is a word denoting community based round settlement or political unit (civitas – the Greek city state underlines the term), with all inhabitants having their share and role. Now, technically this may not be equal shares and roles, but since the late-eighteenth century at least civic has tended to be appropriated fully by democracy as a label, and that is how it is used nowadays in this country.

Social is a word denoting community, but what that community is built around is variable, and as society is often defined by the commentator and therefore a political tool (hence Mrs Thatcher’s famously misattacked comment, upon having being told ‘society demands’ something). However, society is also a useful tool in contradistinction to civil organisation, in that it recognises units that do not fit neet municipal or civil bounds.

As a practical example take integration of immigrants. If I say immigrants are showing social cohesion, we probably read that as saying they are sticking together and forming their own society. If I say immingrants are showing civil cohesion, the normal reading would be to say they are integrating to some extent with non-immigrant groups.

12. Matt Munro

“What, exactly, is the difference between “civic cohesion” and “social cohesion”, just in case anyone believes the one is more crucial than the other?”

Civic = local, or in leftie speak, “community”

Social = whole of society

Neither is any of the governments business

13. George W Potter

“liberal middle class” – this always amuses me given that something like 70 – 80% of the press is right wing. If that’s liberal then I’d hate to see what he thinks conservative is.

Perhaps feeling sufficient loyalty to your fellow citizens, to the extent of, say, not blowing them up.

Well that will really make them feel included won’t it! You’ve set the bar so high of course people aren’t going to feel suspicious of each other. I hope they never put you in charge of cohesion cjcjc.

15. Sarah Ditum

Flowerpower, you’re right and I’ve made an error – I’ll ask Sunny to correct it.

On the other hand, it’s ameliorated by the OED:

“civic (adj) […] 2 of or proper to citizens”

“civil (adj) 1 of or belonging to citizens”

Given that I’ve already called Blond a (in my opinion, of course, libel lawyers!) a fascist I doubt that those are really think tank jobs that I should be going for.

His entire shtick seems to be Belloc’s and chesterton’s “Distributionism” which itself was a Catholic near copy of Mussolini. You could interchange pretty much any Blond speech or proposal with something from Franco or Salazar and not really notice the difference.

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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why does Phillip Blond see civil cohesion as a security issue? http://bit.ly/aDF1Ym

  2. Sarah Ditum

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