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OLIVER LETWIN MP: The hidden networks of our society
10:00am Saturday 28th September 2013 in News
SOME years back, Peter Hennessy wrote a rather interesting book called The Hidden Wiring.
This book describes the features of the British constitution that don’t feature in any formal account of it, but which have an enormous impact on the way government in the UK really works.
I think, however, that the “hidden wiring” of Whitehall is just one of the many examples of the hidden networks that sustain our economy and our society. The extent and proliferation of such networks is one of the most remarkable things about our country. Many of them have origins deep in our history.
Almost all are sustained by armies of volunteers. And many of them provide support of a kind that one couldn’t easily invent if one were starting from scratch.
Some of these networks, of course, fulfil a social purpose that makes them familiar – the RNLI is a classic case in point, not least because one sees their lifeboats at places like Lyme Regis and because one sees them raising money to fund those lifeboats.
But others really are entirely invisible to the great majority of people in this country. And yet they do enormously important work. I was struck by this once again when I addressed the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
I would take quite a large bet that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Dorchester have never had any kind of contact with the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce – and I really wonder whether most of the readers of this column could honestly say that they know what the Chamber does.
But the fact is that it brings together the businesses of the Dorchester area and provides them with many kinds of practical help without which we would all be considerably worse off.
The wiring is hidden but it’s there, nonetheless.
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