Remember the four Cs - Clients, Customers, Consumers and Citizens. In each case the power relationship between providers and providees varies, and of course this changes over time. When I first opened a bank account I was a Client, but now I'm just a Customer, verging on Consumer. To a shop that knows me I'm a Customer but to Tesco I'm a Consumer, my preferences merged with ten million others to determine with what the shelves are stocked. Now only old fashioned solicitors and stockbrokers have Clients. But what of the Big C - my status as a Citizen?
Sadly, it's nowhere to be found in Cameron's article for the Telegraph today. In a lengthy piece he catalogues further extensions of consumer 'rights' to rationed public services; you can choose which health authority refuses to prescribe you a banned cancer drug, choose which school rejects your child. Cameron will work with consumer organisations, he says, 'to enable them to champion and enforce choice and competition in public services' - Which? Heart Surgeon, perhaps, or Which? Copper ('We rate them on handcuff care, fluency in cautioning and interrogation skills'). It is perhaps wholly appropriate that when the major political parties have morphed from mass membership organisations to consumer brands themselves - Cameron's Coke vs Miliband's Pepsi, with Clegg's Virgin Cola on the outside - that Cameron sees the world as a consumerist construct. Cameron isn't 'tearing down the big State' as he so boldly claims, he's turning it into Tesco.