Thursday, 29 November 2007

My Toe nail has been ripped off my left big toe, and I cannot walk properly.

Two large quotes from the Spectator.
Quote One:

Labour’s failure to turn this into social cohesion is their biggest failure, and the Conservatives biggest opportunity. This is the “broken society” agenda – Cameron’s most powerful weapon. And Brown will never follow this, because he will never accept British society is broken.

Quote two:

A combination of the Thatcher reforms and the decade-long Blair–Brown duumvirate has achieved what was once deemed impossible: Britain has stopped declining. The British economy might not be quite the modern miracle Gordon Brown claims, but it is no longer the basket case it once was. It is part of our new Prime Minister’s claim to the top job that he deserves much of the credit for this. But his first lesson in the hot seat is likely to be that there is no gratitude in politics: the British now take for granted that they no longer have a Broken Economy; they are much more exercised about the Broken Society.

During the Blair–Brown decade social concerns — what kind of society we have become — have gradually replaced economic worries. People fear that we have become an increasingly fragmented, boorish, more violent society. The new barbarism of the Broken Society stalks not just the dilapidated parts of our inner cities but the high streets of once placid market towns.

Of course, the social trends which are now defining us started long before Mr Blair entered Downing Street; but they have grown worse under his watch. Violent crime has doubled during his decade. Gun crime has soared: in parts of our inner cities it is almost as ubiquitous as it is in America’s ghettoes. In some areas of criminal endeavour we’ve even overtaken America: you are now much more likely to be mugged or burgled in London than New York, a remarkable reversal of fortune on 20 years ago.

Britain may or may not be blighted by a feral media but many people are in no doubt, as this week’s survey from Barnardo’s reveals, that we are blighted by a feral youth, often financed and fuelled by drugs, which is out of control and beyond the law. Every day brings fresh horror stories from the frontline of the Broken Society: teenagers are shot in their beds in gangland tit-for-tat killings; a youth is chased through the streets of West London by a gang of 14-year-olds shouting ‘Kill him, kill him’ — which they do when they catch him, with a stab to the heart. This week another schoolboy was murdered in a pre-arranged mass gang brawl in Beckenham: he was beaten to a pulp with chains and baseball bats, then stabbed in the back.

Britain is now living with the consequences of allowing an underclass to take root and fester. When, as editor of the Sunday Times, I tried to highlight what was happening 20 years ago, nobody wanted to know: the Right said there was no such thing as an underclass, the Left that it was just the poorest part of the working class. Both were wrong.

That the underclass exists cannot now be doubted by those with eyes to see, though some fashionable opinion-formers still try to wish it away. Nor is it necessarily poor: quite often the underclass is reasonably cash-rich, thanks to welfare benefits, crime and the black economy; but it is increasingly severed, in attitude and cultural values, from the rest of society. And (another popular misconception) it has very little in common with even the most deprived of the old working class: the underclass does not form brass bands, go to night school or strive to find the best state schools for their children.

So far our response to a growing underclass has been containment: it has been herded into reservations we call sink estates, where the rest of us hope it will stay out of sight and out of mind. Its members speak their own variants of English (now well enough recognised for comedians to mock), wear their own style of clothes (which middle-class kids sometimes copy) and have no respect for the police or the laws that bind the rest of us. Nor do they have much regard for the world of work or educational achievement: traditional values such as thrift, endeavour and marriage are alien.

Most children of the underclass are born out of wedlock; relationships are fleeting and unstable (which ensures that what is born into the underclass stays in the underclass). This is a world in which there are almost no worthwhile male role models, which is a disaster when boys turn to youths. Single mums struggle to cope as best they can — and usually lose control of their kids, especially if they are boys, when they become teenagers. With sad, depressing predictability, the children of today’s underclass become tomorrow’s criminals and dropouts.

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