Broken Britain or a broken record?

Is the phrase ‘Broken Britain’ really accurate, asks Edward Paton-Williams LATELY, newspaper headlines have announced that we live in ‘Broken Britain

Can society be 'broken'? Photo: Claire Veale

Is the phrase 'Broken Britain' really accurate, asks Edward Paton-Williams

LATELY, newspaper headlines have announced that we live in 'Broken Britain.' David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, regularly refers to British society as 'broken', and it seems Cameron, coupled with media moguls, have found a ready audience. A recent debate on Question Time was dominated by the topic of Britain's broken society, with one audience member saying she couldn't recognise it from the place in which she grew up. A Populus poll showed 70 per cent of participants agreed with the statement, but I still find myself questioning what is meant exactly by 'Broken Britain'? Is this vague phrase anything more than just a catchy slogan, playing on the public's fears, or is there some truth within it?

Since Cameron became the Conservative leader, he has developed an argument based on the idea of a society broken down. For Cameron, there are many symptoms of 'Broken Britain': family breakdown, welfare dependency, poverty, poor policing, inadequate housing, failing schools and a loss of personal and social responsibility.
Recent Telegraph and Daily Mail articles have used the phrase in articles on falling marriage rates, a case of child-on-child torture and a report on growing childhood unhappiness. But it is not just in right-wing press that Britain has been referred to as 'broken.' A recent piece in The Guardian agrees that Britain's society is indeed in pieces. It argues our current society is the slow-burning legacy of the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s. Furthermore their policies increased inequalities amongst Britons, leading to a weakening of social fabric.

Headlines such as 'Britain may be too broken for anyone to fix' and 'Cam's cure for broken Britain' certainly portray journalistic negativity. But is British society really in such a bad state as to call it broken? Lots of evidence points to a more optimistic outlook.

Claims that high levels of violent crime are breaking Britain are not supported by the data. According to the British Crime Survey, the number of victims of violent crime has dropped consistently, since a peak of around 2.5 million and 4 million cases in 1995, to around 1 million and 2 million cases in 2009.
Murder rates reached their lowest levels since 1980 in 2009, and under-16s convicted of serious offences has dropped by at least a third in the last 20 years.

70 per cent of people who agreed that 'society is broken' is based on high levels of crime, poor schooling, and policing in local areas. It seems more likely that conceptions surrounding 'Broken Britain' stems from outdated views on the family, immigration, education and morality.

Substantial policies are rarely made by referring to the golden age of any society. These merely obscure serious issues of class, gender and racial inequalities which exist today. These disparities do not necessarily mean that Britain is 'broken', but perhaps it is not filled with as much fairness as it should be. If political parties are indeed dedicated to achieving a country built on these equalities, they could perhaps rebuild society and reverse such opinions that it is broken.

Edward Paton-Williams

(@edpw)



Published

19th February 2010 at 9:05 am



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