Browne catalogues the plethora of ills that remove all doubt in any sane person's mind that ours is indeed a broken society. Gordon Brown's denial, as much to himself as to the nation, that there's anything wrong at all with the UK is exposed as dangerous delusion. The rise of violent crime, of family and community breakdown, the loss of morality, the bleeding away of social capital and the atomisation of our nation are all ruthlessly catalogued by Browne. One paragraph has been picked up by the papers in useful summary:
Perhaps most corrosive of all is the welfare culture, from the benefits system to social housing. It exists for a very good reason – to fight destitution – but it has unfortunately led to mass dependency, with people expecting the state to look after them, rather than state support being a last-resort safety net. This debilitating dependency mentality trickles down the generations, with children failing to learn the benefits of being financially self-sufficient from their parents.It's not hard to correlate this social corrosion with the inexorable rise of the central State over the last thirty years, the neutering of local and intermediate institutions, the explosion in the number of children growing up without their biological fathers, the pernicious 'rights' culture.
Social housing, although very necessary, all too often becomes a trap discouraging social mobility. Incapacity benefit gives a financial reward to people for thinking of themselves, and persuading others, that they are unwell, rather than encouraging them to do their best
At the same time Direct Democracy launched Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell's 'The Plan' (HT Conservativehome), the latest in a series of publications taking Localism forward. Direct Democracy's policy manifesto is:
I - Decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect
II - Decision-makers should be directly elected
III - Citizens should be as free as possible from State coercion
IV - Local authorities should be self-financing
V - Policing should be brought under local democratic control
VI - The State should fund, rather than administer, education
VII - The State should fund, rather than administer, healthcare
VIII - Taxes should be simple, fair, transparent, efficient, competitive and low
IX - The supremacy of Parliament should be guaranteed over ministers, judges, officials and foreign treaty obligations
X - Candidates for public office should be selected from the widest possible base
In fact, the coincident publication dates could not have been more fortuitous; Browne catalogues the many problems the nation faces, Hannan and Carswell propose the solutions that would go a very long way to tackling them.
Gordon Brown's inane posturing, empty rhetoric and clumsy empathy may sound good to a few comrades, but I think the country knows in its heart that it's Direct Democracy's Local Britain, not Labour's Leviathan central State, that we need right now.