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Thursday, 28 January 2010

"Only connect ..."

From Chris Blackhurst in tonight's Standard (normally the City comment, but..):
The evidence is laid bare in clinical detail that Britain's is indeed a broken society, as David Cameron never ceases telling us. But his own creed of putting faith in marriage, and of localised “bottom up” solutions to the nation's social ills, also smacks of massaging. Plus, as the National Equality Panel makes clear, the seeds for much of the inequality we're experiencing now were laid between the late Seventies and early Nineties, much of it during the years of Tory rule.

What changed in that period? It's when Britain underwent a profound shift. Grammar schools were abolished and the lowest-common denominator was made to prevail. I went to a grammar school and recall how we were taught, how the teachers struggled and succeeded, even on limited resources, to provide us (many of whom came from poor backgrounds) with the same education as a fee-paying school.

The pursuit of academic excellence was one of the nation's pillars. Others were community and mutuality. And industry. The language of the City came to the fore. We had privatisations, the share-owning democracy, the disappearance of building societies, council house sales and 1986's Big Bang in the City. New Labour picked up the baton so that every school and hospital must be given a place in a league table, civil servants receive bonuses, and private companies are encouraged to operate public services.

We're now stuck with a nation that is little more than a collection of retail parks, industrial heritage sites and housing estates. I get the same feeling going to parts of Britain that I got on holiday in Greece last year: I don't know what the locals do.

We've handed out welfare like never before, encouraged more pupils go to university (when in the past many of them would have begun apprentice schemes, now being hastily restarted), squandered the profits of North Sea oil, borrowed like mad and relied on a booming — and as is now obvious, deeply flawed — financial sector.

The result is a society that has stalled, that continues to produce inequalities which the panel that compiled the report find “shocking”. Things can only get better, we were promised. They did, but only for a few.

As frequently repeated on this blog, 1979 marked the start of the carcinoma-like growth of the Central State and the start of the destruction of local institutions. The year also saw the start of a boom in bastardy and a loss of moral standards that has continued unabated. It saw the start of a process under which parties ceased to be mass membership organisations and became national consumer brands; the Conservative Party lost well over a million members between 1979 and 1997. 1979 was the birth-year of the modern Leviathan State, started under Thatcher and built to fruition by Blair and Brown.

Does it not occur to anyone else that a mass devolution of power, the reform of our cesspit of politics and corrupt parties, the restitution of the authority of local institutions and a radical diminution of the presence of the State in our lives might do something to reverse the sick nation we've become? Just me, then?


Blue Eyes said...

1979 was not the start. Heath did a lot of nationalising from local institutions and did a local government reform.

Michael said...

The loss of moral standards began well before 1979, and reached its apotheosis with the 'social revolution' of '68 - the remnants of which are still working their way through the system.

Problem is, there appears to be little genuine appetite to confront the issue in any sort of honest manner - on either side of the political divide

Spent Copper said...

All very pertinant and to the point Raedwald. In fairness though, I think Douglas Carswell has been articulating the same thoughts for quite a time now.

Budgie said...

Of all the post WW2 leaders Thatcher was the least to blame. Thatcher had the mammoth task of confronting the politicised unions, manipulated by the USSR. That, and dealing with the appalling financial legacy of the 1970s, took nearly all her efforts. Nor was industry wiped out, for in 1997 manufacturing accounted for 20% of GDP, compared with 12% now after 13 years of Labour.

Education was largely continued as Labour had left it, riddled with 'trendy' educators. Political correctness, the permissive society, a simple reaction to the straitjacket of the nose to the grindstone post WW2 years, the pill, feminism and socialist centralisation all played their part.

But I think the over arching problem is the loss of belief in a single powerful Christian God. I know this is deeply unfashionable to say so, and I feel I am a hypocrite because I am not a believer. "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything." GK Chesterton. Hence we are suckers for 'celebs', scares' hoaxes, cults, or indeed any thing that appears to offer us certainty in an uncertain world.

The Great Simpleton said...

The other thing that Thatcher had to battle against was "loony left" councils. The ones that wouldn't let police enter schools under any circumstances. The ones who fought her reforms tooth and nail.

This was one of the main drivers of her centralisation and creation of the leviathan state. Does it excuse it? In hindsight probably not, but it does help to explain it.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

What the Great Simpleton said.

Maggie had to establish strong central controls otherwise the loonies in Local Government - especially in the LEA's - would have undone or prevented her necessary reforms.

The tragedy is that she never really got to grips with the LEA's, or the Teacher Training Colleges, so that the poisons they spread are with us yet, with results we see all about us.

Over-centralisation was a fault, but an understandable one.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

As to your last Para, Radders, it's not just you.

My fear is that so many people have become so infantilised by State dependency that they will panic if offered any alternative.

After all these years of Leviathan we have a serious lack of people interesed in, and capable of, taking on such roles.

People I know who could, would run a mile rather than get involved in "politics", which is now so demeaned by the stink of party corruption, cronyism, Blair, etc, that they want nothing to do with it.