Is Britain broken and if so how do we fix it?

September 29, 2009

handcuffsMy Dad is always telling me about the good old days.

Born in Liverpool — a stone’s throw from the football ground Anfield — he grew up in a house that had an outside toilet and was freezing cold. His mother regularly bought food on tick and his idea of a good day out was a trip to New Brighton beach with a banana sandwich to eat for lunch. A Catholic, he suffered sectarian abuse on his way to school, where he was regularly beaten by the teachers. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Listening to our politicians – be they from the left or right – things haven’t got much better. By the sound of it, you’d have thought we were living in some post apocalyptic Terminator-like nightmare, where courts do little else but dish out Asbos — anti-social behaviour orders — to our feckless youth.

The suicide of Fiona Pilkington, 38, who killed herself and her daughter after years of abuse on their estate has brought Britain’s social problems sharply into focus.

“We will not stand by and see the lives of the lawful majority disrupted by the behaviour of the lawless minority,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to tell the Labour party conference on Tuesday.

“Because the decent, hard working majority are getting ever more angry – rightly so – with the minority who who will talk about their rights but never accept their responsibilities.”

At the other of the spectrum is the financial sector — swollen beyond its socially useful size, according to Lord Adair Turner, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority — fiddling while Rome burns.

Is Britain’s society broken and if so what steps need to taken to fix it?


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It’s clearly not broken – saying something is “broken” implies that it is simple enough to understand how it works (clearly not true of a human society), and that that is a single act which can repair it (also clearly not true of society). This of course is why oppositions have always been fatally drawn to that accusation like moths to a candle!

But people do have unrealistic and asymmetric expectations – whether you look at the school run, or where children play, or what to do about litter, or when to intervene with at-risk families, most of us expect higher standards of everyone around us than we are willing to live up to ourselves.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

The article is quite right in pointing out just how much has changed in just one generation. As a soon-to-be 50 year old I played in the streets as a kid and walked to school sans parents from the age of 5 – now children have to be driven by over-protective parents driven partly by the media frenzy over the occasional incident.

We did not get our first family car until I was 10, now kids expect a car as soon as they are 17. We’ve become obsessed with stuff, posessions we don’t need, but think we do because the marketing people tell us so.

I think it is clear that the majority of people as less satisfied with life in the UK than they were 10 years ago. I think this is down to how normal people feel under siege from everyone – from criminals, from the government (speeding fines, complicated tax returns, taxes on everything, no help when you really need it), Education (how do we choose a good school – we shouldn’t have to – they should all be good), health (1 in 6 diagnoses wrong, doctors dont have time to care) … The list goes on.

Life has got too complicated, and its all for the worse! Give me a banana sandwich anyday!

Posted by Stephen Ellwood | Report as abusive

I agree with Stephen. I too, as a child, used to make my own way home from school, I used to get a lift there as it was on Dads way to work.

Nowadays this country seems full of foul mouthed ignorant and ill mannered ‘people’ who do not care what they do as long as they get their way. Taxes are remarkably high overall, government (they do not deserve a capital G) are in total disconnect with the people they are supposed to serve and there is a feeling of oppression as the ordinary decent person is unable to make a stand without being taken to task for it.

Education fails our children (I feel it has mine), healthcare is more about churning through the numbers, crime prevention and punishment is about giving the criminal an easy time and no one seems to have any idea on how to solve the problems.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

Forest Gump said it best when he said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…” everyone is so caught up in what they aren’t getting and thinking about what they could be getting rather than appreciating what they have compared to the rest of the world.

We are a leading world economy that has basically overspent itself into economic recession, while the few remain getting rich off the fat of the land, everyone in between will have to reform their spending habits to get by or go bust from banks billing them for everything that they couldn’t afford in the first place when they hit the red. Our young are discouraged from working because they think they are only slightly worse off on income related benefits than starting from the bottom in a company/industry and ambitiously working their way up; but who is to decry what is a faulted system where you are rewarded by the state for doing nothing; but should you wish to go to university you will end up indebted to the hilt for wanting to better yourself…proxy is merely a matter of opinion though and one government can swing and shift the attitude of a nation by emphasizing rewards to good hard work and encouraging people to better themselves which in turn enhances and betters the country as a whole.

Therefore to say the country is broken is to simplify even the few permutations I have mentioned and try to have a conclusion for everything all at once. Society is an unknown quantity in which you never know how people’s upbringing, education and well being will influence their life but the overall impact of what the government does to run the country affects change on a grand scale and therefore encouraging and rewarding society to better itself through hard working and positive contributions to communities will benefit all in the long term. Ergo, don’t fix the people fix the people running the country if you want to simplify it so!

Posted by Matthew Evans | Report as abusive

The fundamental problem is the glaring disconnect between the various political parties, individual politicians and their electorate.

Politics no longer serves any purpose as a worthwhile forum of expression and debate for the wants, needs and aspirations of the populance as a whole following the wholesale jettisoning of core principles and beliefs by all the major political groupings over the past fifteen or so years and their subsequent adoptation of a common populist/centralist policy doctrine.

To put it quite simply, there is no longer any choice in mainstream british politics today, as the parties are basically indistinguishable from one another in word, deed and action.

Posted by ninnystate | Report as abusive