Monday, August 15, 2011

Will David Cameron Act?

This crisis has been building for years. It is the result of a major cultural shift that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, and the long-term decline of the conservative values and institutions that had underpinned British society since the late 19th century. This process was marked by a collapse in the belief in marriage, a retreat of the police from the streets, a move away from tough penalties for property crime, the rise of moral relativism and rampant consumerism, the diminution of stigma as a restraint on bad behaviour and the entrenchment of welfare dependency. 

It was not about poverty, but a collapse in values. 

Today, the benefits system sustains the underclass and poor state schooling is unable to compensate for the harm caused by broken homes and absent fathers. Inadequate policing cannot suppress the symptoms of crime and disorder. These communities are trapped in a vicious circle, where violence, crime, intimidation and hopelessness are quotidian. It is a world from which most of us are insulated until it spills into the wider community, as it did so nightmarishly this week...

What Mr Cameron must now do is unambiguously pursue the remedies that have been available for years, but which successive governments have been too frightened to adopt for fear of offending a vocal progressive minority which no longer has any credibility. These include a tough policy on welfare, whereby recipients accept a job or lose their benefits; police reforms to ensure proper democratic accountability and the imposition of the order that communities need to see on their streets if anything is to improve; and an overhaul of schools to offer an opportunity denied to so many children in the sink estates. None of these ideas will be sufficient on its own, but taken together they might at least begin to undo the damage of the past 40 years.

(The editors of the Telegraph)