Cameron shamelessly exploits crime for political gain


8:30 am - January 22nd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Press Association today reports:

Tory leader David Cameron will warn that Britain is in a “social recession” even deeper than its economic one as he steps up pre-election campaigning. And the Tory leader will point to the torture of two young boys as an extreme symptom of what he dubs Labour’s “moral failure” as he launches a raft of social policies.

“When parents are rewarded for splitting up, when professionals are told that it’s better to follow rules than do what they think is best, when single parents find they take home less for working more, when young people learn that it pays not to get a job, when the kind-hearted are discouraged from doing good in their community, is it any wonder our society is broken? We can’t go on like this.”

Mr Cameron will point to the brutal attack on the nine and 11-year-old boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire, by brothers aged 10 and 11 to reinforce his case.

It’s beggars belief that Cameron thinks it is right for a party leader to shamelessly exploit such a brutal crime so he can simply take cheap political swipes. Does he plan to strengthen legislation and provision for domestic violence? Nope, nothing about that in here.

Perhaps he is advocating that every single family in the country is placed under supervision so nothing like this could ever happen? It’s a possibility but the details of any policies are still vague.

Oh wait, the murder of Jamie Bulger took place under a Conservative government. Perhaps that was the start of this “social recession”? I suppose under a Tory government there will no violent crime ever. Right?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Crime ,Media ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Poor choice mentioning Bulger given Blair exploited that.

‘Poor choice mentioning Bulger given Blair exploited that.’

Yes. That was wrong then; this is wrong now.

Don’t see any reason for not criticising Cameron on the basis Blair would have done the same.

Not many round here defending Blair, nor New Labour’s headline-chasing of its own. Anyone remember John Reid spinning to the NotW he was about to launch a paedo list you could pop into your local library an scan through?

Yes Sunny, because Labour have never ever ever ever jumped on a single news story and used it to justify the introduction of new policies.

*roll eyes*

Letters from a Tory,

*rolls eyes*

As I will certainly not be voting for New Labour nor the Conservatives, you apologia for one of them and not the other cuts no ice. Same for the somewhat strange dizzytthinks, when neither of you obviously can.

This is a strange ‘race you to the political bottom’ that you are both indulging in.

Remind me again which politician famously said he would be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”

On tonight’s news at ten: a politician makes political capital, and Sunny Hundal has shocking revelations about the shitting habits of bears.

So Martin Coxall,

Do you like your politics reduced to that level? I think we should be told.

What’s party political about this? Cameron is just wrong to do it, as any politician of any persuasion would be.

Using exceptional and appalling crimes to further your myopic political aims is dangerous and sinister, no matter who you are.

We have a population of 60 million; it is impossible to legislate to prevent murderous irrationality, we are just statistically fortunate that it doesn’t happen more often.

It would be very convenient for a pro-Labour website (yes it is) to urge the Conservatives to never use human experiences in campaigning, instead limiting themselves to obtuse philosophical arguments which, also conveniently, make them seem “out of touch”. And there it is.

Louis,

Och, Tories are completely pathetic. I don’t think any of them have had an original idea in their lives.

It is the Tories version of a ratchet effect on thee and me:

Tory leader David Cameron will warn that Britain is in a “social recession” even deeper than its economic one as he steps up pre-election campaigning. And the Tory leader will point to the torture of two young boys as an extreme symptom of what he dubs Labour’s “moral failure” as he launches a raft of social policies.

What a toff! You just know he is going to introduce legislation that spectacularily ends up misused.

There are existing laws against torture and child cruelty. What more does he want? Perhaps we could have privatisation of Social Services? What a difference that would make.

Politicians can be really annoying sometimes.

Edward,

Laws or strategies made on the back of events are usually rubbish. You’ll be telling me next that politicians are good social commentators!

You don’t get it do you?

Labour’s moral failure – the hollowing out and relativization of ethics and their replacement with airy fairy ‘values’ – is going to be one of the more significant dividing lines of this election.

Culture war; not class war.

@Flowerpower

You genuinely believe that people that disagree with your narrow definition of ‘ethics’ are immoral?

You’re right. I’ll fight monsters like you on the beaches.

@1, @3
Like I remarked before, the Tories’ blind faith is almost touching.

Anything as long as they stand by the Leader Maximo, right?

The debate on the left may at times look grotesque and unnecessary, but jesus, give me that anytime over unquestioned glaze-eyed Jonestown-like obedience.

It’s noteworthy how so many of these terrible crimes take place in parts of the UK that were abandoned by the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s because they had the temerity not to be Tory voting. Cameron puts a lot of emphasis on lack of parental responsibility. And I am forced to ask myself when were today’s parents going through school? When were they growing up? What did they see and experience that made them so unable to look after their own kids?

I’ll just do all the trolls a favour, and summarise what they mean below. Then they can all copy and paste this into their own comments ad infinitum.

Whatabout! Whatabout! Whatabout!

Labour did it too! Two wrongs make a right! Let’s not talk about the actual issue at hand!

Fuck me, another first rate philosopher lost to the academy:

“You don’t get it do you?

Labour’s moral failure – the hollowing out and relativization of ethics and their replacement with airy fairy ‘values’ – is going to be one of the more significant dividing lines of this election.”

Holy shit, Flowerpot – where did you get your degree in advanced ethics? Shouldn’t you be publishing this in an academic journal somewhere? The coherence and depth of your insight is truly unrivaled.

Laws or strategies made on the back of events are usually rubbish.

You’re not telling me he is going to try to ban the torture and mutilation of young children if he’s elected?

To try to make political capital from such horrific (though thankfully very rare) events diminishes the suffering of those involved and insults the intelligence of the electorate. Cameron doesn’t need to roll around in the gutter but it seems he is utterly determined prove that he lacks all human decency and convince us beyond doubt what a power hungry tosser he really is.

Oh yeah. Like Tony Blair.

Looks like a pretty ridiculous stance to me (Cameron’s). Only bad legislation comes from this.

“Will no violent crime ever?” Will be, or was, Sunny?

…besides I wonder how the usual lazy, self-righteous Tory finger wagging would have prevented this crime?

Answer: it wouldn’t.

It’s beggars belief that Cameron thinks it is right for a party leader to shamelessly exploit such a brutal crime so he can simply take cheap political swipes. Does he plan to strengthen legislation and provision for domestic violence? Nope, nothing about that in here.

I’m not sure I understand the outrage on this. As a way they function, political parties use contemporary events as illustrative examples of the problems they are trying to identify. I agree that whataboutery is often nothing more than tu quoque, but in this instance it’s nothing more than stating the blindingly obvious that almost all political campaigns use (exploit/take advantage of/whatever) real examples to give immediacy to their message.

This is true for Jennifer’s Ear, for Dunblane, for Jamie Bulger – you take an issue that you’re campaigning on, the NHS, gun control or ‘society’, and to give your policy resonance you link it to a story.

In this case the narrative that the Tories are looking to push is that there has been a social breakdown in Britain – broken families, chronic worklessness and welfare dependency, lack of community engagement and so on. And this case in particular touches on almost all those points. It’s just part and parcel of being an opposition party.

D-Cam is forgetting that Harold Shipman killed the majority of his victims under Thatcher and Major and pretty much stopped once New Labour got in…

Thus using D-Cam’s powers of political thinking, Blair stopped the killing of old ladies and Tories make Doctors kill folk.

Harsh but fair but as all my grandparents are dead I suppose I have nowt to fear by voting Conservative?

And Tim, I don’t think it is so much outrage at the using of a terrible game for political gain but the worrying idea that Cameron actually believes that government’s are to blame for such actions.

Surely he doesn’t and is just making yet another bad policy gaff?

Bleating.

That’s all LibCon does nowadays. BLEAT BLEAT BLEAT.

<i<In this case the narrative that the Tories are looking to push is that there has been a social breakdown in Britain – broken families, chronic worklessness and welfare dependency, lack of community engagement and so on.

Still a bit of a jump from lack of community engagment to torturing children!!!

Sorry Tim, but Cameron’s behaviour is not excusable.

26 – It’s an illustration, not the entire story.

In exactly the same way, the Government (and the left in general) have used individual aspects of the financial crisis to make wider points about the economy. Fred Goodwin’s pension – it has almost no relevance to the banking sector really, but it illustrates it perfectly.

The argument that politicians mustn’t mention topical stories because it’s tasteless seems a bit naive really. And the charge that an opposition is ‘politicising’ such an event is a hardy perennial. Watch the Tories do it in a few months time. It’s what they said to Labour over Dunblane, Bulger and numerous other things. It’s what Labour have said to the Tories over Baby P, and now this. The situations are effectively identical, and all that changes are who is in Government and who in opposition.

Woe woe, isn’t politics nasty. Yes. Yes it is.

Martin Coxall, the twitter troll.

@25 Martin.
Fine. So why do you keep calling round?

BTW…see what does Concerned Cameron has to say about this? One of his top MPs repeatedly slamming Cadbury’s workers as “whingeing”

The mask’s slipped so far below it’s reached the bollocks area.

Sunny – You’re ranting about “the rights'” perceived position, but what’s yours ? An army of left wing “professionals” – paid out of the public purse – badly failed 2 and arguably 4 children here, and not for the first time. Whether it’s symptomatic of a wider social mailaise is debatable, but to suggest that a government which tries to micro-manage every aspect of social life has no responsibility or that oposition politicians shouldn’t opine about it, is ludicrous. The left at the time did exactly the same with the Buldger case

Matt – how do you know the professionals involved in the case were left wing? Or is it just that all social workers and similar are lefties?

@31
And probably foreign as well.

33. Shatterface

What distinguishes exceptional crimes from other crimes is that they are, uh, exceptional. There isn’t really anything so be learnt here at the level of society any more than there was in the Bulger case – but I bet we’ll have Keith Vaz swiftly jumping on the bandwaggon calling for something or other to be banned.

34. astateofdenmark

Tony Blair (1994) on the Bulger Case:

”These are the ugly manifestations of a society that is becoming unworthy of that name”

David Cameron (2010) on the Erdlington Cas:

”is it any wonder our society is broken? We can’t go on like this.”’

And the difference is?

@ 31 – How many conservative social workers have you met ?

36. Shatterface

‘And the difference is?’

In 1994 things could only get better?

37. the a&e charge nurse

D-Cam is not the first to raise the issue professionals being told that “it’s better to follow rules than do what they think is best” – personally I think this is a very important point given the top down culture that permeates NuLab’s stewardship of the public services (see recurring theme’s evident on health, education, police blogs).

Certainly the standards provided by Doncaster Social Services have been heavily criticised (and not just for this case)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6133215/Authorities-face-questions-over-schoolboy-torture-attack.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/8459938.stm

I wonder if the Edlington social workers were generally bogged down by red tape, targets and a slavish commitment to ‘procedure’ to fully recognise the needs of the two damaged children they were responsible for?

38. astateofdenmark

36

No, he wasn’t leader just yet, so we had to wait a bit for our saviour to declare sunny uplands ahead.

If Doncaster social services had removed the culprits before the event, the likes of Matt Munro would be on here using it as an example of the nanny state stealing kids from their parents.

As usual social services fail once and get crucified. The media fail to report the thousands of other cases where they make the correct decision. After baby P the media witch hunt lead to social work vacancies going unfilled accross the UK, and same will probably happen again again here. The witch hunt of the tabloids puts children at risk.

“what’s yours ? An army of left wing “professionals” – paid out of the public purse ”

Because of course the free market would have provided us with a solution….

Here’s an idea; fund social services properly, invest in training staff and support them in their decisions.

Oh…and the reason there are very few social workers who are conservatives is the same reason why there are few carers for the disabled who are also conservatives – empathy and patience are basic requirements for the job. A conservative social worker would have probably told the father of the kids involved to carry on beating the shit out them with a golf club as it would enforce discipline.

So the shorter Tory argument is…

“But he started it…” [points at Blair]

40 – and the shorter Labour argument is…

“It’s not faaaiirr!” [stamps foot].

Politics is an edifying pastime.

40 – and the shorter Labour argument is…

So in other words you people are now reduced to copying New Labour tactics. Well done. I thought we were going to get ‘change’. We just get a more stupid Blair clone.

42 – hardly more stupid. Blair got a poor second, Cameron a good first. And remember, every time a Tory MP defected to Labour the average IQ of both parties rose…

@ 31 – How many conservative social workers have you met ?

that’s because they live in the real world.

Cameron uses Edlington to point out the failures of ‘big government’ and his answer to the failure of social services to intervene earlier is…to demand smaller government and a shrunken public sector. Somehow I don’t think the report on Doncaster social services is going to support such an idea.

46. Left Not Liberal

Other news reported today

“Murder rate at lowest for 20 years

“The murder rate in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years, with 648 homicides recorded in 2008/09 – 136 fewer than the year before. Home Office statisticians said the drop was “not a blip”.

“The reduction in the homicide rate, which includes murder, manslaughter and infanticide, means the annual total of 648 is now close to the 1979 figure of 629. Attempted murders also fell by 7% last year.

“Overall violent crime was reported to have remained stable by the BCS and fell by 6% on the police figures. Violence against the person involving injury fell by 7% to 421,000 incidents.

“There was a significant further fall in gun crime with the number of incidents involving a firearm down by 17% to 8,184. The number of fatal shootings fell from 53 to 38.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jul/16/crime-figures-recession-impact

Welcum 2 browken Briton! Is this wot eye paye teh taxman four?!!?1!

45 Redpesto – No I’m sure the report will say (again) that socilal workers need more money, more training and that agencies need to co-operate more effectively. Which is pretty much what such reports always say. It’s obvious that there is somethig deeply wrong with the way social workers are trained. It’s pretty much a PHd in political correctness, moral relativism and non-judgemntalism. Thay are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

@ 31 – Not my real world, or yours. I somehow get the impression you didn’t grow up on a sink estate and go to the local gasworks comp, comrade.

@ 39 Actually 70% of social work interventions are innefective. They get it wrong more often than they get it right.

“A conservative social worker would have probably told the father of the kids involved to carry on beating the shit out them with a golf club as it would enforce discipline”.

I’ll tell you what he/she wouldn’t have done, carried on “supporting” a social car crash of a mother and her deeply dysfunctional “family”.

“Society” is a favourite meme of David Cameron as even serial Conservative pundits have noted – see this reminder by Dominic Lawson:

“At some point in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference next week, David Cameron will say the following:

‘We do think there is such a thing as society. We just don’t think that it’s the same thing as the state.’ This has not been leaked to me. I speak with no authority other than the observation that the Tory leader recites these words at every opportunity, no matter how obscure the occasion.'” [The Independent, 26 September 2006]
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/dominic-lawson/dominic-lawson-there-is-no-such-thing-as-society-so-be-wary-when-politicians-enlist-it-to-their-cause-417970.html

It would appear that Cameron feels impelled at every opportunity to repudiate Mrs T’s once notorious comment:

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the Government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”
http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=106689

Well, I looked into the sociology literature and came up with this illuminating analysis in 1967 by the late Professor WJH Sprott:

“The answer to the first question – ‘What is a society?’ is that it is a figment of the imagination. . . The fact is that in physics and chemistry you start with lumps of matter; you then analyse things into their chemical elements, into different combinations of entities, protons and the like. Far from being directly acquainted with the elements, it is not unknown for philosophers to question the existence of them. Equally nonsensical is it to say that we have a direct acquaintance with society. We do not. We have direct acquaintance only with people interacting, ie the elements of society, in so far as as it exists at all, is constituted. So I say that society is in some sense a figment of imagination. But we do in fact have in our minds models of the society in which we live. You can, if some foreigner asks questions about your society, refer to your model – not a very clear one perhaps; ‘scheme’ would be a better word in use. But you have some sort of model with its political system, economic system, legal system, religious system class system and so on. You have some sort of model in your mind of the society in which you live and, if you go abroad, you prepare a model which you hope will correspond in some sort of way with the society they happen to have.”

[Source: “Society: what is it and how does it change?” from The Educational Implications of Social and Economic Change (HMSO 1967), reprinted in: DF Swift (ed): Basic Readings in the Sociology of Education (Routledge, 1970)]

If so, it seems that Mrs T was more nearly correct that David Cameron.

@51 Bob B
I have always believed in the concept of ‘the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts’ for me that sums up individuals and society. But, of course, physics and chemistry, and even mathematics, cannot represent this in any way. Marx would assert that there is no such thing as an individual, and I believe Burke said as much.
Ultimately, we all probably quote from the evidence/theorists closest to our own views, I believe Thatcher repudiated the existence of society because it got in the way of her dogma regarding individual responsibility. Cameron now uses society in order to point the finger of blame but not at any potential Conservative voters.

“I have always believed in the concept of ‘the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts’ for me that sums up individuals and society.”

The problem is that by this account the Nazis also subscribed to that – as did most totalitarian states:

“The tax department chief of the Association of Industrialists (Reichsgruppe Industrie) emphasized that it was useless to attempt precise comparisons between the new and old tax regulations because the important issue was ‘the new spirit of the reform, the spirit of national Socialism. **The principle of the common good precedes the good of the individual stands above everything else.** ‘”
Avraham Barkai: Nazi Economics (Berg Publisher Ltd (1990)) p.183 – Mr Barkai is a research fellow at the Institute of German History, Tel Aviv.

IMO John Stuart Mill sets out the long British tradition:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”
JS Mill: On Liberty
http://www.utilitarianism.com/ol/one.html

For a comparison between the “negative” (JS Mill) and “positive” concepts of liberty, try this famous essay by Isaiah Berlin: Two Concepts of Liberty:
http://www.nyu.edu/projects/nissenbaum/papers/twoconcepts.pdf

I’m with JS Mill and Professor Sprott – and Mrs T – but not with Cameron or the Nazis.

@53 Bob B
I think it would be very difficult to have a set of beliefs whereby one, if not many, also reflected something which, at some stage, the Nazis believed. This, of course, does not make you a Nazi. Mill actually believed in cooperatism, but this did not make him a communist.
‘The common good’ for me also means ‘the social good’ or the ‘good society’, surely this is what most political parties, in theory at least, are aiming for. ‘The common good also represents the individual good but not necessarily the other way round.

I also meant to mention utilitarianism but pressed ‘comment’ too soon. Utilitarianism is a social theory which places the many before the few or indeed the individual.

“Mill actually believed in cooperatism, but this did not make him a communist.”

Quite so but you evidently have no understanding of Communism.

In the official Soviet ideology in Stalin’s time state farms were regarded as ideologically superior to collective farms, in which the farm land, buildings, livestock and equipment were (theoretically) held in local community ownership.

Try this entry for Fascism in the Oxford Companion to Politics:

“Fascist ideology also included a romantic, an antirational allure, an appeal to the emotions, to a quasi-religious longing for a mystic union of peoples and their prophetic leader. In reaction to a utilitarian liberal state, fascism revived aspirations towards a normative or ethical state. According to this view, the community existed not merely as a practical convenience but in order to fulfil the individual’s ethical and moral potential. How people perceived these themes depended on the eye of the beholder. Conservatives viewed fascism as a bulwark against Bolshevism or as a middle way between worn-out liberal capitalism and the communist horror. Radicals viewed fascism as a genuinely revolutionary ideology that would sweep away discredited ideals and institutions and replace them with a new disciplined and cohesive society.”

@55: “I also meant to mention utilitarianism but pressed ‘comment’ too soon. Utilitarianism is a social theory which places the many before the few or indeed the individual.”

C’mon. Bentham’s utilitarian principle favouring policies for “the greatest good of the greatest number” was intended as a thoroughly democratic notion – namely, a prescription to legislate for policies which benefited the many rather than the few at a time when the franchise for Parliamentary elections was very narrow so Parliament tended to legislate in favour of the interests of those represented in Parliament rather than the majority of the population.

It took Parliament to 1846 to repeal the Corn Laws which were intended to maintain high prices for corn in order to benefit landed interests regardless of the consequences for those who depended on money wages for their living.

JS Mill was a self-avowed utilitarian but wished to set clear limits on the extent to which legislation could justifiably limit individual freedom:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

In other words, individuals should not be forced to comply with some (societal) moral code limiting their actions, providing those actions did not inflict harm on others.

56 57
You are underplaying the importance that Mill placed on society in relation to the individual, in ‘On Liberty’ he writes “Because no-one exists in isolation, harm done to oneself also harms others”
I’m probably being obtuse but I don’t understand what the repeal of the Corn Laws has to do with this discussion, as far as I can remember, they were repealed because of the result of crop failure rather than the pursuit of any ideological belief.
Utilitarianism is meant to be democratic, it is, after all a social theory, and as I have already stated, it would be difficult to hold a set of beliefs that did not somehow overlap with Nazis, and indeed fascists. And, referring to my original post, both Marx and Burke rejected the notion of ‘the individual’ but there are few people who would suggest that they held similar political beliefs.
Returning to Mill and the point about communism, like Marx, Mill also did not like the relations between capitalist and worker, this view is then associated with two opposing ideologies.
You can pick out any number of elements from any political ideology to support your own view (I include myself ), but there are many compelling studies which indicate that there is a strong social element to behaviour

I

59. Chris Baldwin

Cameron must know that there isn’t even tiny particle of truth in his “broken society” claptrap. What a cynical game to play.

@59: “Cameron must know that there isn’t even tiny particle of truth in his ‘broken society’ claptrap. What a cynical game to play.”

Absolutely. If “society” – whatever that is – is “broken”, that presupposes there must have been a previous time when it wasn’t “broken”. Cameron really needs to tell us when that was.

What with this and Cameron’s stupid claim a year ago that the cut in VAT had failed, I’m coming to the conclusion that Cameron, like Blair, isn’t any too bright.

I do hope we are not going to make a serious mistake at the next election.

@58: “I’m probably being obtuse but I don’t understand what the repeal of the Corn Laws has to do with this discussion, as far as I can remember, they were repealed because of the result of crop failure rather than the pursuit of any ideological belief.”

The Corn Laws were a classic case of protectionism which were intended to benefi the few – the landed interests which dominated the Tory Party in the early 19th century – at the expense of the many who were dependent on money wages for their living. Manufacturing interests were opposed to the Corn Laws – hence Cobden and Bright and the Free Trade Hall in Manchester – because they believed protectionism reduced the cost competitiveness of British made manufactures.

Famously, Robert Peel took the lead in Parliament in the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. That split the Tory Party and kept it out of power for a generation. Disraeli – the grandson of immigrants – eventually led the party back into government.

As it turned out, the cost of transporting grain from America continued to provide protection to grain producers in Britain until the 1870s when – to brutally simplify – large iron ships with steam engines brought down the costs of sea transport across the Atlantic.

The relevance is that the reluctance of the Tory Party to repeal the Corn Laws was a classic case where landed interests prevailed over the Benthamite utilitarian principle of policies for the “greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

62. Just Visiting

Bob

> Absolutely. If “society” – whatever that is – is “broken”, that presupposes there must have been a previous time when it wasn’t “broken”. Cameron really needs to tell us when that was.

That presupposes quite wrongly that broken-ness is either 0% or 100%.

Whereas it would be sensible to wonder if society is more broken now, then at an earlier date.

There is evidence that society has changed recently – so therefore it may well have become more broken or less broken.

Eg, hospital statistics say that liver damage due to excessive drinking is now a problem for young women, which it wasn’t 30 years ago.

That is one measurable change. There must be loads of others, that are also evidence based.

Personally, this change in alcohol misuse, I would rank as an increase in broken-ness.

@62: “Personally, this change in alcohol misuse, I would rank as an increase in broken-ness.”

But why pick on only alcohol misuse as the crucial sign of “broken society” rather than, say, the leap in the Gini coefficient measuring the increasing inequality of income distribution during the 1980s when Mrs T was PM?

It would seem that the selection of the critical indicator of “brokenness” is arbitrary and tendentious.

After all, we have this recently published book: The Spirit Level – Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett:

“What they find is that, in states and countries where there is a big gap between the incomes of rich and poor, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity and teenage pregnancy are more common, the homicide rate is higher, life expectancy is shorter, and children’s educational performance and literacy scores are worse.”
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article5859108.ece

QED?

On the evidence, I’m still unconvinced that Cameron is any too bright.

We’ve still not settled exactly what “society” refers to. I mean, how many societies are there in Britain and how can we tell? As Sprott said “‘What is a society?’ is that it is a figment of the imagination. . ” (@51 above)

64. Flowerpower

Louis @ 13

You genuinely believe that people that disagree with your narrow definition of ‘ethics’ are immoral?

I know you guys feel obliged never to get judgmental, but most sane people do think that beating and torturing kids is immoral, yes.

I think I have a solution to crime: Seeing as the vast majority of crime in this country is committed by white English men, why don’t we deport or pre-emptively jail all of the fuckers?!

We certainly like to keep them out of Scotland.

Wonder if this policy will catch on with the Tories?

63
‘Society’ may not be an easy concept to describe but there are certainly studies which indicate its’ power.. Most compelling of all was the research by Solomon Asch, a social psychologist, who in the 1950s, was able to demonstrate that being in a group situation can determine that subjects will give an incorrect answer to a question even when they know it to be incorrect. Asch’s experiments have been copied many times with the same results. What is even more compelling is that Asch’s original subjects were Americans, who are normally associated with individualism.
More recently Bond R and Smith P (1996) drew on Asch’s work in ‘Culture and Conformity’
Absoloutly agree with you about Cameron being less than bright.

@66

The influence of groups on the behaviour of individuals belonging to particular groups has been well-documented from many famous and less-famous experiments by social psychologists.

Outstanding examples:

The Hawthorne Experiment
http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2004/10/19/26126/staff-under-the-microscope.html

The Zimbardo Prison Experiment
http://www.prisonexp.org/

Sprott was careful to distinguish between the observable behaviour of human groups, about which he wrote a book, and the nebulous notion of “society” which was a construction. Without extensive clarification, we are not at all clear on what “society” refers to or how to observe it. Hence the difficulty in answering my very basic questions about how many societies are there in Britain and how can we tell?

I continue to be amazed at Cameron’s rhetoric which displays a remarkable ignorance about the social sciences despite the fact that he is a PPE graduate from Oxford.

Btw for any readers interested in learning more about “Sebastian” Sprott, see this essay by Paul Levy on the Bloomsbury Group:
http://www.ua.es/personal/jalvarez/Word/Adiciones%20de%202005/levy.rtf

69. Just Visiting

Bob

sounds like we’re agreeig that the issue is trying to look at what goes on in society and see if that suggests things are changing, and if so are they becoming slightly more or less broken.

> But why pick on only alcohol misuse as the crucial sign of “broken society”

I threw that in as just one factor – there are loads of factors we could look at.

It is a nice one that is pinned 100% on measured evidence.

> rather than, say, the leap in the Gini coefficient measuring the increasing inequality of income distribution

You could look at that as society factor – but it sounds like that is no longer direct evidence of brokeness; you’re measuring instead a factor once removed: measuring something which some people say contributes to a broken society – not measuring the brokeness itself.

I’d prefer to stick to factors that are
i) directly linked to brokeness (violence, crime, educational attainment, independent self-supporting households, etc)
ii) are areas where we have statistics and facts – so we’re not just blowing hot air.

ii)

@69: “I’d prefer to stick to factors that are i) directly linked to brokeness (violence, crime, educational attainment, independent self-supporting households, etc)”

The hard evidence from: The Spirit Level is that those manifestations of “brokenness” are observably more prevalent in countries – like Britain – where the income distribution has become significantly more unequal.

For a non-partisan brief on the trends in the measures of income inequality in Britain, see this from the House of Commons Library on: UK income inequality & international comparisons:
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snep-03870.pdf

Quote: “Among European countries the UK is the 6th most unequal on two measures (Gini coefficient and the ratio of income received by the highest and lowest fifths of the income distribution). Sweden and Slovenia had the lowest levels of inequality, Portugal and Romania the highest. Among OECD countries the UK is the 7th most unequal, with Turkey and Mexico most unequal, and Denmark and Sweden the least unequal.”

In other words, income distribution is more unequal in Britain than in most other European countries and compared with most other OECD countries. Other studies show that the biggest increase in the inequality of income distribution in Britain was during the 1990s.

Btw Denmark and Sweden are both affluent countries by European standards and tax revenues (or public spending) as percentages of national GDP are higher than in Britain.

QED.

At last, this must be compelling proof of a broken “society” – even the swans are divorcing now:

Experts stunned by swan ‘divorce’ at Slimbridge wetland
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/8477351.stm

OTOH let’s look for an unbroken human “society”.

Presumably, Denmark qualifies as the Danes were rated as the most contented nation in this international study:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/07/02/nations.happiness/index.html

Britain came in at 21st with the US at 16th.

72. Just Visiting

Bob

I think you’re slightly missing the point.

Denmark may ‘feel happier’ – but there are SO MANY differences between it and the UK – that it’s a huge task to work out what the important differences are.

> The hard evidence from: The Spirit Level is that those manifestations of “brokenness” are observably more prevalent in countries – like Britain – where the income distribution has become significantly more unequal.

Yes, but are you saying that inequality of income is the sole and only reason that society is now more broken than it was 50 years ago?

I doubt you’d feel the situation is determined by 1 factor only.

So we still need to look at each actual actor in the UK, has it changed. Is the change an indication of more or less broken-ness.

So, let’s leave the ‘explanations + theories’ to one side -and focus on the facts on the ground

73. Just Visiting

So, an example of ‘on the ground’ society:

Is this treatment of teachers likely to help or hinder brokenness in society:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/union-warns-teachers-not-to-break-up-playground-fights-1876402.html


A teachers’ union is warning its members against intervening in playground fights.

The move by the 8,500-strong Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) comes after local authority officials refused to compensate a 58-year-old female teacher who was punched in the mouth after she attempted to break up a scuffle between pupils.

She subsequently had to undergo dental surgery to repair her teeth, which were damaged in the incident, and was left with a £2,500 bill for her trouble. However, Glasgow City Council refused to sanction compensation or even allow her time off to go to the dentist – advising that the claim was invalid because there was no negligence on behalf of the council.

The incident comes at a time of growing controversy over teachers’ powers to restrain pupils. In England, Michael Gove, the Conservatives’ schools spokesman, has said one of the first acts of a Tory government would be to issue new guidelines giving teachers greater powers to restrain pupils and also search them, with a view to confiscating any dangerous weapons.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the SSTA, said staff would be “less inclined” to intervene in clashes as a result of the city council’s actions, and that the incident would have severe consequences for the maintenance of discipline in schools.

The union has already contacted all its members in Glasgow about the incident, and is writing to all its members warning them of the dangers of intervening.

The teacher concerned has refused to comment on the issue because of the terms of her employment, but a family friend said she had been through “a difficult ordeal”.

Ms Ballinger said: “If teachers feel they do not have the full support of their local authority if they get injured in such an incident, then it puts school staff in a very difficult position, and they will be less inclined to get involved.”

City council officials said teachers should weigh up the risk to themselves before getting involved in any playground incidents and not put themselves at risk or aggravate the situation.

“Denmark may ‘feel happier’ – but there are SO MANY differences between it and the UK – that it’s a huge task to work out what the important differences are.”

How about higher public spending as a percentage of national GDP and bigger tax revenues as a percentage of national GDP for starters?

At least I think Cameron is bound to give us examples of “societies” – whatever they are – which aren’t “broken” so as to guide our future government – which ever party is in power – on what it is that they need to emulate.

If it really is SOOO difficult to decide what makes the Danes so contented, there doesn’t seem to be much prospect for Cameron deciding what the politically correct necessary prescription for Britain will be, even with his PPE degree from Oxford.

“The move by the 8,500-strong Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) comes after local authority officials refused to compensate a 58-year-old female teacher who was punched in the mouth after she attempted to break up a scuffle between pupils.”

The Scots perennially insist that Scottish law is different from English and Welsh law so what happens in the Scottish courts need not carry any implications for south of the border.

Ever since reading this United Nations report, I’ve worried about Britain’s nuclear submarines being based at Faslane:

– “A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America. England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.”
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1786945,00.html

In a way, I can understand the reluctance of the Scottish court to award damages or compensation for injuries inflicted by (regular?) acts of violence. In Scotland, there’s no knowing what such a decision could lead to – mass bankruptcies, I suspect.


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