05 July 2007

Telling It As It Is

BAD NEWS"The document that will shape Tory policy, obtained by the BBC, paints a picture of Britain as a broken society riddled with debt and addiction, welfare dependency, family breakdown and educational failure."

Today's news on Breakthrough Britain, the report due out next week from the Conservative Party's Social Justice Policy Group, reminded me of Peter Franklin's Diary entry in last month's issue of The Difference:

There was once a time when the role of a politician was to the sit the nation down and break the bad news. A succession of economic crises meant a succession of grave announcements — of austerity budgets, three-day weeks and belt-tightening exercises. But with the partial exception of the early 1990s, we've had none of that for 20 years or more. Politics has become a soft-soap exercise: a slippery attempt to claim credit for the economic good times; a shower of schemes for spending our money on our behalf; and a lather of excuses for why so much cash has left so much undone. Politics has become a matter of breaking the good news even when there isn't any. ...

We're richer than we've ever been, but unhappy. We're deep in debt, our families are falling apart, there are guns on the streets and the weather's gone all weird. Despite our material comforts we know where's something wrong with the way we live. When a politician articulates our secret fears we may react with anger, but at least we recognise the bad news for what it is: the truth.
If David Cameron is right that the big challenge that we've all got to deal with today is social breakdown, then the first step will be accepting the extent of the problem, however uncomfortable the facts make us feel.