I still laugh whenever I hear the phrase “broken Britain”. The phrase was David Cameron’s battle cry during the General Election. To give flesh to this skeletal phrase, he and his team constantly conjured up images of a country under siege; a nation beset with serious social problems where binge-drinking culture fuelled anti-social behaviour and gangs of feral youth roamed the streets looking for trouble. No mention of causality; problems seemingly occurred magically, appearing out of nowhere but coinciding, strangely enough, with Labour’s 13 years in power. Remarkable.
Let’s go back to the 1980’s, when Thatcher was in power. The country’s manufacturing industries were either wound up or sold off to overseas bidders. Mines were closed and those who worked below the ground were left on the slag heap; their communities devastated. The communities that grew up around the pitheads are now blighted by unemployment, drug addiction and hopelessness. In some former mining communities, retail parks have been built on the land once dominated by the colliery. A cruel irony. This is the legacy of the party that currently uses the phrase “Broken Britain” as though it were someone else’s fault; as though the phrase actually meant anything.
With less government regulation, the banking sector was free to make up ‘products’ at will and sell mortgages and loans to people who could not afford to pay them back. People were encouraged to buy rather than to rent. So some people bought properties, not so that they could live in them but so they could rent them out to others at inflated prices. Welcome to the buy-to-let market. The net result? We now have the biggest housing crisis in our history. This is the legacy of the party that currently uses the phrase “Broken Britain”.
The Tory-led coalition likes to claim how the current economic situation was caused by the last Labour government. But this Labour government merely continued the neo-liberal policies of the Thatcher government; the same Thatcher government that sold off state assets at the lowest possible price. The story of rail privatization is a good example: British Rail’s pension fund was offered as a ‘sweetener’ to seal the deal between the government and the private companies that bought rail franchises at rock bottom prices. This was the same Thatcher government that sold off council homes and refused to allow councils to replace the stock that was sold. In power, Labour continued the practice of Right to Buy and refused to permit the councils to spend their capital receipts. This is the legacy of the party that currently uses the phrase “Broken Britain”.
The bankers have always been close allies of the Tories. Angela Knight, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury in the Major government, now heads the British Bankers Association. Knight is the one who appears on television claiming how badly the banks are suffering and how ‘we’ must do more to help them. Why? What about the people whose lives have been devastated by redundancies and foreclosures? Because Labour under Blair had bought into the entire neo-liberal project, his party developed closer ties with the City and became better Tories than the Little Englanders and Europhobes who referred to themselves as Conservative.
To hear Cameron and Clegg talk, the current economic problems are all Labour’s fault for ‘spending too much’. This article written last year for Globalreasearch and lays the blame for the crisis squarely at Thatcher’s door.
True economic causality was obscured and reams of press copy from the Friedmanite free market camp, during the Reagan and Thatcher era claimed that the ‘defeat of inflation’ had been due to the ruthless discipline of Volcker and Thatcher. That was, we were told, again and again, the reason why the market should be unfettered from government regulation, freed to the devices of its own unbounded innovative genius. The results of that unfettered ‘humanistic capitalism’ or what Alan Greenspan approvingly called the ‘revolution in finance’ is now bringing both meccas of neo-liberalism, the United States and Great Britain to economic ruin. Somewhere between this and Stalin’s Soviet central planning there lies a better way.
Unfettered deregulation can only lead to one place: economic ruin. The lessons from the 1930’s have not been learned by the current government and if Labour had any sense they would rediscover the socialism of Keir Hardie pretty sharpish. Instead they will run scared of the right wing press as they have done for the last 13 years. Afraid of being labelled ‘socialist’, they will do all they can to appear like a ‘caring Conservative party’.
A quick Google search for “Broken Britain” reveals a total of 10,700,000 results. On the first page alone the list of entries comes predominantly from the right or from those organs that have sympathies to the right. This one has links to the Libertarian Alliance. We can regard this as an effort on the part of the soi-disant libertarians of the right to force the ‘smaller state’ idea onto the agenda.
So where did this phrase come from? I think I have found its source here at The Quiet Man’s Centre for Social Justice. In 2006 it was referred to as “Breakdown Britain”. I suspect “broken” sounded better; it had a dramatic ring to it and Lord Snooty loved it so much that he made it his campaign slogan. What a tool.