So what’s this blog all about?
Its title originates in a phrase that was used extensively by the British Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2010 General Election. Leader David Cameron referred repeatedly to “Broken Britain”, which became a sort of easy shorthand for a number of social ills – including social dysfunction and crime (especially youth crime) – and a number of easy explanations for what lay behind them, normally expressed in terms of a dependency culture, widespread marital breakdown and a decline in traditional morals.
I think we do live in a broken society – but one that is broken for completely different reasons. For me the two key issues are the destruction wrought by the economics of austerity; and, hand in hand with that, a huge and growing democratic deficit in which political discourse is conducted on an increasingly narrow political ground, which simply cannot authentically reflect the experiences of the vast majority of citizens. And that means that mainstream politics is defined by a series of moral evasions and collective irrationality. A political discourse that does not reflect the lives of the people it governs – or, as in the case of climate change denial, the empirical realities of the world in which it lives – is in my view both anti-democratic and badly broken. The coalition that has governed Britain since 2010 has in particular pursued a politics in which collective responsibility for economic and social problems is avoided: individuals who are victims of systemic failure are routinely portrayed as the authors of their own misfortune, and morally culpable. If you stand back from the rhetoric and the daily politics, the sheer brutality of the language and actions of consensus politics are overpoweringly evident. Where will the collective will to overcome this be found?
I’ve incorporated all the posts from my earlier blog – Kicking Over the Idol – because they focus on essentially the same themes, but they of course predate the 2010 Election. That blog’s title comes from an essay by the great Socialist historian R.H. Tawney. It derives from his essay The choice before the Labour Party, written in 1931, lambasting Ramsay Macdonald’s government for its timidity, concluding that, “to kick over an idol you must first get off your knees.”
Just to add a few personal notes – I’m a bearded child of the sixties, a beneficiary of free University education, an ex-Civil Servant and now semi-retired. Having lived in Brighton for many years – and having narrowly failed to get elected to Brighton and Hove City Council as a Labour candidate in 2015 – I have recently moved to Canton, Cardiff where, as well as blogging, I learn Welsh, sing in the Canton Chorus, and listen to classical music – with a particular fondness for long Teutonic operas – and I take photographs, which can be seen on Flickr or on my website at http://neilschofield.zenfolio.com/