Some eager bathhouse members managed a field trip to a Guardian debate last night that asked ‘Is Britain Broken?’ (The link has a podcast of the event, by the way) So in the spirit of things, it seemed only right to share some thoughts.
‘Broken Britain’ is such a pithy, general and meaningless slogan that any number of issues can collapse into it. The state of social housing, the expenses scandal, the deficit and divorce lawyers were just a few of the bugbears cited by the audience and as symptoms of a broken society.
Yet Will made a good point by wondering just how useful the term actually is. Does ‘Broken Britain’ cloud or clarify the issues in question?
For me, many of the social issues that matter are outcomes of an unequal society rather than anything else. But equality has different aspects to it. While plenty has been said about the spiralling income inequality, there has been nothing about the inequality of political power.
Asking a government to promote the interests of the majority is pointless when that majority has little power. It’s a chicken-egg conundrum. With the break-up of unions, political power over the economy has been lost, and with the collapse of party membership numbers, power over the party system has been lost.
Until we discover ways of giving the majority of people political and economic leverage, the left will struggle to find electoral success. The obvious question is how exactly do we do that?
Will suggests joining the New Labour party. But it has spent the last two decades ridding itself of a historic tie to equality. That said, what else can we do?