Thursday, June 28, 2007

And it's the Culture, stupid...

In a piece titled 'It's the Broken Society, stupid' in today's Spectator, Andrew Neil argues that 'During the Blair–Brown decade social concerns — what kind of society we have become — have gradually replaced economic worries.'

Neil suggests that the underclass is 'increasingly severed, in attitude and cultural values, from the rest of society,' which ends up affecting us all.

The cracks in Britain’s Broken Society, however, go far beyond the underclass, though that is its most serious manifestation. There is a general feeling that, across the social spectrum, Britain has become a coarser, more yobbish society, in which discourtesy has become a national habit and violence is always lurking beneath the surface. A general societal, moral and cultural collapse extends well into the comfortable middle classes and is reflected in manners, dress style, violent demeanour and foul and sloppy language, even among the supposedly educated. In a nation with too many Jade Goodys, it takes a Bollywood actress to remind us of the traditional British virtues of tolerance and courtesy.

In other words, our society needs a new - and better - culture.

Neil's point ties in importantly with what
Fraser Nelson writes, also in today's Spectator, about Gordon Brown's 'Britishness agenda'. The new Prime Minister appears determined to pick up the patriotic mantle consciously dropped by Cameron's Tories. It's a smart move, for many reasons. First, it will play well electorally. Second, Brown, the Scot, is desperate to do something to glue Britain back together again after the fracturing effects of his own party's (originally self-serving) thirst for devolution - the results of which have been only to fan the flames of independence movements.

Nelson writes:

He [Brown] has made remarkable progress in a short space of time. Last summer, he rather wonderfully declared that ‘my wife comes from Middle England’, as if he were a mediaeval king who wished to make peace with a new dominion by marrying a local. Now he realises he is not engaged in battle for a territory but a cultural war, which he can win by posing as a heavyweight statesman with an instinctive grasp of ordinary Britons’ anxieties and aspirations versus decadent, faddish Mr Cameron with his hopelessly out-of-touch coterie.

Part of the new cultural war is the increasingly vital question of what it means to be British. Brown is known to be favourable to the idea of 'settling' the question in the form of a written constitution. Were he to go for this - and he might - those 'traditional British virtues' of which Neil writes would need to be enshrined. And the big question in the current political culture is: Will they?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just stopping by to say hi