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Cameron’s ‘Broken Britain’ is a great slogan – for Britain’s competitors

Posted on 21 August 2011 | 2:08pm

Even though I thought it was nonsense at the time, I did understand why David Cameron used to drone on about Broken Britain in Opposition. He was trying to make the most of social and economic problems in the pursuit of inflicting political damage upon the Labour government. Though he failed to win the election, it may well be that his BB campaign helped swing some of the votes which helped him become PM in a coalition government.

But now the continuation of his BB campaign in government, as an attempt to put any social causes of the recent riots in the past rather than the present, risks doing real damage to Britain, not least to its tourism and inward investment. Of course the main damage is done by the rioters and the looters, and their activities were broadcast and analysed around the world. This was behaviour people did not expect of Britain, and so it was globally newsworthy.

Cameron’s response risks adding to the negative image abroad, when in truth the rioters were the exceptional face of British youth, not the norm. I was pleased to see Tony Blair writing a rare piece on UK politics in The Observer today, making this point among others. And meanwhile the current PM was taking to the pages of the Sunday Express to continue with the absurd mythologising of the Human Rights Act.

As PM, of course he is entitled to make whatever political points he wants. But as the country recovers from the shock of the riots, it is also his responsibility to give a serious and honest assessment of the problems. Britain’s image abroad also falls within his responsibilities, and he should take them more seriously than simply ventilating the most negative aspects of the country’s hugely negative and culturally damaging media.

Broken Britain was fine as a slogan in opposition, particularly in the absence of much else better, the Big Society failing to excite or enthuse. But now BB works not for him, let alone for Britain, but for the tourism and inward investment bodies of Britain’s main competitors.

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  • Ballsto Monty

    The civil unrest in France had a far greater intensity and duration, running over 20 days (Oct/Nov 2005).  Tourism numbers actually rose slightly, so i think your giving weight to something very very light.  If anything, the Olympics will have the greater impact on tourism with people staying away for fear of inflated prices (see NYT.)

  • Welcome back Alastair! And Happy Holidays to your readers still away.

    Thanks for flagging up Blair’s piece in the Observer today (the one Sunday I decided not to read it but concentrate on some work instead).

    May I quote this paragraph that, for me, summarises his response to the riots with what, I think, is an excellent attitude, helpful in its scope.

    “”The big cause is the group of alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream and who live in a culture at odds with any canons of proper behaviour. And here’s where I simply don’t agree with much of the commentary. In my experience they are an absolutely specific problem that requires a deeply specific solution.”

    Of course, deeply specific solutions’ aren’t DC et als’ best point, are they? Quick fixes, soundbites, stand offs and cuts are so much easier…and destructive, alienating and non-prescriptive of the ailments that need remedying.

    Perhaps the Labour Party at large could pick up on this thread and discuss openly their version of ‘deeply specific solutions’ in a non-confrontational but soundly wise manner?

    It’s like this…not all social problems respond to party politics…unity in the House would do so much more good.

    And there go those flying pigs again…

  • MicheleB

    I’m sure Camsham actually knows very little about Britain and on behalf of all volunteers I was sick of him as soon as he started going on about the country needing volunteers as if it has none. 
    There are hundreds of volunteers in every community, the fact that they are not in high profile roles like his (exploited by him) magistrate mother doesn’t mean they are not there, underpinning all sorts of local amenities.

    Volunteers are not the only people he knows little of; he’s clueless about law and order methods too.  I posted elsewhere recently re little-publicised details about Bill Bratton’s actual ‘achievements’ in his posts and now this ….. oh lordy …. chucking out old papers (a sign of mean-ness or nosiness that I can’t do so without checking whether read?) I found this in a recent i paper ….quoted by them as having been written by him or quoted from him in a Wail on Sunday:
    …………….. “Certain methods have proved very successful in America which could be used to great effect here.  One is injunctions, which restrict the movements of those accused of being in gangs.”……………

    Has neither Cam nor May told him about the ASBOs that already do that very thing?
    Is his appointment just like the emperor’s New Clothes?

  • Ehtch

    Tsst! Cameon was a wanker in his Bullingdon oh yah! nonsense sound bites when in opposition, but look what has happened. And no doubt he now thinks this is all been organised to show him up – but by who? It seems very disorganised this unified total riot everywhere. Has he the sense to conclude anything from that? Call a GE Dave, before it is too late. You never know Dave, you might get a Tory majority, and can play as much games as you want with the country then, you home counties scunt!

  • MicheleB

    …………….  “But now BB works not for him, let alone for Britain, but for the tourism
    and inward investment bodies of Britain’s main competitors.” …………..

    So true, one has to ask if it’s a PM’s job to be so totally unconstructive, does he have no better idea?

    Thank heavens we have less destructive ex-PMs (I’m sure it would be plural).

  • MWCheshire

    A very sensible piece of commentary, Alistair. If only the PM would stop this nonsense of trying to peddle that the disturbances were “criminality, pure and simple” as well. As a Police Officer with 29 years service, I have found that very little is “pure and simple” in reality.

    The “riots” undoubtedly had a variety of causes and the “rioters” a myriad of reasons for getting involved (this being no excuse for any of it of course), but the vast majority of those caught are people who frankly have precious little, if anything, to lose from being so caught. Tackling the inequalities abroad in the this land of ours would help enormously, something I don’t see the ConDems getting round to.

    Without narrowing the gap between rich and poor, this will happen again at some point with probably little needed by way of a spark to ignite it.

    The PM is finding (and will continue to find) that making it up as you go along is no way to run the country. A few principles (beyond those arch-Tory ones he daren’t admit to a wider electorate) would help no end.

  • Anonymous

    A very sensible piece of commentary, Alistair. If only the PM would stop
    this nonsense of trying to peddle that the disturbances were
    “criminality, pure and simple” as well. As a Police Officer with 29
    years service, I have found that very little is “pure and simple” in

    The “riots” undoubtedly had a variety of causes and the “rioters” a
    myriad of reasons for getting involved (this being no excuse for any of
    it of course), but the vast majority of those caught are people who
    frankly have precious little, if anything, to lose from being so caught.
    Tackling the inequalities abroad in the this land of ours would help
    enormously, something I don’t see the ConDems getting round to.

    Without narrowing the gap between rich and poor, this will happen again
    at some point with probably little needed by way of a spark to ignite

    The PM is finding (and will continue to find) that making it up as you
    go along is no way to run the country. A few principles (beyond those
    arch-Tory ones he daren’t admit to a wider electorate) would help no

  • Jose

    Just thought you might be interested in this quote by Jack Straw:
    “Tony’s like a man who says I love you to seven, eight, nine, or ten women and they all go away feeling happy until they start to compare notes”.
    So, this sort of sums up TB doesn’t it?

  • Janete

    As you say Alastair, Cameron et al seem blind to the consequences of running down the country with their ‘Broken Britain’ mantra. We have been here before with Osborne’s portrayal of Britain being on the edge of bankruptcy and his gross exaggeration of the size of the debt and what had to be done. He has all but killed off any confidence home investors and consumers had in our economy.

    Looks like they want to see off any international interest as well.

  • Dave Simons

    Entirely agree with you, and will add that you can’t run a country on slogans, soundbites and photo-ops either. Take all those three away and there’s not a great deal left of Team Cameron.

  • Broken
    Britain is fact, not a sound bite.

    The good
    ship Britannia will go down to the depths.

    If the ship is leaking, and it is, severely, I
    don’t think posturing over the meaning of words and phrases will fill the holes.

    Des Currie

  • Richard

    When New Labour arranged tax credits for people earning anything up to twice the average national wage, the courting of middle class voters was far more important to you than the sorting out of the poverty which worsened over the 13 years. The “Have Nots” are being squeezed more than any other group by the coalition, and it is said that 30,000 people rioted and seized what they thought they could not obtain through legitimate means. ( It must be remembered that this represents only 0.5% of the poor in our society.)

    The opinions of the tanned squillionaire celebrity lover are ironic, for the polarisation he oversaw contributed greatly to the cohesive Britain you all so admire!

    The reform of the welfare state was too hot for you to handle, and those 13 boom years were the opportunity for rebalancing it, away from those earning 10 times the old age pension.

  • Chris lancashire

    Discredited Blair would do well tp keep out of it.

    • Dave Simons

      I don’t know how credited you think you are, but I’m sure we all welcome your enlightening and well-argued contributions, and you’re certainly entitled to express your opinion. So is Tony Blair. As a matter of fact I think his recent comment on the riots was pretty useful – certainly more useful than all this recycled crap about ‘pure criminality’ and ‘lack of a male role model in the family’.

  • simon

    ‘Home counties scunt’….
    I’m sure we all appreciate Ehtch’s thoughtful contributions to the debate.

  • Ehtch

    An absolute total digress, sorry Alastair, for the just upheld decision for the hammers/irons(!) to have use of the Olympic stadium for footie after the Olympics. Good show I say. Alf, what do you have to say on that? : )

    ey, Alastair, you must ‘ave met wots ‘is name in this quite a few times at number 10, ey, ey? Comes across as quite a good bloke, the scarrse git he is, ey? : )))

    “that is what our lads ‘ave got, stanima, yeh stanima”

  • Yonks

    Michele, no time for Cameron but at least on this occasion he’s telling us how things are rather than telling us what we want to hear.

    Would you like to expand on which particular ex-PMs are/have been less destructive?

  • MicheleB

    Context is everything and given that JS said that in a convo with Chris Mullin I reckon context is absolutely everything, don’t you?


  • ambrosian

    All Cameron’s bluster about Broken Britain, the Big Society, Human Rights, etc, will count for nothing if the economy has gone belly up. The riots have distracted attention from the grim economic news of the past two weeks but that won’t last. Osborne has stopped blaming the weather but is now blaming global economic problems. Although partly true, the problem with this tactic is that the Tories took the opposite position in the global banking crisis of 2008 and tried to pin the entire blame on Brown. Even allowing for the difficult global context, an increasing number of economists and even many Tories are now saying that Osborne’s domestic economic policy is wrong and will have dire consequences for Britain.

    The coalition has staked everything on tangible economic recovery by 2015 (if they survive that long). But if that doesn’t happen, and given the many different groups of voters adversely affected by their policies in the meantime, then Cameron could stand on a plinth in Trafalgar Square and rip up the Human Rights Act, re-introduce compulsory National Service, bring back the stocks for benefit cheats, impose whole life tariffs for looters and he’d still lose the election.

    To paraphrase an old electoral saying: many voters may be stupid, but it’s still the economy, innit?

  • Whatifwhatif

    How things are? 
    The idiotic twit dares to describe his and Osbo’s cuts of the moment as being for the sake of youth in the future who he says  should not have to pay for the recession of now. 
    Is he really too dumb (ie: unintelligent and inexperienced at anything REAL) to notice that those very cuts mean that the kids of NOW will be  paying for it?  Talk about tripping himself up ………

    Just as they should be moving in to adulthood and responsibility and paying back to society they are having security literally whipped from beneath them and for what?  Spite?

    I don’t see TB or GB dissing everything about us, do you?
    Exploiting riots under a Tory admin.
    I don’t see them sending out the message that we cannot help ourselves and we have to recruit someone/anyone from overseas because we have so little respect for our countrymen/women, do you?
    I doubt you listened to my link of a couple of days ago that kind of pulls the rug from all the raving about Bill Bratton (or that you’ll bother finding it by clicking on my profile).  Believe me, it’s stuff worth knowing (as would be his £/$ package).

    WT* message are they sending out to the very people they need to inspire, be they public servants or yoof (in whom they DO need to preserve whatever respect there is)?

  • Jose

    You’re absolutely spot on, after 13 years of Labour’s quick-fixes and sound bites, we’ve now had just over a year of the same from the coalition….guess that only very few of them are interested in an open and frank discussion.

  • MicheleB

    Why should tax credits be only for the most poor?  We (society) need/s children, couples need to at least replace themselves each generation if we all want to live to 150.

    I need others to have done more than the average and if they manage that as well as earning a packet, one which they declare and get credits against tax paid, good for them.

    Why boast about your narrow definition of everything? 

    • Richard

      You are having a laugh aren’t you? What are you on?

      If people earning twice the national average wage need a tax incentive to have children, then the welfare state has no purpose serving them. In reality they will breed anyway but they do not need such tax relief. If you disagree then you are, as New Labour, not interested in the helping of children and families out of poverty.

      Mandy is apparently about to buy an £8 million house, Very New Labour.

      Please explain “Why boast about your narrow definition of everything?”     

  • Chris lancashire

    I think that’s a case of pan calling kettle Jose

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think we are going to get much in the way of optimism from a government which demonstrably dislikes the majority of people it is supposed to govern.  And as for damaging the UK, well, parasites are not known for showing very much regard for the host.  

  • Ehtch

    All the best to Tony Booth. I like him. Would make a good son in law, I reckon, or maybe a father in law….

  • Ehtch

    BOLLOCKS! 91. I was hoping Tendulkar would get a ton as well.

    four nil though it looks, tidy.

  • Ehtch

    Good ship Britannia,
    is fine and doing well.

    Don’t worry the plimsole line,
    we are really doing fine.

    Don’t take the official line,
    our society is strong as Anine

    Underneath all is strong and well,
    but maybe not so swell.

  • Chris lancashire

    Quite right Dave, this is no time for a novice as we clearly haven’t put an end to boom and bust. We need a package of measures as we may be cutting too fast and too deep.

    • Dave Simons

      Just to fill in a bit of the detail which you consistently seem to frightened of, Gordon Brown was correct to say ‘no time for a novice’  – we’ve got one and behold the results. But he was obviously incorrect to say ‘no more boom and bust’ – in fact he must have known better, and indeed he shows that in his recent book. Boom and bust have always been intrinsic to capitalism, no matter what governments do to counteract (and they managed to reduce it to ‘stop-go’ in the late 1950s and early 1960s). All the current indications are that George Osborne and pals are cutting too deep and too fast, so I think the caveats have gone well beyond sloganising. A package of measures is what governments usually come up with – I think it’s called governing. You ought to arrange to meet Gordon Brown – the experience would probably stop you from turning him into an ogre all the time. I don’t need to meet David Cameron – he visited the shop of a couple of friends of mine on Portobello Road two years ago so I’m quite happy to know someone who met him rather than meet him myself.

  • MicheleB
  • The O’Neill

    Well the part I live in isn’t broken – and many parts that I travel to every week aren’t broken. Are there problem areas? Of course, but Cameron is playing politics – it goes down well with the Tory right and the right-wing press.

    He and Gideon did their best to talk the economy down when they came into office, again for poiltical gain. And now guess what? They’ve managed to take us to the brink all by themselves.

    I didn’t think I would live to see a worse Tory PM than Major. Well Cameron has achieved that ignoble distinction.

  • Quinney

    I agree with Fivehols Dave, that Britain is broken, how can the world look up to our country when its youth engage in yobbery and criminality?
    When the world tunes in to the Olympics next year we want them to see Britain at its best, so can we start a campaign that all gang members are excluded from the games?
    So then can we start with the gang that regularly smash up Oxford? Can we ban Fivehols and Barmy Boris?

  • People who don’t understand ‘pragmatism/reality’ need to mythologise the Human Rights Act.    It’s deeply disturbing.

  • Yonks

    Well, have to admit that’s a pretty ‘short’ list of non-destructive ex-PMs.

    I think you’ll find that most people believe good old Tone did enough dissing the dirt when he managed to apparently commit us to non-stop wars. And his best ‘mate’ GB who was more interested in his own status than the state of the country.

    Regarding Bratton and Kroll, I too have read about him as you have.

    Have you ever thought that many in public service have their own agendas and cannot possibly be right all of the time?

    The number of MPs needs reducing by 50% and the civil service probably by a similar number, they have had too easy a time under the Labour administration.

  • Chris lancashire

    Dave, the point I was making that evidently escaped you is that ALL politicians rely on slogans – as far back as Harold Wilson (“the £ in your pocket …”). They also ALL rely on soundbites and photo ops (remember Tone and Gordo and the ice creams?). If you’re in doubt about any of this ask your hero Mr Campbell – he didn’t invent them but he certainly took it all to a new level.

  • MicheleB

    Your second para exemplifies perfectly wht prompted my question, do you really not understand?

    People don’t generally ‘NEED a tax incentive to have children’.  People generally have one or lots of children because they really like children, there are lots of ways to prevent a child if it’s just the sex one really likes  **smirk**. 

    People earning up to about £58k found themselves, around 2005, qualifying for tax benefit if they had about eight children.  Don’t even pretend (for the benefit of any audience still looking in to this thread) that they had so-produced simply to get tax credits, the chronology just doesn’t fit.

    There are just a few useless or desperate or dislikeable people that use children as their income (benefits) generator, there are some that even have a child to allow them immigration rights.  Whatever these people’s reasons, their children are what the country needs, what the country needs to educate and what the country needs them to be producing and earning and paying tax on after each’s childhood.  It’s another one of those yawn-y chronology thangs, we are living longer, our pension rights/pots don’t match, people will always need people younger than themselves to be paying tax (who, while doing so, will be hoping someone is hatching a plan to look after them in their own dotages).

    I don’t give a ssot about Mandy’s house, it’ll be the outcome of other properties’ capital growths and his high profile career.  I hope he pays all the tax he should, I would care if we found out he was salting money abroad (as does Philip Green, who earned £11m in his first year after buying the BHS group and imposing retrospective discounts on all that company’s suppliers’ deliveries over the preceding year – if they wanted to stay on its supplier list).

  • MicheleB

    Please explain “Why boast about your narrow definition of everything?”

    Does this help you Rich?
    ……………… they will breed anyway ………………..

  • Ehtch

    Now who can argue with that?

  • Dave Simons

    I haven’t had any heroes for a few decades now, though I’ll admit to retaining a soft spot for Buddy Holly.
    You’re incorrect as always, Chris. A lot of politicians have depth and substance – they don’t need packaging. I could mention for starters Chris Mullin, Jeremy Corbyn, Robin Cook and my own MP, but out of fairness let me pick a few Tories. Did Stanley Baldwin ‘rely’ on soundbites and photo-ops? I think his comment about the press having power without responsibility was the truth more than a soundbite. Has it ever been more true than now? Did Winston Churchill ‘rely’ on soundbites and photo-ops? I think we have to give brandy some credit too. Alec Douglas-Home’s photo-ops always worked against him, and I don’t think he made a soundbite during his entire career, though he did manage a joke about the Beatles which must have gone down well in Tory clubland and up on the grouse moors. Enoch Powell of course came out with some pretty toxic soundbites, but he had sat at the same table as Latin scholar and poet, A. E. Housman, at Cambridge and he must have had a scholarly side to him, though I think it has been grossly exaggerated by less scholarly MPs. Whatever I think about Kenneth Baker he did produce a good and quite comprehensive book about war poetry. As for Margaret Thatcher I wish she had been all packaging, but I have to acknowledge that there was plenty of substance to her, albeit of the most narrow, one-sided, bigoted and class conscious kind, guaranteed to create the broken societies she did create in the inner cities and pit villages, guaranteed also to give the haves their biggest beanfeast in post-war UK history.
    No, Chris, your point didn’t escape me – i just think it’s a stupid point.

  • Chris lancashire

    Wrong again Dave old chap. I suspect if you pick up Mullins’ last election address you’ll find “Labour for a fairer future” or some such other slogan. They All do it, they really do. Nice bit of Thatcher bashing by the by, I wondered how you could work that one in.

  • Ehtch

    I missed a big big chance to have my photo taken with Tony Booth when I took my 13 year old daughter to see the gates of number 10 and Downing Street, in about 2004, when my daughter had just got her first camera phone, when Tony came though the security gate and no one noticed except me. I should have chased after him for my daughter to take a pic and introduce my daughter, but I was plum stuck star-struck to the spot. There was an African, Eiritrean it might be, going on on the opposie end of the road from the entrance of Downing Street at the time, if anyone remembers that.