The leader of the Conservative party was in the building today, delivering a speech on ‘fixing the broken society’ in the church that’s attached to our office. The event was hosted by the Conservative think tank the Centre for Social Justice, and I dropped in to hear what he had to say.
In brief, David Cameron argues that British society is broken, offering levels of debt, family breakdown, crime and anti-social behaviour as evidence. The reason for this is a philosophy of big government that has dis-empowered people. We no longer take responsibility for ourselves or the places we live, because we expect the government to do everything. So, a Conservative government would give power back, supporting families and encouraging personal and social responsibility.
This is all very well, but there is one keyword that was absent from Cameron’s vision: equality. One of the most important factors in social breakdown is inequality, but the gap between rich and poor doesn’t appear to be on the Conservative’s radar. We live in a country where the wealthiest 10% are 100 times richer than the poorest 10%. The division between the haves and the have nots breeds resentment, depression, and exclusion, and this is the root cause of the ‘broken society’.
Cameron took questions at the end of his speech and I wanted to raise this, but the questions seemed very planted and I wasn’t called upon. I caught Cameron on the stairs on the way out instead, and asked if he had read The Spirit Level, a book that explains inequality and its consequences very clearly. He hadn’t, and asked me to email the details of it.
So, thank you to David for stopping long enough to hear me out, and here’s hoping he reads the book.
My email is below, and I’ll let you know if I get a reply.
I just caught you on the stairs on the way out of your Centre for Social Justice speech this morning, and recommended a book. As requested, here are the details. The book is called The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies almost always do better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
It is based on 30 years worth of research, and demonstrates a direct correlation between income equality and a whole host of indicators – crime, teenage pregnancy, educational performance, alcohol addiction, stress, obesity, drug use, and mental illness.
While I agree that personal responsibility is vital, and welcome your policies based around common sense and discipline, I felt that inequality was a missing keyword in your plans to fix the broken society.
I would urge you to read the book when you have time. As a five minute taster, you might also want to look at the Equality Trust, founded by the authors.
Many thanks for your time,