David Cameron has made a tactical retreat over his claim that Britain had a "broken society", saying instead that "parts of Britain" are broken. … Mr Cameron denied changing his tune, insisting: "I've always said the same thing, which is that parts of our society are badly broken."
Is this true? Has he “always said” that only “parts” of society are broken?
Of course not. He’s used the phrase “broken society” without any such qualification, over and over again. So, has he ever said that only parts of Britain are broken? Well, possibly, but I’ve been unable to find a single instance. Sure, he’s never said explicitly that the whole of society is broken, but he’s not nearly stupid enough to tell such an obvious lie. Instead, he mongers doom about “our broken society”, unqualified, knowing that he’s given himself room for legalistic wiggling if it comes to that.
But his response to claims that ‘brokenness’ is only partial is more usually to dodge the charge and up the ante. Here’s what he said just a couple of days after that interview:
Some say our society isn’t broken. I wonder what world they live in. …it’s not just the crime; not even the anti-social behaviour. It’s the angry, harsh culture of incivility that seems to be all around us. When in one generation we seem to have abandoned the habits of all human history that in a civilised society, adults have a proper role - a responsibility - to uphold rules and order in the public realm not just for their own children but for other people’s too.
And then there’s this, back in July, arguing that the problem is deeply pervasive:
we are living in a country where being stabbed is no longer the dark make-believe of crime fiction but the dreadful reality of our children’s daily lives. … The thread that links it all together passes, yes, through family breakdown, welfare dependency, debt, drugs, poverty, poor policing, inadequate housing, and failing schools but it is a thread that goes deeper, as we see a society that is in danger of losing its sense of personal responsibility, social responsibility, common decency and, yes, even public morality.
And this, in January:
I want to speak about the senseless, barbaric and seemingly remorseless prevalence of violence in our country.
Did he then explain that while it may seem this way, violence is not actually remorselessly prevalent? Of course not:
The culture of violence in our country isn’t the concern of any one community, any one gender or any age group…the terrible truth is, none of us know who next will fall, whose family will next be destroyed and whose community will next suffer.
But these horrific and mindless acts of violence are the worst expression of a phenomenon we see all around us. A growing culture of disrespect.
[Tells the story of one victim of violent crime]
This is not an isolated incident. It’s just a particularly vicious clash of an ever-present and unnerving background hum of violence which we have become accustomed…
We’re collapsing into an atomised society, stripped of the local bonds of association which help tie us together.
If Cameron wants to tell us the whole country’s going to the dogs and/or hell in a handbasket, fine. But he doesn’t get to then turn around and pretend he’s not doing that.