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.