David Cameron has pointed out the blindingly obvious, and in doing so appears to have sparked a controversy.
The Daily Telegraph's headline today, "The battle rages over 'broken Britain'", caught my eye, because I did not think Cameron's observations were controversial - they were correct, factual, indisputable. A society which has the highest divorce rates in Europe, the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, the highest abortion rates, binge drinking and anti-social behaviour not just in the cities but in every market town in the country, can surely be described, in Cameron's words, as heading into a "social recession"? How is it even disputable?
The debate should not be about whether or not we live in a broken society, but about what to do about it. But because far too many people, not only government ministers, are like ostriches with their heads in the sand, clinging to Cool Britannia and refusing to accept the truth that we have profound social problems, we have to have a debate about whether it is broken before we can fix it. It is like a family standing around a dining table. Two of the legs of the table have broken and the table is only just about upright but at a strange angle. Plates slide off it and it's in serious danger of collapse. Does the family stand around debating whether or not the table is broken, or do they get the table fixed?
For Ed Balls to say that David Cameron's "broken Britain" analysis shows he is "completely irresponsible" and "out of touch with the reality" is the most ironic quote of today. It is the government, and others who refuse to see the problem, who are irresponsible and out of touch. If they carry on with their heads in the sand in this way, then the theme tune of their 1997 election campaign will have to be rewritten - for things can only get worse.