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Pickles inspiration from West Side Story to tackle troubled families


In an interview for the Independent on Sunday, the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles stesses the need for plain speaking in sorting out the 120,000 troubled families that constitute "Broken Britain."

The report says:

In act two of West Side Story, the Jets gang launches into "Gee, Officer Krupke", in which they blame everyone but themselves for fighting: "Our mothers all are junkies,/Our fathers all are drunks. /Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!" According to the minister, it's a great song that sums up an excuse culture that has blighted whole communities. "Some families, they've got the language... they're fluent in social work."

Political correctness, he believes, is also to blame. Politicians of all parties have "run away from categorising, stigmatising, laying blame". All sorts of verbal contortions have been deployed in lieu of plain speaking. Even getting mandarins to agree on how to refer to the people he wants to help was not without difficulties. "Folks sat round this table, saying: 'We can't call these people troubled families because that's stigmatising them.' Well, what do you want to call them? Mildly discomforted families? No, these folks are troubled: they're troubling themselves, they're troubling their neighbourhood. We need to do something about it."

This is spot on. In my borough the council funds a charity called Spear which has great success in getting young unemployed people into jobs. Spear starts by getting across the basic message to them to stop thinking of themselves as victims. Yet far too much money spent by local councils goes to groups concerned with the promotion of victimhood.


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