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People power can mend Britain's broken society, says Cameron

Highlights from David Cameron's 'Let's mend our broken society' speech to the Centre for Social Justice.

Screen shot 2010-04-27 at 12.22.26 There is something wrong in Britain today: "There has always been violence. There has always been evil. But there is something about the frequency of these crimes – the depravity of these crimes, that betrays a deep and fundamental problem in Britain today... When you see schools that have metal detectors at their entrance. When you see fire engines called out on a hoax only to be pelted with bricks. When you see people with disabilities abused on the streets because they are in a wheelchair. When you see people take their lives because they’ve become so overwhelmed by out-of-control debt and they can’t bear to tell their family. When you see addicts whose only daily event is the queue to get some methadone to take the edge off life for a little bit. When you see those who have never worked, who have no shape to their day or structure to their life and the grim grind of hopelessness is there in their eyes, your inner voice says – something is fundamentally not right here. Something is broken. Society is broken."

Some of the key statistics: "Teenage pregnancy is the worst in Western Europe. Levels of family breakdown are some of the highest in Europe. Violent against the person has risen since Labour came to power. Drug offences are up seventy percent. There are now 10,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour every day. And one in six children now grow up in a home where no one works."

We have lost a sense of responsibility to each other: "There are the concrete characteristics of our broken society – the violent crime, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction, family breakdown, debt, worklessness, inequality – which have been bad for decades. And there is the less tangible feeling, that we have been slowly losing the value of responsibility in our society... a sense that more and more people are less concerned about their responsibility to themselves, their duty to their family, their obligation to their community. This is something we can trace back to cultural changes and shocks that have been going on for decades at least. So I’m not going to pretend that the broken society was born under this Labour government. But I do believe that, after thirteen years, it is reasonable for us to evaluate Labour’s effectiveness in dealing with our biggest social problems."

Conservatives will empower people to tackle social problems: "The defining characteristic of the modern Conservative approach is found in the phrase power to the people. This is not just a slogan. It is a radical blueprint for redrawing society based on a belief that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down... We will improve state schools by inviting in anyone with the ideals and inspiration to create a new school so that every child has the chance of a good education. We will invite charities, church groups, businesses and social entrepreneurs into our public services to crack the dependency culture and get people off drugs and welfare and into work. And when it comes to fighting crime, who do you think is best placed to make our streets safe? Politicians issuing diktats in Westminster, civil servants pushing pens in Whitehall, or communities who know where the cars are broken into, the street lighting doesn’t work, the drunken fights break out and the local gangs gather? That’s why we will give local people much greater control over local policing, with elected police commissioners and beat meetings to discuss local priorities and to raise local issues. And we won’t stop there – we will go further and faster in building the Big Society. Let’s give new powers to people to keep local pubs open, stop post offices from closing, to run their local parks, to help decide on planning decisions that affect their lives, to spend the profits from developments on local playgrounds and youth facilities."

Progressive ends, conservative means: "The progressive aims of a fair society, opportunity for all, a safer place to live, delivered through the conservative means of giving power back to the people, social responsibility and common sense and rigour."

Read the full speech.

Tim Montgomerie


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