Liberalism Has Improved Britain - Its Defenders Must Speak Up
When David Cameron spoke of "pockets of our society that are not only broken, but frankly sick", in his first response to the recent rioting, he was saying no more than would have been expected from a Conservative prime minister in such circumstances. Less predictable, perhaps, was the near-unanimity on parade in Parliament on Thursday, where MPs from all parties vied to identify a malaise that stemmed, as they saw it, from a destructive moral laxity pervading Britain. From parenting to education to policing, a cross-party consensus called for discipline, toughness and the re-establishment and enforcement of boundaries.
It could be argued that, in their clarion calls, the politicians were doing no more than reflecting the public mood. An e-petition demanding the withdrawal of state benefits and council homes from those involved in the disturbances has soared to the top of the 10 Downing Street website. A poll we publish today has 78 per cent of those asked supporting automatic prison sentences for anyone convicted of rioting and 54 per cent agreeing that Mr Cameron failed to provide the necessary leadership.
Given the sight of trashed high streets and the television pictures of recent days, this reaction might not be altogether surprising. But the long-term cost could be considerably higher even than that of the rioting. The very real risk now is that three nights of sporadic and localised violence could force three decades or more of liberalism into reverse.
True, some aspects of social policy may have had unintended, even malign, consequences. Allocation of social housing according to need alone has created greater concentrations of disadvantage. A focus on child poverty may not only have helped single parents, but also made child-bearing a logical life choice for some ill-equipped to become parents. But the alternatives must be considered, too. …