July 12th, 2018

Whilst the nation has been obsessed with leaving the EU, an issue of such importance that for forty years it was viewed with indifference or irrelevance by all, apart from a tiny group of zealots, who might more usefully have been employed, like King Canute, railing against the waves crashing against the coastline of these Sceptred Isles, things have been happening, bad things, most of which have hardly been touched upon, let alone analysed, assessed or dealt with.

I studied social science at London University, sadly, it is rare for professors or lecturers to pop their intellects above the academic parapet to try to explain the structural changes taking place in society; life and death things, such as austerity-driven, crushing poverty, the breakdown of law and order in some urban areas and the establishment of a drug-fuelled, gang-ridden group of outcasts, unconcerned and unaffected by the hike in business rates or collapse of the High Street, inveigling their wares into a captive audience of young people, dragging them towards a crime-infested, violent future on the edges of society. That, and, of course, the catastrophic fire at Grenfell, are rather more important than Brexit, you’d have thought?

Three distinct groupings now exist, without a political philosophy, at least not one that needs a Chief Whip to enforce, part of a dystopian, existential dynamic that has burrowed into the nerve-ends of communities, whilst Downing Street has rolled its’ eyes, shrugged its’ collective shoulder and tried to control its’ wayward ragbag of ambitious and frequently resigning ministers; the thought of Nero fiddling, comes to mind. No major attempt has been made to deal with the housing crisis or homelessness – despite it being central to the crisis in society. How many Housing Ministers have we had since 2010? Is it six or seven? Don’t ask anyone in a pub quiz to name them, I doubt whether Theresa May could.

Amongst the various sub-cultures in loose-knit cabals are druggies and their suppliers and dealers, then there is the underclass, sadly, often dependent on benefits, stigmatised and stereotyped, lacking opportunities for social or economic advancement or educational attainment, deeply affected by cynicism, alienation and peer group pressure, but now, nowhere near to inhabiting the bottom strata of society. Thanks to Labour’s huge investment in schools, there has actually been some worthwhile progress, although it has been stymied by cuts and the Government’s fanatical obsession with free schools.

Now, we have a subterranean class, often living on the streets, frequently beset by mental illhealth, vulnerability, homelessness and stress. They were not there during the Blair/Brown years, they’re a product of austerity, indifference and the incompetence of Tory-dominated administrations since 2010. Or in some cases, the very drugs being marketed and distributed by dealers and their cohorts, who live, of their own volition, beyond the fringes of social control, with their own group dynamic, codes of conduct and malign influences.

Those in the subterranean class are not to blame, they’re not responsible for being in the gutter, they were pushed there and sadly, will remain there until major changes are made, mental health services are properly funded, outreach projects include safe, viable housing and those who see them as an irritant, start accepting them as a communal responsibility.

Ironically, this didn’t happen during the Thatcher years, when it was alleged there was no such thing as society; it’s happened during the Cameron and May years, they’ve pushed those at the bottom off the edge, outside the social mores and societal norms of the rest of us. They can’t stay there because there is such a thing as society and they are part of it.

They are part of us.