Is Great Britain on the verge of collapse?

There was a time, during the post-war boom of the 1950s and 1960s, when a working class family could live comfortably on one income, and in such circumstances private home ownership was growing. Those days are but a distant memory now, writes Gary Cartwright. 

Those born in this millennium, poorly educated in Britain’s failing state schools and with little chance of obtaining meaningful employment, many on the notorious Zero Hours contracts - around 780,000 people are employed on zero hours contracts in the UK, roughly 2.4% of people in employment, or about one in 40 workers - are unlikely to be able to even afford the rent on a modest home, let alone raise the enormous sums now required in order to obtain a mortgage and acquire property of their own. 

In the London district of Bermondsey, once a grim slum on the south side of the River Thames, and which under the guidance of social reformer Dr Alfred Salter became a beacon of urban regeneration allowing under-paid and exploited dock workers to buy their own modern homes, and to enjoy a high level of health care, the cost of a so-called starter home, usually a one-bedroomed flat or small house with little or no garden, now “costs an average of £638,530, a ‘mid-market’ home an average of £691,300 and a top-of-the-range home nearly £1.5million,” according to a survey by the Sunday Times, carried out in conjunction with mortgage broker Habito and published recently (April 14th). What chance would a young couple or a single person with a reasonable income and level of job security have of getting on the property ladder have under such circumstances?

Social housing is no longer a viable option as much of what was available was either demolished in order that the land could be sold to private developers, or sold off cheaply to tenants under Margaret Thatcher’s government. Much of what is still available is occupied by those with the most pressing needs, often economic migrants and refugees, denying local families access. This situation, incidentally, was exploited ruthlessly during the run-up to the June 2006 Brexit referendum, and was one of the major factors in the result.

Schools themselves, as mentioned above, are failing, with the situation set to get worse. A letter obtained by EU Today, and signed by six headteachers in an area renowned for the high quality of its state schools refers to real term cuts in funding of 10% for the education of 11-16 year old pupils over recent years. Over the same period funding for sixth formers has dropped in real terms by 20%.“We have held off from writing to parents until now but are finding it increasingly unrealistic to maintain the high quality of provision for your children we feel currently exists. We are blessed to have a great range of highly successful schools in the area, but if nothing is done to reverse this funding crisis immediately, we will almost certainly not be able to operate at the same level in the future.”

The letter also points out that funding intended to pay for education is being used to pay “local government pension contributions”. The government is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

As for the national curriculum, pupils learn little of their country’s history, but are well versed in the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. Health and nutrition issues get but a cursory glance, tucked away in domestic sciences; however no primary or secondary school class is complete, it would appear, with at least one trans-gender pupil.

When launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5th 1948, the National Health Service  was based on 3 core principles: that it meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

The NHS was designed to meet the needs of an island nation with a largely homogenous population of 50 million, impoverished and traumatised by two world wars, and looking for social change. The NHS promised, and it delivered. It is, however, totally unsuited for today’s globalised high-tech world. 

The population of the UK today officially stands at 66.85 million, but nobody believes that statistic for one moment. 

Trolley Crisis

To appreciate the inadequacy of the NHS one really needs to live, work, and possibly raise a family on the continent in order to make comparisons with what is accepted as the norm there.

But to put it it into stark contrast, the UK has amongst the highest rates of cancer mortality in Europe - research suggests that the main reason for low survival rates in the UK seems to be delayed diagnosis, underuse of successful treatments and unequal access to treatment, particularly among elderly people. It is also the only country in the EU in which average life expectancy is actually declining. Hospital waiting times are virtually unheard in the other member states. And yet the NHS is amongst the most expensive health services not just in Europe, but globally.  

What it lacks in results, it makes up for in its services to the labour market: the NHS is the largest employer in the UK. It employs legions of managers and administrators, and also heavily supports the private sector by outsourcing, at considerable expense, many of its functions. The recipients of these lucrative health contracts, however, are often based offshore. 

Unless they wish to see a end to their career, senior politicians are obliged to repeat the mantra about the NHS being the jewel in Britain’s crown. It is not. It is a monkey on our backs. There is much talk of reform, but reforms would take decades, and today’s politicians think only in 4-5 year electoral cycles, and so we cannot expect words to be translated into actions. In any event, the NHS does not need to be reformed, it needs to be replaced.

Much like the NHS, what was once a public transport network has also been privatised and asset stripped. Take the case of the railways: archaic infrastructure that requires constant and highly expensive attention, and which is often the cause of delays and trains cancellations, remains the responsibility of the taxpayer, whereas the highly profitable train services themselves have been sold off to the private sector. One employee of Greater Anglia Rail told EU Today “customer services are being cut to the bone, we have no staff on the trains. Customers complain about fare increases, trains don’t run on time, all profits go to a Dutch company”.

Compare this to continental railways where onboard train managers and buffet cars are the norm, passengers are assured of a seat, trains generally run on time, and fares are a fraction of what British commuters pay. British railways are a classic example of a system in terminal decline. 

Britain is currently experiencing a murder rate of almost Biblical proportions. In particular, knife crime is on the rise, with multiple killings in various parts of the London on a single day often now being reported. On March 26th, two boys both 17, and four men aged 18 to 26 were knifed in separate attacks in London. 

The following morning, shopkeeper Ravi Katharkamar, 54, was murdered with a knife wound to his chest as he opened Marsh Food and Wine in Pinner, north-west London.

On April 16th a man was killed after a car was driven into a mass brawl outside a north-west London tube station, bringing the tally of murder victims to 36 so far this year.

Oxford St Stabbing

A recent study, published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, found that 21% of the 590 fatal stabbings in London over a 10-year period were flagged by police as involving gangs: in 2017-18 the proportion rose to 29% suggesting that gang culture is spreading in the capital.

The hopelessly inept Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service Cressida Dick, limply stated that “youth knife violence is at the worst level I have ever seen it”. It not known if Ms. Dick, who was in charge of the bungled operation that saw the brutal slaying by police officers of Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes at Stockwell underground station in 2005, intends to do anything about the state of affairs she is currently presiding over. (Ms. Dick is the Met’s first openly gay Commissioner, and she is openly conducting a relationship with a subordinate, which surely should raise serious questions.)

It should not require the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes to link this appalling situation to the fact that more than 600 police stations have closed in the last eight years, largely due to budget cuts. It has been explained, however, that these closures are partly because people now rarely report crimes at police stations. How can they when there are no stations left open?

It is interesting to note that whilst stations offer no service to the public, administrative work often continues apace behind the closed doors.

Burglaries are rarely, if ever, investigated by police, who no longer even attend the scene in most cases.

The current terrorist threat in the UK has provided the government with what politicians would term a beneficial crisisUnder the guise of this threat a major change in the way Britain is policed has taken place. The lack of visible policing, the failure - or is it lack of will? - of the police to protect the public, the closure of police stations and the move towards intelligence led policing all point to a major shift in priorities. The police no longer protect the public, they police them in order to protect the state.

Brexit has itself provided the government with another beneficial crisis. The security forces have been making preparations in order take to the streets to quell civil unrest in the event of supermarkets running out of French cheese or Veuve Cliquot Champagne. 

In January, it was announced that Her Majesty’s Government had issued a formal notice calling up British army reservists to help tackle the impact of crashing out of the EU “on the welfare, health and security of UK citizens and economic stability of the UK”.

Why are they really making such preparations?

Britain is a horribly overcrowded nation in which public services are in decline and in which the indigenous population has lost its identity. Cities are seething in gang violence, and the background smell in every town centre is that of cannabis, the police having given up on the fight against drugs long ago. 

There is real danger on the streets, and those few who take the time to look up from their iPhones will be aware of the growing legions of rough sleepers in shop doorways. Britain is now a country in which the elderly, the mentally ill, and the displayed sleep in the street, and police officers carry sub-machine guns. It has become an ugly place indeed.

Img 0332

The two homeless men, pictured left, sleep outside a supermarket close to London's exclusive Eccleston Square. As visitors from the continent arrive at Victoria coach station this is the sight they are met with. 

All this is happening in the fifth largest economy in the world. Exactly where is all the money going? 

If the UK is the successful economy that the government claims, why is the maximum weekly state pension £141 in the UK, £304 in France, £507 in Germany, and £513 in Spain? Again, where is all the money going?

Post-Brexit, we can expect to see employment laws relaxed and environmental regulations adjusted to suit the needs of industry at the expense of public health - London already has amongst the worst air quality in Europe, resulting in thousands of premature deaths each year. Mayor Sadiq Khan’s charges for motorists entering London’s ultra low emission zone will achieve nothing to solve this health crisis.

It is a sad truth, but one that has to be faced up to, that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will not be with us forever. The length of her reign has already been astonishing, and has given the nation a sense of stability and consistency: there are octogenarians today who were schoolchildren when she ascended to the throne in 1952. She is one of the last links to the Britain that many of us were born into and grew up in. We need to consider whether the affection, loyalty, and trust that she inspires in the British people will be transferred to her heirs and successors, to the “what Megan wants, Megan gets” generation of royals. 

The complete failure of the British government to manage Brexit has been but another symptom of the failings of the country’s out of date and out of step party system. Only in times of such confusion and despair could a political anachronism the likes of Jeremy Corbyn appear to some to make sense. 

Only in such times could his former lover, the ghastly hypocrite Diane Abbot, be presented to the public as Shadow Home Secretary. Abbot is all over the British press today (20th April) having been photographed drinking alcohol at lunchtime on a London train in flagrant contravention of a ban that has been in place since 2008.  The Home Secretary, it should be noted, is responsible for maintaining law and order in the UK.

The current ongoing eco-protests taking place in London have led to 682 arrests at the time of writing, leading to a crisis in those London police stations that remain open; they are running out of cells. How would they cope in a real state of emergency?

Any one of the failings described above should give cause for serious concerns. Coming altogether as they do, and the parlous state of Britain’s armed forces has not even been discussed here, a picture emerges of a country, a society, facing crisis or even collapse. If Britain’s infrastructure is unable to cope, if the forces of law and order have lost control of the city streets, and Her Majesty’s Government, paralysed by indecision and incompetence is unable to enact the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box, then to quote Virgil, "as I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood”.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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