Social decay is Britain’s most serious weakness says Danny Kruger in a pamphlet entitled ‘On Fraternity’ to be published tomorrow by the Civitas think tank:

"Hundreds of local institutions, non-commercial and quasi-commercial, were swept away in the flood of reform. Small high-street grocers and bakers disappeared. Family-run pubs were subsumed into giant chains. Whitehall desolated local government, and turned a blind eye to the steady erosion of the family and civil society by the cult of individual freedom.  This trend has grown greatly since the Conservatives left office. The emptiness in our culture is apparent in the rates of family breakdown and the prevalence of drug addiction and violent, alcohol-fuelled crime; in the neglect of the old and the precocious sexuality of children; in the cult of vicarious narcissism which is ‘reality TV’; in the popular addiction to shopping as a means of self-definition, and in the astronomical scale of private debt which is necessary to maintain the shopping habit. It is also apparent, conversely, in the receptive hearing which militant Islam gets from young Asians in Britain, and in the hostility to Asians among young whites."

Danny’s views matter – not just because they are tightly-argued – but because he is David Cameron’s special adviser.  Since he joined the leader’s office last summer there has been a noticeable strengthening of the party leadership’s commitment to reverse the decline of voluntary association and of the family unit.  Danny – along with David Willetts, Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Hilton – are emerging as the leading advocates of a ‘Social Conservatism’ of the kind Margaret Thatcher, according to her autobiography, most regretted never developing.

‘On Fraternity’ identifies three key trends that are driving society apart:

  1. The emergence of a generation of left-behinds: "Some millions of people find themselves falling behind as the rest of society advances, and unable to change their lot; the consequence, in some hundreds of communities, is endemic debt, depression, drugs, alcoholism, crime, and, cause and effect of all of these, family breakdown."
  2. A collapse of intergenerational relationships: "The vast army of the retired and soon-to-retire are in conflict with our increasingly strident and alienated youth, not only for material resources and political power, but also – just as important – for cultural airtime and national respect."
  3. Cultural differences including "the presence of large communities with different national origins and, therefore, alternative cultural traditions."

Danny first set out his thinking on fraternity in an article for Prospect magazine last August.  In his Civitas paper he sets out the vision of the kind of Britain he wants to see:

"Rather than the large, uniform outposts of central government, imagine a community populated by small, variable, local institutions, responding not to central direction but to local demand. Imagine a neighbourhood in which the schools, medical centres and welfare agencies are governed by local people; imagine if each county’s police force were accountable not to the Home Office but to the people of the county itself. Imagine if social action were not the responsibility of what Alexis de Tocqueville, writing about the increasingly centralised European states of his day, called ‘a powerful stranger called the government’, but of individuals, families and communities themselves."

Editor’s note: "I count Danny as a friend and I certainly find his vision very appealing.  David Cameron’s commitment to social responsibility is one of the most promising themes of his leadership.  My worry is that David Cameron has already failed one of his first big tests on this issue.  He chose to impose gay equality legislation on Catholic adoption agencies.  This will not encourage voluntary organisations to become more involved in delivery of social action if they know that they are likely to become clients of the state and its values.  The small platoons that Danny seeks to champion must also be free platoons if they are not to replicate the failed procedures and mindsets of the state’s welfare agencies.  Freedom of groups to associate must live in tension with freedom of other individuals to live in certain ways.  On the plus side, however, David Cameron’s willingness to champion the importance of marriage – society’s bedrock social institution – shows real seriousness."

Related link: David Brooks could be a new guru for David Cameron

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