As Britain approaches a general election, commentators on the present "British sickness" or "British crisis" usually dwell on one of several areas. Here are some of them:
• Destruction of trust in the Parliamentary and political system. About half Britain's MPs have been found to have broken either the spirit or the letter of the law with dodgy expense claims, "flipping" primary and secondary residences to avoid capital gains tax and in other ways showing contempt for the taxpayer -- a contempt now being heartily reciprocated. It is hard to see how any major party will be able to find enough cleanskins to form a ministry after the next election. Coupled with this is the rise to power of bizarre figures like Lord Mandelson, virtually de facto Prime Minister although elected by no one, once a young far-leftist activist, now a friend (if that is the word) of Russian oligarchs and recently a shooting partner of Colonel Qaddafi's son on the Rothschild Estate.
• The threat to Britain's political and national identity posed by integration into the European Union. This will, it is predicted, be irrevocably sealed by the Treaty of Lisbon, and it has already had far-reaching consequences in British domestic law. Despite numerous promises, there seems no prospect of a referendum being held by either a Labour or Conservative government.
• The threat to Britain's historic cultural identity through massive and aggressive Muslim immigration. This has already created large no-go areas for non-Muslims and particularly unveiled women in London and some other cities. This has been connected with selective attacks, in the name of multiculturalism, on Christian institutions (a nurse of 40 years' experience who suggested prayer to a distressed patient on a training exercise recently was not rebuked or corrected but instantly sacked). Other Christian workers have been sacked for displaying small crucifixes as necklaces or lapel-badges. There is also a rising tide of anti-Semitism, the last particularly at some universities. Jewish, or to be correct Israeli, students have actually been banned from attending some courses and journal refused to publish contributions from Israeli academics until protests came from America. Various government and private organizations have banned staff from displaying toy pigs in deference to alleged Muslim sensibilities. Police ordered one householder to remove a display of toy pigs from her window lest they be seen by Muslims passing on the road, though no Muslims had actually complained. British police forces were recently described as having become the paramilitary wing of the far-left Guardian newspaper.
Young British Muslims appear to be becoming much more extreme than their parents, probably largely in reaction to the cultural decadence they are daily confronted with. A recent poll found 36 percent of British Muslims aged 16 to 24 believe those who convert to another religion should be punished by death. Forty percent of British Muslims would like to live under Sharia law and 20 percent have sympathy for the London tube bombers. Masked Muslims marched through London carrying placards proclaiming "Behead those who insult Islam" and promising another 9/11 and another Holocaust while protected by massive numbers of British police. Anjem Choudary, Principal Lecturer of the London School of Shariah, declared recently: "There is a spark that has ignited and its flame has become unstoppable. We find ourselves in the year 2009, waiting for Rome to fall, waiting for the White House to fall and indeed waiting for Buckingham Palace to fall." Buckingham Palace, he foresaw, would become a mosque, with suitable architectural re-design.
Then there are the revelations in October of Andrew Neather, speechwriter for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett. Neather claimed a secret government report in 2000 set out to deliberately change Britain's national identity and cultural makeup irrevocably and forever: "I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended -- even if this wasn't its main purpose -- to rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date," he said. This is not only a matter of votes, as many migrants do not vote for years, but also a matter of jobs, prestige and perquisites for the Labour-supporting caring professions.
• The "broken society," with rates of family breakdown and teenage drug abuse, drunkenness and pregnancy among the highest in Europe. Teenage pregnancy has often tended to increase most rapidly in the areas with the most extensive and expensive sex-education programs. The taxation system seems -- without any exaggeration at all -- deliberately created to reward unmarried motherhood and family break-up. Even Russia, a byword for dangerous, drunken chaos, has a lower rate of teenage drunkenness. Violent crime by girls, generally operating in drunken gangs, is also increasing rapidly.
• Material and moral weaknesses in the armed forces. Many deaths of servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan have been blamed on inadequate equipment, a situation that remains unrectified after years of complaints and official findings by coroners' courts and others and complaints and resignations by senior officers. For the first time in many years the actual quality of troops, as distinct from leadership or equipment, is being questioned. According to many accounts the British Army's performance in Basra left much to be desired. The Royal Navy is now smaller than the French Navy and cannot even arrest Somali pirates in case Britain is then forced to grant them asylum under EU Law. It recently emerged that on October 28, 2009, the armed British Naval auxiliary tanker Wave Knight stood by and did nothing while pirates a few yards away seized and kidnapped the British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, transferring them from their yacht to a hijacked Singaporean container vessel. At the time of writing the Chandlers are being held for a $9 million ransom. For the first time since Admiral Benbow's captains were shot in 1703 for deserting him in battle the Royal Navy has been publicly accused of cowardice, though if it makes any difference the real culprit has been the culture of political correctness.
Other kinds of pirates have been dealt with more sternly, however: Local councils have prohibited pirate flags being flown as children's parties as "unneighbourly." Handing power to local councils, an article of faith for both major parties, has resulted in an overweening Nanny State with a peculiar combination of wimpishness and Draconianism. To take one recent example among countless others: when a coastal footpath was built by a Rotary Club to allow ramblers to enjoy the scenery along Loch Ryan, in Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council would allow only organized groups to use the footpath, and only if supervised by a "trained outdoor specialist." Christmas lights outside shops have been forbidden both on grounds of multiculturalism and for health and safety reasons. In "Operation Napkin" undercover police have been sent to dine at Chinese and Indian restaurants, presumably with concealed truncheons and handcuffs at the ready, to arrest diners asking for "flied lice" or otherwise mimicking the accents of staff.
• Nanny-State Draconianism and senseless punishments. An ex-soldier who found a shotgun and immediately handed it in to police was arrested, tried before a jury, convicted and at the time of writing faces a minimum of five years prison for possessing it, the judge having instructed the jury that the law against possessing firearms was to be construed strictly and the fact the possessor was acting innocently and with public-spiritedness was irrelevant. Police are routinely arresting people simply to record their DNA profiles on the national database, according to another recent report. At the same time overcrowded jails and racially based sentencing guidelines (magistrates have been directed to regard black burglars and muggers as "quirky Lenny Henry characters") mean large numbers of serious criminals remain at large.
• A drastic decline in teaching standards, and at tertiary level a collapse in the hard subjects. Lesley Ward, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, claimed recently that countless children are not even toilet trained when they started school, are unable to dress themselves, can only eat with a spoon or their fingers and could scarcely spell their own names, still less pass basic literacy or maths tests. Regarding higher education, a third of Britain's university physics departments have closed in the last few years.
• Continuing National Health scandals. A few months ago it was reported that up to 1,200 patients had died unnecessarily due to bad conditions at the Mid-Staffordshirre Foundation Trust NHS hospital. Ministers, including the Prime Minister, apologized abjectly and claimed it was an isolated occurrence and that such a thing would never happen again. Now it has emerged that similar conditions of poor nursing care, filthy wards and lack of leadership at Basildon and Thurrock University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust have led to the deaths of up to 400 patients a year.
• A general attack on traditions and values. A survey found three-quarters of teachers believed it was their duty to warn pupils about the danger of patriotism. With pupils possibly taking them at their word, war memorials have been reported vandalized at the rate of more than one a week for the past year. Ex-servicemen have found that Union Jack tattoos, even if invisible under clothing, have cost them the chance of jobs with police and fire departments, lest they be found intimidating. This links to a general decline in historical memory, with many surveys indicating that large numbers think the likes of Winston Churchill or the Duke of Wellington are fictional if they have heard of them at all, though they often display exact and pedantic knowledge of the history of rock-bands. One in 20 of 2,000 children aged nine to 15 surveyed recently believed Adolf Hitler was a football coach.
All this is before even considering the more conventional stuff of political debate -- monetary and fiscal policy, levels of taxation and spending -- but here matters are in a more-or-less comparable state. Britain remains in recession, lagging behind other major economies such as France, Germany, the U.S. and Japan. The Governor of the Bank of England has warned that the public finances are in such chaos that Britain's credit rating may be cut.
Many of the comments on apparently diverse social and political dysfunction in Britain today are like the tale of the blind men and the elephant: one touched its trunk and thought it resembled a snake, one touched its tusk ("a spear!") one its side ("a wall!)", the others its tail, ("a rope!"), its ear ("a fan!) and its knee ("A tree!"). But diverse as these parts seemed, they were all of a whole. The British elephant today is the result of 11 years of Gramscian leftism in power, not only or perhaps even principally at the level of the national government, but in all sorts of quasi-governmental institutions, and with an Opposition often unable to acknowledge or recognize what is happening, and indeed sometimes actively conniving with it. A few of the results are almost comic, many are very serious, but they are part of a single whole.