Britain: How Bad Is It Really?

In a week of depressing news items and blog posts, one of the most depressing was this.

A British writer surveyed members of Britain’s WWII generation and asked: Given the way the country has turned out, do you think the sacrifices made in the war were worth it? The most common answer was “NO.”

Some of the reactions are probably the typical “things-were-much-better-when-I-was-younger-and-now–everything-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket” common among older people in all times and places. A couple of them sound like narrow-mindedness and xenophobia. But most of the reactions sound very understandable given what I’ve read about the current social and political climate in the U.K.

A couple of questions:

1)Especially for Brits: Are things really this bad?

2)For everyone: To what extent are the factors that have been so destructive in the U.K. also operating in the United States?

17 thoughts on “Britain: How Bad Is It Really?”

  1. Well, seeing that it was that generation that voted in the Labour government with all the attendant problems of the welfare state, kept in power other socialist governments and was not too happy with Thatcher who appealed more to younger voters, I am not sure how seriously I want to take all that stuff. It is also true that euroscepticism is stronger among the younger voters, who do not think Europe is a great adventur and who either remember of been told of the horrors of the seventies, created by the generation that went through WWII and want nothing to do with it. Not to mention the minor detail that it is the younger generations who will be paying for the welfare state set up and expanded in the first couple of decades after the war.

    It is rather good to have American contacts. I’d never know otherwise what was in the Daily Wail. Thank you. :)

  2. H…the fact that a person supported a policy, though, doesn’t mean that he can’t be disturbed by the outcome of that policy, especially several decades later….direct observation is usually more accurate than cause-and-effect analysis. Most people who supported the welfare state probably had no idea of the kind of social demoralization that it could (and would) bring about.

  3. A friend, who is a professor of surgery in London, is very concerned about the conversion of young English women to Islam. A number of his medical students are such converts and he can’t imagine why. He is, of course, a Labour voter.

  4. Yes – it reall IS that bad. I emigrated to New Zealand this year – about 10 years too late but that is another story altogether.

    I commented on the state of Britain at Kevin Bakers Blog and Kevin generously published it as the main article for November 5th (link here

    I also commented and the same thing happened on October 19th regarding how the First World war set Britain on the road to what it has become. (link here

    For the Socialised Medicine aspect, see the Posting on Kevins Blog for November 20th.

    I can see trends in America which parallel these in Britain.

    Bear in mind that I have “Put my money where my mouth is and got out of the Country I was born in – it no longer exists – before you say I am wrong.

  5. I keep hearing about women converting to Islam. Never met one or anyone who met anyone who met anyone. So, I’d be interested in finding out how many have actually converted.

    As for emigrating, well good. We live in a part of the world where these things are possible. There was a greater exodus to the dominions in the fifties, by the way, than now.

    David, I started a long response to your comment, then decided not to. Too much to say.

  6. Speaking as a member of the younger generation Helen is talking about I have to disagree. Most of my friends know nothing about the EU and care less. They might not be in favour of it but they don’t think about leaving either. They know education in the UK is risible but their solutions are largely further politicisation and impositions on children’s freedom. Most support the NHS for emotional reasons. Almost none are interested in politics and the general feeling is that most of the big parties are the same.

    I’ve seen no fervour in any of the Parties on campus bar the Socialist Workers. The SWP does OK and is dedicated but small and largely comprised of fire-eating bourgeois students who’ve read enough to know things but not enough to understand them. I couldn’t say if Islamism is on the rise but as anyone who’s been to a University with plenty of Engineering and Medical students will know, there are plenty of conservative Muslims wandering around (bear in mind that I’m in inner London). Conservative Christians, Hindus and Sikhs are much, much rarer. Generally the mix of races and religions is pretty good though.

    Most people, even if not left-wing, come at problems with a statist mind-set. Very few serious right-wingers beyond a few public school chaps and cranks. American students don’t like Bush/Palin etc. (fair enough) but tend to be more right-wing. Sadly many of the Americans are totally ignorant of world affairs (though in fairness much the same can be said for most students). The French students tend to be very privileged and rather champagne socialist. Nobody likes the BNP. The Daily Mail is universally loathed. I received an email after the European elections where the author remarked that he couldn’t understand how anyone could vote for…UKIP. This sort of presumption of similar, left wing, views is everywhere. The level of political discourse is very low. I’d say the attitude is of just getting on with life. Most care little and do even less.

    The country has improved enormously over the past 30 years, largely thanks to globalisation. But there are huge problems and I see nobody ready to fix them. In truth the mob might be angry but it has food, entertainment and the welfare state. It is sated if not happy and I see no chance of the sort of political revolution that is necessary. For the moment, gentle decline is the best possible future. I for one won’t leave though, London is in my bones.

  7. Phil B, have you ever read Neville Shute’s novel “In the Wet” ? It is an interesting book, written in the 1950s when he emigrated to Australia. It is a fantasy of what England would be like in the 1980s. He died in 1960 so he never had a chance to see how close he came. In fact, he did not predict Thatcher and so there was an interval, now over, where the decline was arrested and reversed. The book is interesting as Shute was also very much into paranormal things. There is an element of reincarnation. Anyway, Shute still has a large following worldwide. I am reading another of his novels right now, called “Pastoral” about the RAF in WWII.

  8. Of course they would sign up again, groaning and complaining all the way. I never believed the upper lip was ever as stiff as advertised — that’s what mustaches are for. Reluctant warriors go all the way back to Odysseus and Hector.

    No matter how bad things get, Britain and America can straighten things out without piling up corpses in the Continental manner. That alone is worth fighting for.

  9. Bad enough. My grandfather who fought for the Brits in WW2 subsequently emigrated to Salazar’s Portugal. My immediate family emigrated to Texas. We have accepted that Britain’s political culture cannot sustain a prosperous and free people. The same is true of the United States of America; but the difference here is that this country is a lot larger, with more crannies into which the libertarian might slip.

  10. I think what has been in operation in Britain will not be able to go so far down the same path in the US – or in Texas, at least. There are more crannies as Zimriel said – heck, there are whole canyons – in which libertarians can slip. And in Texas – which is a sort of concentrated reduction, or demi-glace – of the US, most people not directly under the thumb of the local party machine are a little more cantankerous about nanny-state interference.

  11. Check out ‘1985’ by Anthony Burgess. (Orig. pub. in 1978)

    “In the hypothetical 1985 envisioned in the book, the trade unions have become so powerful that they exert full control over society; unions exist for every imaginable occupation. Unions start strikes with little reason and a strike by one union usually turns into a general strike.

    Another major theme of the novella is the rise of Islam as a major cultural and political force in Britain, due to large-scale immigration from the Middle East; London abounds with mosques and rich Arabs.

    Quite prescient.

  12. Britain is pretty bad. You can be put in jail for saying or writing the wrong thing. In fact, if I recall, two people tried to defect to the US from Britain as political refugees and were turned back to Britain?

  13. Guy,

    You flatly state :

    “The Daily Mail is universally loathed”

    If you check the Audited Bureau of Circulation website ( will find the following:

    Newspaper Period Catergory of Circulation Number Read by 1 in Percentage

    Daily Mail 5 October – 1 November 2009 Average Net UK 1,992,334 30 3.32
    Average Net 2,157,085
    The Guardian 5 October – 1 November 2009 Average Net UK 274,201 219 0.46
    Average Net 311,878
    Daily Mirror 5 October – 1 November 2009 Average Net UK 1,183,450 51 1.97
    Average Net 1,295,972
    Newcastle Evening Chronicle 29 December 2008 to 28 June 2009 63,872 23 4.26

    The difference between the Average net UK and the slightly higher Average Net is that some newspapers are sold abroad on subscription.

    The figures I calculated from the information are based on a population of Britain of nominally 60 million.

    Taking into account the number of people of school age, the number of immigrants etc. I am interested to know why you think that a newspaper that is PURCHASED by one in thirty people is “universally loathed” whereas the Guardian (the house Newspaper of the left and the social engineers)is purchased by less than 0.5% of the population. Even if you add in the purchasers of the Daily Mirror (what the rank and file of the left read, the Guardian is for the Officers), the number of people who purchase the Daily Mail outnumbers the COMBINED total of the left wing newspapers by over 500,000 (to be precise 534,683).

    Alternatively, the Daily Mail COULD be considered to be more in alignment with the majority of what people in the UK think and believe and the Guardian in particular which is is the favoured reading of the left wing “Progressives” (progress from what to what???) is much less popular (for every 4 Guardian readers, there are 29 Daily Mail readers).

    The Evening Chronicle which is a local Tyneside newspaper with a catchment readership of about 1 1/2 million is given as a comparison – ok a local paper will be much more widely popular than a national newspaper but has a readership approximately 1/4 of the Guardian.

    Any reasonable person would likely not consider the Guardian to be anything other than a niche market newspaper in a country with a population of over 60 million.

    The Daily Mail is remarkably popular for a newspaper which is so universally loathed, don’t you think?

  14. Oops – the careful formatting I input has been messed around – the figures on each line are as follows :
    Big figure – the circulation
    Next figure is “one in X People read it”
    last figure is the percentage of the population who purchase the newspaper.

    So for the Daily Mail, the figures are

    Average Net UK circulation – 1,992,334
    One in 30 people purchase the newspaper
    3.32 percent of the population purchase the newspaper

    The Guardian has a circulation of 274,201 and one person in 219 puts their hands in their pocket to buy it.
    The Daily Mirror has a circulation of 1,183,450.

    Hope that makes it clearer.


  15. I didn’t say people didn’t buy the Daily Mail, just that my generation loathe it. It is commonly abused in culture (TV, books etc.) and in conversation. I’ve never heard a kind word for it and frequently heard it used as an example of racism, hatred and bad journalism in a newspaper. Any conversation about immigration or racism will inevitably involve someone slagging off the Daily Mail or referring to it negatively at least once.

    Remember, I’m talking about 20 year olds, mostly university students, in London, mostly of middle class background. And doing so in response to Helen. Not talking about the country as a whole.

    (Personally I don’t buy papers but I do read the Mail when I eat in a Greasy Spoon.)

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