The Queen's Decaying Throne

By Theodore Dalrymple

It is possible, on the Welsh borders where I spent the Queen's jubilee, to believe that something of the old England remains.

Only the advantages, not the depredations, of the 20th century are evident there: the food, for example, that would have been unutterably vile at the beginning of the reign has improved out of all recognition.

There are practically no modern buildings for miles around, constructed by those staggeringly brutal and incompetent British architects of the second half of the 20th century who have left little else in the country untouched, and touched nothing that they did not ruin.

In the 60 years of the Queen's reign they have sown nothing but ugliness through the land; and only in this benighted reign would it have occurred to anyone to demolish 18th-century Bath, as it occurred to the city's council, to replace it with Novosibirsk-on-Avon.

Fortunately, the council was stopped by public protest after "only" 4000 18th-century buildings had been pulled down.

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The physical ugliness perpetrated almost everywhere has been fully matched by an ugliness of soul and society that is so obvious to visitors to our shores.

At the start of the reign whose 60th anniversary we "celebrate", Britain was one of the best-ordered societies in western Europe. Now, 60 years later, it is easily the most crime-ridden.

Unpleasant social disorder is everywhere; in many places, a virtual dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed on old people by the drunken disorder that appals and disgusts foreigners.

Our police, once a model to the world, increasingly resemble an alien occupying army, or fascist militia, festooned with all the apparatus of repression, who inspire fear mainly in the innocent, and who are bullying yet ineffectual.

The state of the country is parlous in more ways than one. Large areas, once industrial, resemble the Soviet Union with takeaway pizza. The only "private" enterprise consists of retail chains that recycle government subventions to the unemployed. The middle class in such areas is composed almost entirely of public employees and professionals who cater to the social problems created by mass unemployment.

Even at the height of the so-called boom, in 2006, there were 2.9 million people claiming to be so ill that they could not work at all. And thus the British benefit system performed the miracle of causing more invalids than World War I. For years British social and economic policy has been to suck in large amounts of unskilled foreign labour while maintaining high levels of indigenous unemployment.

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