One of the claims by Conservative leader David Cameron was that Britain is broken. I understand this to say that many systems no longer function and that much of society lives outside of social norms. I seem to remember that a former Conservative leader claimed that “society” did not exist!

I live in a former mining village in Blaenau Gwent, a village that is surrounded by greenery and nestles in the bottom of a valley. I can see buzzards and ravens circling above the house and this week heard the first cuckoo of spring. Formerly this was a village with a large colliery at its bottom, a major steel works up the road, and the epitome of the industrial nightmare but, it was a community, albeit with a rough reputation.

I am not a Conservative and have enjoyed living in this very working class village. I recently noticed a Labour party election communication that chided the Independents who run Blaenau Gwent council for their poor record on keeping the environment clean. Note, that this is a natural Labour constituency. The former incumbent included Michael Foot, but is no longer held by Labour because of the insistence of all-women short lists. This meant that the Independents replaced the Labour party as representatives of the constituency. My gripe is that I think the council have provided the best waste disposal system possible with excellent provision for all recycling and regular cleaning of the public areas.

And yet! Many of the young people seem to take no notice of the environment in which they live. Rubbish is strewn regularly in the back lanes and in the river, or thrown over the fence on to the railway embankment. I watched a group of young men last Easter Monday enjoying the sunshine and throwing a dozen empty beer cans in the back lane, their back lane. Children as young as five roam the streets, and when questioned why they wish to destroy anything they come across, swear at you and say “well it is not yours”. There is no parental control and no responsibility. I have travelled in the poor parts of Africa, India, South East Asia and South America and I am sad to say that my back lane reminds me of the poorest areas of these places. I don’t think society is broken but I do despair of the lack of individual responsibility for our own environment. How can we change this? The party that talked of a broken society were partly to blame for breaking it with the policies of the 1980s but how do we bring back individual pride and responsibility?

Written by Dr Richard Pates, WIHSC Associate