Yesterday in Liverpool, three teenage boys were sentenced for the murder of a homeless man back in August of last year, they'd literally kicked the living daylights out of him as he slept rough in the early hours. Everything about this case was tragic and left you thinking, is this really what life has become? The murdered gentleman was typical of so many on the margins of society in every town and city throughout Britain. Struggling with alcoholism, the only support he had to lean on was a bottle in a shop doorway. The children who killed him appear to have received woefully inadequate parenting, this was a story in which everyone was the loser, including society.
It was Margaret Thatcher who introduced Care in the Community, back in 1983, as part of her agenda to reduce the welfare state, particularly to reduce the financial burden on the government for people she no doubt saw as, economically inactive and of no use. Only one problem with a concept like Care in the Community, Thatcher's community - raised largely on a diet of selfishness, greed and indifference to suffering - didn't actually care. Through the 80s and 90s, the underground Circle line was known as the "care in the community line" because former residential psychiatric patients would ride it all day long. With little money, and nowhere else to go, it at least kept them warm and dry and they were less likely to have their head kicked in, than up there on the streets of London.
The outpourings of anger we've witnessed following Thatcher's death, are due to her callous view of humanity and her ruthless determination to stamp out groups of people she despised. Sadly New Labour did little to try to reverse the public's perception of the needy, as worthless parasites; when Labour left office in 2010, society was no more compassionate than it had been at the height of Thatcher's popularity. This is an inevitable and vile by-product of successive governments' economic policy - There is no such thing as ethical capitalism, it thrives on hate, fear, misery and paranoia. When people are happy and content and have wonderful relationships with other human beings, they tend to buy fewer objects to satisfy their emotional needs.
One of the challenges for an incoming Labour government will be to improve society, before it's too late, to increase the collective sense of compassion and integrity. But one wonders how this will be possible with so many New Labour faces on Ed Miliband's front bench, and with so many shadow ministers appearing to share Iain Duncan Smith's view of the vulnerable - like Thatcher before him - that they need to be eradicated from our communities by whatever means necessary rather than supported and encouraged to make happy, meaningful lives for themselves.
Sadly, I think we have a long way to go.