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London Calling

06/07/2016 11:24 | Updated 06 July 2016

In the aftermath of World War II Dr John Bowlby created his theory of infant attachment. It was such an innovative approach to child psychology in that era that it went on to underpin the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Bowlby proposed that, in essence, the most important outcome of early childhood was to connect the child socially and emotionally to other people. He created the concept of the Internal Working Model, that is if the child's experiences indicate to her that other people are generally caring and helpful and that she herself is worthy of care, she will grow up to believe in her own worth, to trust other people and to be caring and helpful to them in turn. However if experiences in infancy indicate that other people habitually value their own needs over those of the child, this spawns an enduring feeling of worthlessness and eventually, a simmering anger and resentment towards humanity in general.

Bowlby never proposed that his theory had a sociological application; however the result of the EU Referendum and its aftermath gives abundant evidence that this may indeed be the case. The occupants of the Westminster Bubble have been careless of the feelings of those outside for a very long period, giving rise to a growing feeling of collective worthlessness and rejection that, in the words of two 'leave' voters interviewed on BBC's Panorama: 'has flowed into one big, massive sea of anger' that the referendum brought 'to bursting point'.

The disaffected British population has in this sense behaved as the collective dysfunctional 'offspring' of a 'parental' ruling class whose lack of care most recently sunk to the depths of risking the nation's future as collateral in a high-stakes game of personal one-upmanship that began in the classrooms and playing fields of Eton; 64 million pawns sacrificed to internal Westminster in-fighting in a high-stakes game without a contingency plan.

And so the whole dysfunctional tableau continues to unfold. Following the referendum, in which slightly over half of the population roundly rejected the admonitions of the occupants of Westminster regardless of party political lines, the politicians in turn have roundly rejected the population in order to continue pursuing their own agendas. In the customary manner of inadequate, self-indulgent parents everywhere these 'leaders' do not have the character to even begin to deal with the mess that they have created; after briefly staring into the abyss created by their folly they have abruptly absolved themselves of all consequences and left the considerable reconstruction required for someone else to deal with.

In the customary manner of insecure relationships, these outcomes have been a long time in the making. In the early days of the Blair government, I worked in community education around the economically devastated mining areas of South Yorkshire in which a confused worthlessness was already evident. However this was given scant public voice beyond dark comedy. Examples include the famous 'Coco the Scab' scene in the film Brassed Off and the more subtle dejection of the dole queue in The Full Monty.

This sector of our community was already becoming, in the terms of John Bowlby's associate Mary Ainsworth 'ambivalently attached'; increasingly unsure that anyone in Westminster knew or cared about their situation, or recognised their feelings of abandonment. Indeed, I was horrified when I realised that those I was working with responded to my South London accent as one that they had heard around their villages only once before- from the Police battalions sent by Margaret Thatcher to engage in pitched battle with striking miners. As I got to know my colleagues and students better, I learned that many had up-close and personal experience of 'London calling, see we ain't got no swing /'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing'.

So now the dam has burst, what do we need to heal such an angry, insecure nation? It might be useful to consider the qualities that are sought in foster parents to work with the angry, insecure children produced by neglectful self-seeking parents. Lambeth Council, 4 miles south of the Palace of Westminster advises that children in need require focused attention from people who respect them as individuals, who listen to their views and help to build their self-esteem and identity -which translates into a national need for politicians who are more concerned with the welfare of those they represent than in furthering their own ambitions and pursuing long-standing personal vendettas within the Westminster Bubble. This would seem like a very good start to me.

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