Are the US culture wars a glimpse into Britain’s future?

Or can we find a way out?

Is what happened in the US a glimpse of what’s to come here?

The images that came out of the US in early January rocked the western world. Only a few years ago it would have been impossible to think of this beacon of democracy teetering on the edge of collapse.  

But it’s not only in America that divisions have started to deepen. Countries across the globe have seen huge changes in society in recent years, and we all know Britain is no exception. 

A country split across many fault lines

A melting pot of big shifts, including Brexit and now Covid, have led to the so-called ‘culture wars’ taking centre stage.  

We see it in our politics, but it has real world impacts too – some of the country’s most divisive issues have led to friends, families and communities being split up and down the country.    

So is what happened in the US a glimpse of what’s to come here? Or could we choose a different path and actually use our differences to bring the country together? 

Embracing difference and what we agree on

Over the last year Engage Britain has been talking to people from all walks of life in towns and cities across the country.

And we found many people actually agree on what many of our most important problems are – even if their views are different.  

The country continues to face huge issues, beyond the immediate Covid crisis. 

The vast majority of us want to make health and care work for everyone from cradle to grave; we all want to ensure children and families in this country are warm and well fed – these sorts of national issues have been around for decades, yet never really get resolved.  

Tackling national problems together

People tell us with one voice that something needs to be done about these problems – and they have lots of different ideas on how to fix them.   

But those ideas are never really heard. Swathes of people today feel they don’t have a say in what happens in our country. Their frustration is hardly surprising. 

Trust in politicians is as low as it has ever been. For decade upon decade, our national political debate had been centred around Westminster and offices in London.

And all too often this means decisions which affect the lives of millions of ordinary people are taken without talking to them about it. 

Because of this, despair and frustration are spilling out into our public conversation. The idea has taken hold that we are a hopelessly divided country, at the mercy of the culture wars.   

Hopelessly divided – but are we really?

Of course, people have differences and disagreements but we believe these actually make us stronger. And the good news is there are some big differences between us and the United States. 

We’re not split down the middle in the same way the American public are. If people have the same views on Brexit, that doesn’t mean they’ll agree on how to get families out of poverty. 

Few people in the UK doubt climate change is happening or the action that’s needed to tackle it – the disagreement is on where it fits as a priority. So we can more easily use our different viewpoints to find common ground. 

But it’s safe to say we need to make some big social changes – and these have never begun life in Westminster. They’ve begun as movements within our communities. Like the idea of our NHS. Or the need for a minimum wage.  

No one knows more than ordinary people about what it’s like to live in Britain today. Every one of us has something to bring to the table when it comes to making this country work better. 

We just need the space to come together, to talk, to have our say – whoever we are and wherever we come from.  And the people in power need to start listening.