Britain's "broken society" is one where "fairness is in danger of being forgotten", Chris Grayling has warned.
The shadow work and pensions secretary's comments came as he unveiled plans to heal the "vast social divide" he says is blighting the country's biggest cities.
Speaking in Liverpool after a visit to an inner city housing estate in Toxteth, Mr Grayling was dismissive of the Labour government's record on social mobility.
"Why on earth is it that so many people from within Liverpool have remained out of work, trapped in a culture of benefit dependency?" he asked.
"Within our cities we have local areas of extreme deprivation and social alienation from which few people escape. It's as if there are glass walls around them - a parallel culture existing alongside all of us in our daily lives."
Mr Grayling unveiled the Conservative party's five-point plan to tackle the issue and succeed in "reuniting our divided cities".
Back-to-work centres, primary education improvements, disorder, "ownership" and support for voluntary groups are all Tory priorities.
He concluded: "Britain in the 21st century should not be a throwback to the 19th.
"Over the past ten years we have heard endless rhetoric from the current government about the social challenges we face. And about the things they have achieved.
"But if you walk round our most deprived areas, you know immediately that things are not right, that the job remains undone - that we live in a society where fairness is in danger of being forgotten.
"I believe our challenge in government will be to start the enormous task of turning things around."
The Liberal Democrats dismissed the proposals as old news. Work and pensions spokesperson Jenny Willott said Mr Grayling's speech was just "rehashing old announcements" and said their approach had failed to tackle deprivation in the 1990s.
"Instead of taking responsibility and telling us how they will help they say that volunteer groups and private companies must do all the hard work," Ms Willott commented.
"No one believes that can make the real difference in struggling neighbourhoods. It just doesn't ring true."