Tuesday, 9 August 2011

It's all kicked off

Wow, August is normally a very quiet month as far as politics is concerned. But the financial markets are plummeting following the USA's credit rating being downgraded and, of course, there's been a series of riots across London and some other parts of the UK. What's going on? I've not been at work for the last couple of days and I've found it fascinating to follow what different politicians, journalists and commentators have been saying about the riots. Here is the view of former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone:
While the first priority is to restore peace, to ensure the safety of everyone now and in the future it is also necessary to have a serious discussion about why this has happened.

I am concerned that there is growing social dislocation in London and a threat that the police will be forced into escalating conflict with some London communities. We do not want to go back to the 1980s.

The economic stagnation and cuts being imposed by the Tory government inevitably create social division. As when Margaret Thatcher imposed such policies during her recessions this creates the threat of people losing control, acting in completely unacceptable ways that threaten everyone, and culminating in events of the type we saw in Tottenham.

Tories will issue knee-jerk statements demanding support for the police but they are actually cutting the police. That amounts to pure hypocrisy.

It's definitely vital to discuss the background and triggers for these riots but surely now is not the time to try and score party political points. Too soon, Ken. Also, I think he's utterly wrong to suggest that 15 months of David Cameron's government have been a big factor but that's not the point. Save the blame game for later, when the violence is under control.

Having said that, I'm going to do a bit of armchair speculation of my own. I heard on the radio earlier some really insightful and sensitive (I thought) comment from a lady called Camila Batmanghelidjh, who founded and now runs an organisation called Kids Company. They work with severely deprived and vulnerable children, aiming to help them get (and stay) out of trouble and develop aspirations for their future. This is what she wrote in today's Independent. See what you think. It's got to be better than dismissing the people involved as 'feral rats', 'mindless thugs' and so on, hasn't it? Mind you, I am uncomfortable with how strong a link she draws between deprivation and rioting; how many of those rioting over the last few days are deprived? Whose fault is it that 'the established community is perceived to provide nothing'?

Going back to Ken Livingstone's blaming of the Government and their spending cuts, maybe it's more about a deep-seated failure of education, parenting, social support services, policing etc. (delete according to your personal view) in certain parts of the country. I was amused by the rhetorical question asked in this article from the Daily Telegraph: would the rioters stop in their tracks if their local authority were to reinstate their library?

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