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Clegg needs to do more than fulminate. This is also about wealth, power and opportunity

Posted on 8 August 2011 | 12:08pm

Nick Clegg is right to say the violence in London has been unacceptable, and the thieving opportunistic, and the senior police officer put up to do interviews in the absence of a Commissioner right to say the rooters and looters do not represent their communities.

But both are wrong if they see this purely as a law and order issue. The fulminations, though necessary, are not sufficient.

A few months ago, when I was ‘teaching’ in Jamie’s Dream School, I asked the students to come up with campaign ideas. We got Saatchis in to help with slogans and advertising concepts. One of the brightest kids, Nana Kwame, wanted to mount a campaign along the very simple theme that if the government cut youth services, they would see a rise in crime.

This is not a revolutionary idea, and is perfectly consistent with the condemntation of violence and theft. indeed, was it not Mr Clegg himself who warned during the last election that there would be social unrest if the Tories went ahead with their planned programme of cuts? Has he been asked about this yet?

Nana Kwame came from a pretty tough South London background. He had several older brothers in jail. He told me his ambition was not to follow them, and he is making a good fist of meeting that ambition.

But one of the reasons he stayed out of trouble was because he was an active participant, and something of a leader, in a youth club near his home. When we visited Downing Street – sadly this bit was edited out – he told the Prime Minister that he worried that if services like this were cut – it was happening – then kids with nothing to do would take to causing trouble.

Mr Cameron gave something of a politician’s answer. He said the government was making difficult decisions to sort out the economy, local councils were also having to make tough choices, but he was always emphasising to councils good youth services were exactly the kind of services that should not be cut.

Nana Kwame rightly pointed out that this was a case of having your cake and eating it, that he could not absolve himself of any responsibility for these cuts.

As for the posters we made at Dream School, Nana Kwame’s idea for the slogan was very simple – Cut youth services, and it won’t be the only thing being cut,’ illustrated by a knife. Subtle it most certainly was not, but he felt very strongly that what he was saying was true.

in the end we went with something more prosaic and more positive like ‘cut crime not youth services’.

Even if the services have been cut, it is not an excuse to riot, loot and pillage. But a cocktail of youth service cuts, police cuts, and an economic austerity package that does not appear to be working is not a healthy one.

Having had several of my own holidays interrupted by events when I worked for the PM, I hesitate to join the ‘head for home’ bandwagon on that front. But we did always ensure there was a heavy hitter in London, something the government appears not to have done, and what with economic crisis, major loss of military life in Afghanistan and now the riots, this is about as unsilly a silly season as I can recall.

As someone pointed out on my blog earlier, we always tended to have John Prescott in the UK when TB was away. Say what you like about JP, and plenty do, but he was diligent and dutiful in making sure the wheels of government kept turning, and that the PM and others were properly kept in touch.

And it is not just for those managerial reasons that I feel the current government lacks a Prescott type figure. It is also a problem that senior members of the government seem to be cut from much the same cloth. I’m not sure they get the lives of people living in some of the areas where we have seen the worst rioting. And I am not talking about the rooters, but the ones who stayed at home.

‘Power, wealth and responsibility in the hands of the many not the few’ was one of the driving principles of New Labour. We can have an argument about the extent to which we succeeded in meeting that goal. But what cannot be argued is that it was the belief that drove so many of the policies that mattered – Sure Start, minimum wage, New Deal, investment in schools and hospitals, EMAs, devolution to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London … I could go on with a very long list of changes that gave real meaning in people’s lives to a political slogan about extending power, wealth and opportunity.

Power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few … Does anyone believe that comes close to describing the philosophy of the current government?

I wish Nick Clegg well in his efforts to steady the ship. But he also needs to go back to why he thought what he used to think, and reflect on whether he might have had a point.

  • MicheleB

    The Police were making a planned arrest of a murder suspect.

    It seems the bullet that lodged in one of their officers’ radios is now declared as a Police round.  A non Police-issue gun has been found at the scene so we need confirmation of the (seemingly obvious) sequence of events and thank X the radio was where it was.

    I can’t imagine what the spoilers of a peaceful vigil were wanting other than what they got, trouble and strife.  Some of the footage is repulsive, there isn’t anything to do with poverty that drives such sickening grabbing, some of the jokers actually tried stuff on first!    Others had multiples of items, people were selling their thefts just one street away (I suppose then going back for more).

    They didn’t go to sit with the vigil and the real people of Tottenham have disowned the scummy incoming rioters of all colours.

    I’m glad the Police protected people rather than the retail park and only hope no bodies are found in the burned buildings.

  • Chris lancashire

    I’m not quite sure what this rambling rant is about. Is it that “the cuts” have caused the Tottenham riots or that we need Prescott in government. If so, it’s wrong on both counts. “The cuts” haven’t actually been implemented yet and when they are will amount to about the same as Darling proposed except slightly (1 year) quicker.
    As for Prescott – what a joke. Prescott,  the man who wasted millions on his daft Regional Assemblies and had an affair with his assistant – although I suppose he would fit in with the present toffs – he could play croquet with them

    • Ehtch

      ….some people just do not get it….

      The youth clubs have already been shut – financial support for them has already been CUT. Keep up will you.

      And Prezza walks on water, as far as I’m concerned, and croquet is a top top sport, especially when having a few pints of fine Yorkshire ale at the same time, and a couple pork pies.

    • MicheleB

      JP had REAL jobs as DPM, the improvements in our infrastructure and the good sense applied to something as essential as efficient transport (and its being paid for by users) is down largely to Prezzer imhoo and also to KL as far as London is concerned.

      They could each negotiate properly with unions and did not treat them with the sickening NQ1ou behaviour no one should be forced to accept, neither did they cave in.

      It’s just awful that this behaviour is happening again because of opportunists that did not give a real stuff about an already-unlucky family’s loss.

    • Dave Simons

      You seem to have a bit of an obsession with John Prescott’s affair, judging by the number of times you mention it in your posts. Isn’t it true to say that lots of people are having, or have had, affairs, possibly even you? Is it all that unusual? Is it always ‘immoral’? Do you think there might be circumstances in which it is completely excusable, possibly even a good idea? Do you think some people might get driven to affairs by what’s happening (or not happening) within the confining space of monogamy?
      There is though a distinction between the affairs of Labour MPs and those of Tory MPs. The latter, like Cecil Parkinson, Edwina Currie, Jeffrey Archer and John Profumo, always make a big thing out of family values – for us, that is, not for themselves. In other words, as always with the Tories, hypocrisy is a key word.

  • Ehtch

    Excellent blog Alastair, and I can’t agree enough. It seems that the Coalition has social unrest built into their plans, and is accepted as granted and expected, which is very depressing.

    Social support for young people should be built into society as a matter of fact, and should not be cut, no matter what is going on – it is like cutting an arm off. You can never get it back, and will cost society more monetarily in the long run. Any cuts should come from elsewhere, or money raised by higher taxes, but not VAT, which affects the poorer parts of society more disproportionately.

    • Ehtch

      There was the Cable Street Riots of 1936 in East London, but by buggering gawd, this is of another dimension. A twitter age riot, you could say, and in in several boroughs of London. It seems we are on the border of civil war. Boris has decided at last to come home early from his hols, it is said.

      Cable Street Riots from 1936 in film. Some could say there is some mirroring. Music supplied by The Men They Couldn’t Hang,
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzKv5gjOzTA

  • Anonymous

    I am on a community group in a rural county. We set up a second youth centre about 6 months ago and sadly it is not being used by locals.  A lot of  effort and fund raising to purchase various items was undertaken as well as volunteer staff.  Oh well…..

  • Ehtch

    Excuse the digress, but re. Top Gear appearance last night with Attila the Hun, aka Jezza Clarkson – a repeat wasn’t it? Anyway, I thnk Jezza is not an ultra right-wing Cotswolds goon, and is just an act he does to pay for his kiddies private/public(!) school fees, or am I fooling myself? I reckon he lobbed rocks sometime in his youth at the establishment, I am sure of it. But they all go ultra right, well the other way, when they get old. All them sorts always do.

  • Yonks

    You have to admit though Chris he was a ‘heavy hitter’ in Alastair’s terms!  The best view of Prescott is when the punchbag hits him in the advert, a very prescient man indeed!

  • Whatifwhatif

    Sugar and spice and all things nice eh?

  • MicheleB

    I don’t believe many of the rioters will have a political bone in their body Aitch or give much of a damn about other members of society, people’s homes and jobs and feelings of well being.

    They might be anticipating cuts, they might be experiencing cuts but that is no reason to spoil people’s vigil if that’s what people felt the need to do no matter the quality of the dead person.  I doubt a single one of them has apologised to the bereaved.

    The tweet/Fbook sphere, grrrrreat not.

    • Ehtch

      Not a political bone in their body??? What the hell is that supposed to mean? What do you think politics is? An entity in itself? “Politics” is a ponce on what people feel, and I can see a lot of feeling going on on the streets.

      And it gets me these “disgusted from Tunbridge Wells” types blunderbusting on their soapboxes, and not really understanding the situation. Get clued up on society all, and how it works. These dinner party Islington set polite chat types really get me, they really do.

      • MicheleB

        Oh put a sock in it Aitch.

        The thugs throwing petrol bombs in Croydon are NOT political activists.  They are violent unthinking scum.

        The scum smashing shop fronts and STEALING are thieves, nothing more.  Don’t bl**dy upgrade them with any dignity they have never had  sight of.

        You dignify their actions by even pretending it has a smidgen to do with politics or intelligence.

        It’s some time since you were here, I was in Croydon today.

        This is all being arranged on Blackberry’s closed network and by word of mouth about material goods to be stolen.

        Keep the sock in 🙂

      • MicheleB

        Something else Aitch; IF this

        ….”These dinner party Islington set polite chat types really get me, they really do.”….

        Is meant to refer to me, have the wherewithalls to say it, not use the cowardly third person.

        The FACT that I hate thieves has nothing to do with my own material situation; it’s idiotic to think so …… ooops did I just make a COVERT judgement of YOU?. 

    • Ehtch

      And furthermore, one positive from this I can see – it is nice to see youngsters from all across the whole spectrum of society in some form of unity in a cause. Quite refreshing it is, as long as they don’t burn my car, that is.

  • MicheleB

    “……………policies that mattered – Sure Start, minimum wage, New Deal, investment in schools and hospitals ……………….

    ……. Nick Clegg …………….  also
    needs to go back to why he thought what he used to think, and reflect on
    whether he might have had a point.”

    How true

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Is the big society where you ignore and exclude most of society and then expect them to do all the work for nothing by pursuing policies of instilling more fear in them?

    Rebecca (a teacher – sick of attending consultations which are totally ignored).

  • John2s

    Alastair, I really hope this isn’t going to be a “William Hague/tanker drivers” moment for the Labour Party. This rioting is wrong, full stop. No ifs, no maybes please from anyone who aspires to be in Government. This is copycat crime by people who think they can get away with it, not helped by pretty poor policing. People are destroying their own communities – including homes, shops and jobs. As a first step this needs to be stopped and people like Livingstone equivocating helps not one iota. Thankfully Diane Abbott and David Lammy realise that better than he does. We can discuss causes afterwards, not now. 

  • Bgforth

    Where’s Ed Milliband?

  • MicheleB

    Can’t watch Croydon burning any more, it’s a pig ugly place but there are bound to be deaths tonight.

    I don’t think the bleating on about pensions and today’s young being liable to support baby boomers in their years to come has been well-constructed or helped the attitudes of yoof.

    Yes there is greater longevity and yes pension pots are insufficient but surely a lot of that is due to their
    very nature of being contributed to as percentages of wages/salaries that were so
    much lower for those ‘boomers’.

    Let’s not pretend that their free
    Uni education was anything to do with largesse – rather it was the
    nation’s need to replace all those clever people lost in WWII).

    Kids ARE feeling the death of EMA and their dreams of good futures, I truly hope that it’s a different type of kids that are indulging themselves tonight, the furniture shop fire suggests they know very little of Physics.

    Cameron has finally stopped the ‘let them eat cake’ attitude and is on a plane, I hope the Army are at his disposal.

     

    • Ehtch

      Pig ugly place? You have suddenly got problems with me, all of a sudden, MicheleB. I LOVE Croydon. It seems to me I need to show you around there, to what you obviously blatently missed. The trams for a start….

  • Ehtch

    Makes me laugh watching these big fat overweight coppers doing a charge in line down the street, and running out of puff and giving up after about fifty yards, while th fit young lads run away as if they are whippets.

    Christ, our country is rotten to the core, and people are bothered. Croydon has great great memories for me, and it breaks my heart to see such scenes. The Coalition has constantly been told since May last year to have a more of an air of altruistic attitude to the people of all ages, but did they listen? Did they fucking fuck! Twats, complete twats.

    • MicheleB

      You misunderstand what is happening, you vaunt about the thugs as if they are heroes.

      The Police lines break up the crowds of the destructive little bastards that are endangering people’s lives and when they have achieved THAT (ie: scattering the little ****s) they stand their ground.

      Now if YOU think you know better about all this than David Lammy, Diane Abbott and Croydon’s leader do you’d better stand for Parliament Aitch as at the moment you just sound like a silly wannabe-younger.  We all do but we don’t all chuck out the baby with the bathwater.

      Think of the progress that has been made since the Brixton riots (were you also ALSO in London for those?), do you REALLY enjoy the idea of being back in all that with your pathetic mockery of people doing dangerous jobs tonight?

  • Johnycarrs

    There is no excuse for this. This has nothing to do with cuts, it is opportunistic trouble makers who look for any excuse to create trouble and chaos.

    When people like you alistair try and link this to giverment cuts or policies it is a terrible, oportunisitic, political point scoring. I would hope you wouild be better that this.

    There is no excuse, these people are not political rioters, they are mindless thugs.

    • MicheleB

      I don’t think AC had any way at all of knowing what was going to happen tonight.

      There definitely have been links with Govt cuts for just a few percent of the resentful protestors but they’ve been attached to by the violent opportunism you mention.

      Apparently Blackberry are going to be able to trace senders and recipients of ‘co-ordination/location’ messages.

  • Ehtch

    The most disturbing scene that I saw last night, with Enfield or whatever on the news, was a copper holding somone down by his foot, even though he was passive and gave himself up, while the copper was flaying his arms about to his
    copper mates. THAT would have wound up anyone that was on the point of tipping to be the same. A disgrace of a copper, with absoluerly no respect for any man on the street. Jesus, we are a sad sad country, and it has finally blown up. Birmingham now!!!! 

  • Ehtch

    How New York Times is reporting it from the US at the moment. I feel completerly and utterly embarresed with the country I live in, but though, I have realised in the last year things were seriously boiling up,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/world/europe/09britain.html?_r=1&ref=world

  • Ehtch

    Newsnight tonight – bullshit plants with their bullshit stories, but as you expect. Things are happening, like the miners strike 84/85. Who is this reporter again? I don’t recognise her. 

  • Janete

    Alastair, just heard Cameron flying home at 3 a.m. He’s probably waiting for your blog tomorrow to give him some idea of what to say.

  • Ehtch

    Alastair, the new superstar for leftie Top Gear addicts, 29:25 in on here.
    Sorry yanks/other europeans, UK only BBC clip,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00t0yw2/Top_Gear_Series_15_Episode_2/
     
    Alastair – you drive like a lunatic!, like me. So tidy.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  • Gilliebc

    I don’t condone this totally unacceptable violence, arson and theft for a moment.  But if some people think that it has nothing to do with the cuts
    inflicted by this Condem Government then I think they are just deluded and   wrong.  Of course it does!  The fact that the police themselves are under attack by this tin-pot Gov. is not helping either.

    Last year after these cuts were announced many people including me were
    foreseeing and predicting exactly the events we are witnessing now. Similar things happened in the 1980’s under Thatchers Tory Gov.  Had a Labour Gov. been returned to power in May,2010 they would have to have made cuts undoubtedly, but they wouldn’t have been at the same scale and pace that this ConDem lot are implementing.  Same old Tories.  Same old costly and damaging results.

  • Anonymous

    There are 2 surely linked stories here – 3 days of riots and
    criminality in London
    (and apparently beyond), plus the ever more fragile world economy totters closer
    to collapse. 

    The causes of the London
    riots are difficult to ascertain at present, although it is surely true that
    the Mark Duggan case was a catalytic event in that respect. Criminality happens
    every day all over the country, but is never so focussed without a reason. The Duggan
    case seems to have struck a chord with many people who, frankly, think they
    have nothing to lose by doing what they are doing and indeed probably feel they
    are making a point against the current administration that they can’t make by
    other means. There may well be a racial element to this as there was 30 years
    ago, but it looks more like a generational issue across the racial divide
    rather than anything else.

    Theresa May – stuck on repeat. Nick Clegg – stuck as there was only him left. Everyone
    else – away and flooding back to help. Like as if, as my Granny used to say.

    The economic story is perhaps a more long-term serious issue, but harkens from
    the same source. We really are most certainly NOT, in any way, shape or form, all
    in this together…

  • Ehtch

    Gets me the establishment asking parents where their children are, even though most of them are above eighteen years of age, and classed as an adult.

    The establishment is fucking grasping at strawes, and is out of it’s depth. Call a Labour Party in, is all I say.

  • Ehtch

    oh jesus it is nuts now, well well beyond me. General Election soon? We can all hope to get rid of these goons. : )

  • Ehtch

    Alastair, remember when I post this track from John Foxx a while back, the well respected London based artist and Graphic University lecturer, of early Ultravox fame as well?
    Anyway, Burning Car, but from about 1981….not, ahem!, 2011…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XZfL_As4Oo

  • Ehtch

    By the way, Cable Street and their buildings got completely flattened by Nazi London blitz bombing in WWII. It is now unregonisable from then, and is now just a back lane in East London. Maybe the planners post WWII thought that would be best, to protect 1936 establishment from their embaressment from then.

  • A parent from Wales

    As  parents from Wales who regularly visit our children who now work  in London we can not help but notice as we drive through the squalid conditions that thousands of Londoners live. What can it be like to raise a family in those high rise blocks of flats? What facilities are there for young people who maybe poorly educated and haven’t had the opportunity to learn  the basic values of how to behave as decent and caring human beings? What we are witnessing today was bound to happen. No amount of robust policing will solve the  underlying causes for the loutish behaviour that we have sadly witnessed during the last few nights. This problem is huge and can only be solved by a government who genuinely cares about ALL members of soceity.   

  • Chris lancashire

    First time I’ve mentioned it Dave. Memory going? And of course there’s a difference between Tory affairs and Labour affairs.

  • SG

    Of course this is a law and order issue, as well as Labour’s legacy.
    A generation of kids have grown up with no discipline and no respect for authority as well as expecting evrything to be handed to them on a plate. We also have a police force who are too concerned about any possible backlash to how they respond, so effectively they stand back and do nothing.
    The people rioting on the streets are scum, pure and simple.

  • Nick

    “JP… diligent and dutiful” – Only  if you are interested in croquet!

  • MicheleB

    Croydon is pig ugly IN MY ESTIMATION if I am allowed one Aitch.  It is not essential or even desirable for you to agree with me.

    But hey, wannabe Citizen Smith, I have family in the emergency services, on duty in Croydon last night .  I am not enjoying your armchair terrorist act.  Grow up ffs.

  • MicheleB

    Here you are Aitch, a slide show of what you regard as togetherness

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/photos/in-pictures-london-riots-1312800593-slideshow/paliverpool3-photo.html

  • MicheleB

    Here you are Aitch, a slide show of what you regard as togetherness

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/photos/in-pictures-london-riots-1312800593-slideshow/paliverpool3-photo.html

  • Dave Simons

    Perhaps I’m mixing you up with ‘Richard’ – you two are so alike.

  • Ehtch

    Sorry, I got on my own soapbox then. What I meant was that there is a need of positive active action – education and employment mainly. But at the moment, the authorities, which have incredibly unbelievably slow, need to regain the streets, and with that things will get nasty – tear gas, plastic bullets (or worse), watercannons – the whole bloody arsenal. We have reached a sad sad situation and it is a wonder where we go from here. We have turned the corner to a very, very dark place, and things will never be the same again. Britain’s character has been changed for the worse, and I don’t like it at all, no I don’t.

  • Ehtch

    All I said was that coppers should be fitter and thinner. What was wrong with that?

    OK, I did blaspheme a bit, but that is my right, as long as Alastair doesn’t mind. It’s only words after all.

  • Ehtch

    Great cricket field not far from the flyover in Croydon, Duppas Park – has an incredible great history in the cricket world. Played there so many times when I lived in Croydon – twenty over mid-week Wednesday evening matches mainly. Great memories, stunning memories actually. They like their cricket in Croydon, so it was home from home for me.

  • MicheleB

    Shoddily shortened news headlines can be unhelpful.

    At 5pm I heard that the bullet in the Police radio was a Met round
    but that a loaded/re-loading illegal firearm had also been found.

    At 6pm all I heard was the first line of the above.

    In the same news review I heard about girls drinking their stolen wine and celebrating last night’s events with ‘We showed ’em we can do what we like’.

    Really hope this lot get recognised but hope even more that the obviously-dazed victim got home OK :

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/video–injured-boy-in-riots-mugged.html

  • Ehtch

    Alright A parent from Wales? How you doing? Did you see Connie Fisher’s programme on BBC1 Wales last night? It was superb, and what society is all about. She’s done four episodes, three more to come, next one next Monday evening, 7.30pm I believe, on BBC1 Wales.

  • MicheleB

    There are lots of nice areas around the town centre but the TC is where I mostly need to visit (as quickly as possible).

    There’s a great nature reserve just north east of the town, lovely fishing lake with humungous old blackberry bushes, but the TC remains pig ugly imhoo.  Parking is ££££££££££££££s ph for about 18hrs a day.  It’ll hopefully improve with the housing being built in the centre but at the mo it’s just shops shops shops, flyovers and indoors.

    The tram’s lovely to be on but don’t like having to cross its path in TC, it’s so quiet and the tracks are just there ….. on the road, no barrier.  A man was killed in a collision between one and a bus a couple of years ago, a little boy lost both feet under one a few months ago and a girl was killed even more recently, considering how many of them there are that’s a very high toll.

  • Ehtch

    Oh jesus, she is on Newsnight tonight again. Her voice grates, and sounds so ethiopians are starving like. Jesus wept BBC!

  • Ehtch

    Excellent article in yesterdays New York Times. And I agree, we really need to look at ourselves, and where we want to go. Modern life might be frightening, but still, it has always has been. We are not the masters of present time, as it always has been, is all I have to say
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/world/europe/14looters.html?ref=europe

  • Ehtch

    Dreaming, what would be perfect for me as a positive for London, would be a street party on Cable Street on coming bank holiday Monday, with those tables they get for street parties put up, stretched all up the bus/taxi type lane towards the east end of Cable Street, when traffic will not be around so much, and bars (soft drinks to our muslim friends) dotted down all along the pavement on the side, food and seats with the tables. And anyone from London from any borough of any enthnicity can come and have a good time. And many volunteer stewarts of course, and obviously a police prescence. Think it could be quite refreshing. But of course, there might be the odd arguement breaking out, as they do…

    And all paid by central government to show they are not bastards that we think. Would send a good message. But is is too late in the day now for week tomorrow. Next year maybe. But I am dreaming.

    By the way, if you want to go to the Notting Hill Carnival, feel free. Could be good to have a parallel festival of some sort in the eastend at the same time, a sort of old fashion brit street party as an alternative. Just a thought.

  • Ehtch

    Are you one of them? Then sorry.
    Any chance of an invite. I love a natter over some “food” with airheaded city types that talk shite.

  • Ehtch

    BIG BIG OOPS! Sorry, my muslim friends, I completely forgot Ramadam. My complete apologies. I am an ignorant of such things, and I deeply apologise. May the first Monday bank holiday then? Got to be.

  • Ehtch

    More NYT interesting, when Cameron was tempted to become some sort of a Hitler due to his failings,
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/world/europe/26social.html?ref=europe