Tuesday 9 August 2011

Big Society = Big Riots

Don't get me wrong - I'm angered and outraged by the violence and looting of the past few days. I want those who set fire to buildings brought to justice. They do not care if people die through their actions, and they need to feel the full punishment of the law. Those who attack shops and restaurants, deliberately wanting to terrify customers, deserve whatever we can throw at them legally. These people do not give a damn about the family of Mark Duggan, they care about the thrill and profit of the riot. But if we simply leave all the blame with the rioters, we are making a huge mistake.

If you allow massive youth unemployment to go unabated, (Tottenham having one of the worst levels in the country) if you take away the opportunities for people to go on to further and higher education (and the massive increase in fees has certainly done that) and if you treat the young people of the black community with contempt (of which the stop and search policy alone gives clear evidence) then you are creating the conditions for a riot.

Criminality is not a condition people are born into. It is created. The policies of this Government, especially the cutbacks to local authority spending, but also the whole 'big society' agenda, is slowly eroding the civil life of this country. If you suddenly slash funding for youth groups, educational opportunities, local amenities - and add to that virtually no prospect of getting a job - then you create a ticking time bomb of crime and resentment.

I'm fearful that there is much more to come in the months ahead. Other cities and towns are bound to follow London, Birmingham, Manchester etc. It does not take long to create the right conditions for a riot. It will take many years to rebuild our fragmented society, and it has to start by challenging policies that tear down the fabric of local communities. Lets make sure we hold to account all those responsible for the terrible scenes we have seen on our streets, from the arsonists and looters to those whose policies are wrecking our society.

1 comment:

  1. Chris,

    I agree with much of what you have written, but you seem to follow the Labour party line of equating the Big Society with a cynical cover for cutting public spending. Actually, as you will know and testify to, there is much that we as citizens can do to benefit the wider community without spending vast amounts of public money, money that is often mis-directed...

    The reality is that, globally government budgets are under siege as never before and tremendously difficult budget allocation decisions are having to be made. It's time we looked at ourselves, and our neighbours and asked, 'What am I doing to change the world?' instead of looking to always blame systems and structures. And by the way Chris, I know you do way more then most so this is not an accusation in any way!