The coalition can’t ignore the Tottenham riots

7 August 2011

As the early 1980s is recreated before our eyes, we now have a fully-fledged retro riot.
Various Conservative commentators have been tweeting and blogging away about this today, including Nile
on the Telegraph blog and Iain Dale.

They are right to warn against a knee-jerk reaction to the situation in Tottenham today. Clearly these riots were not caused by Tory cuts, which have only just begun to bite on the ground. There is
certainly an argument that many of the cuts in services in Haringey are the result of mismanagement by a notoriously dysfunctional Labour council.

But David Cameron needs to show some leadership here. Having admitted that there is such a thing as society, it will not be possible to distance himself from this tragedy. Haringey is a microcosm
of our divided society, with the wealth of Highgate and Muswell Hill (Guardian country) in the west divided from the poverty of Tottenham and Wood Green in the east.

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Despite all the good work done to rebuild the community in the wake of the Broadwater Farm riots, David Lammy’s constituency remains one of the poorest in the country, with some of the
highest levels of unemployment.

As I have written before, this government is fast losing the youth of this country. The
combination of an increase in tuition fees and the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the Future Jobs Fund means that young people could be forgiven for thinking they were being
punished for the mistakes of an older generation.

Tim Montgomerie instructed me on Twitter this morning that “politicians should set strategic direction, not get
immersed in operational matters. Trust the professionals”.

I agree in principle. But this government has no youth strategy. Who are the professionals here? A demoralised and discredited Met or the youth workers who have been warning about the tactics of
the police in Tottenham?

I have been worried, even since I set up New Deal of the Mind to help young people back to work, that a disproportionate number of school and university leavers from the ethnic minorities were
coming through our doors (our early evaluation shows the figure is about 70 per cent). Communities such as Tottenham have been plagued by high unemployment since long before this government came to
power. But there comes a tipping point when worklessness, poverty and high crime lead a community to the point of desperation.

The Tories may not be to blame for the Tottenham riots, but they will be if they fail to deal with the aftermath.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice think.

  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice think.

  • daifromwales

    Sadly, pouring money into places like Tottenham will have no beneficial effect. Everybody who is clever and hard working leaves the place, and so it becomes a filter that allows the poor and stupid in, and drives the clever and well-off out. Broadwater Farm will never be converted into a nice middle class environment.

    Our huge problem is the lack of jobs for uneducated young men. The clever people who contribute to fora such as this see ‘intelligence’ and ‘education’ as defining themselves and as absolutely necessary virtues. Those whe drop out of school are considered to be contemptible. But for a large number of men, this is not the case. Indeed it is a very recent historical phenomenon. When we are at war, we suddenly value strength, bravery, a devil-may-care attitude to everything. The main reason that crime rates were so low in the 1920’s is because so many potential criminals were sacrificed in the trenches, and those who came back were appreciated as the heroes they were. But in our risk-averse society, there are no longer any jobs that only a ‘real MAN’ can do, and the self-respect of ordinary people whose abilty is their physical strength and not their intellectual power is destroyed. Once a man could be admired because he could lift sacks of coal by himself. Now, the Manual Handling Regulations prevent such things, and little girls can do all that Men used to do. Thus men have lost their self-respect, and they try to regain it elsewhere – in gangs, the excitement of criminality etc.

    We need jobs for those whose defining qualities and self-respect is based on their physical ability, and not only on their IQ. I have no idea where they will come from. Even if you join the Navy, your captain could be your grandmother.
    As GBS pointed out in the ‘Admirable Creighton’ (is that how it’s spelled?) – in different societies, different types of people come to the fore. So those whose star has ascended should have some sympathy for those whose star has fallen. Who knows? The fall might be temporary.
    We need to accomodate everybody, and respect people even if they are not as clever as we think we are. Intellectual snobbery is NOT a virtue. Any man of whom it is said ‘he did not suffer fools gladly’ is himself a snobbish fool.

  • I S

    P from M – Thanks for your well-judged post. You appear to be a decent man doing your best (I hope not to seem patronising) and I wish your family all success. The greatest gifts I received from my parents were not material gifts. These were the gifts of their love, their time and their teaching about right and wrong.

  • Ronald Reagan

    Much of this social agitation was predicted years ago by Charles Murray. He was widely condemned at the time. Writing in the late ‘80s (his work was serialised in the Sundcay Times), Murray predicted that the welfare state would eventually lead to a large underclass (defined as people that are not necessarily poor, but are at the margins of society, unsocialised and often violent) and growing lawlessness.

    Murray’s basic thesis is that the welfare state has contributed to this by encouraging young males to drop out from the labour force and also by contributing to an increase in births to unmarried women. Too many young males are growing up without positive male role models. Murray didn’t even address the immigration issue, although it is pertinent.

    If you throw into the secularisation of society, failing schools and the loss of manufacturing jobs, then the latest developments come as no surprise. What is equally unsurprising is the lack of honest debate. The current crisis goes back to the foundations of the welfare state.

  • RocketDog

    We are back with the ‘deserving and undeserving poor’ a juxtaposition that has been undermined by the advent of ‘moral relativism’ and other Marxist sleights of hand

    It is really really simple. This misbehaviour is happening because there is no concentrated political will to create an environment in which it would be impossible for it to happen. Like a Nation State with voter representation and a properly led police force

    These thugs are the shock troops of the latent Marxist self-hating Liberal Elite

  • Peter From Maidstone

    I don’t believe that half the population lives in an underclass. But I do believe that most of the underclass live off the rest of us on benefits and criminality.

    As has been said, it is not the Government’s responsibilty, beyond what WE require, to FIX the youth. I have children. We are not rich at all. But my eldest is in her third year of a four year degree, another is just about to go to Sixth Form, and the youngest is out with his friends on his stunt scooter, or playing his electric guitar. None of them are blaming someone else (apart from their parents) for every perceived slight. They are not part of a lost generation because that also requires a choice. And they haven’t chosen that way of life, or seen their parents living off benefits even when there has been no spare money at all (quite often).

    Anything is possible if a person takes responsibility for their life. Not everything will work out and life may well be hard. But taking responsibility, having pride in oneself, whatever the job a person is doing, is a means of rising above and beyond the underclass. You have to choose to live there. Being poor is not the same as being criminal.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Fred, I only expect ‘some people ‘ to be able to do it. But they are capable of moving, and they do. Others are presumably capable, and they don’t. And a third group, of unknown size, just can’t. The disabled, pensioners and so on. That doesn’t reduce the applicability of the advice to move. If those who could look after themselves did so, the residual problem would be smaller. That’s all, and to me that’s better than keeping the whole thing going just because we can’t fix it. But so many of our policies work to increase people’s dependence on the state. No nation can afford for everybody who wants to be a passenger to live off the rest. I propose nothing for the state to do right now but stop doing stupid things. That is all. Maybe they need to stop gradually, but they should stop. The solution of each individual’s problem must be first in their own hands, for their own self-esteem. Then we can see how big the safety net needs to be.

  • Fred Taylor

    Actually, while I was writing my last post, Rhoda came on to reply to Simon and I find myself agreeing with just about everything she says. Respect, as they say …

  • Fred Taylor

    “Somewhere that isn’t a shithole, presumably. And, do you know, people do it all the time, move from shitholes to somewhere better.”

    Some people do it some of the time, yes, Rhoda. You’re absolutely right that govt “investment” often doesn’t work (“never” is a bit strong). It’s difficult, though, to see how any but a quite small minority of those living in areas like Tottenham are going to find the education, the money, the daring, to move to somewhere better. I don’t know what the solution is. But yelling from the sidelines for them to “move”, however witty and articulate your yells, doesn’t seem to me to be realistic. Jews, (mostly Hindu) Indians, and other immigrant groups have managed to a great extent to do what you advise, and good luck to them. I think that has had to do with traditions of educational attainment, hard work, family and ambition, though, rather than the absence of the welfare state.

  • In2minds

    More uncontrolled immigration would equate to ignoring the Tottenham riots. I wonder what will happen?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Simon, I truly do not know how much effect it would have to suddenly require responsibility from those who have so far not sought their own. We need an ethos of responsibility. Wher I am right now is not ‘we can save them all’ but ‘let’s help those who are not already lost’. It seems to me that some are so comfortable as they are that they do not see the need to change. Some are quite capable of looking after themselves, and do so. But there must be a group in the middle, who need a nudge, a chance to improve, to take their fate in their own hands. They are the ones we need to get to. But of course if WE help them, they do not do it for themselves, and an essential part of the formula is missing. So what we must do is remove the obstacles. All we need to do that is, once again , stop doing stupid things. The stupid thing in this case is to put kids in school for a dozen years and have them come out badly educated. Another is to put any obstacle in the way of any person who would create a job. But maybe the biggest stupid thing of all is to carry on with failed policies.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Rhoda Klapp : 10.41am

    Your diagnosis may well be right, but it’s no argument at all to suggest a policy that requires an all-change from half the population. You surely understand that self-centredness and irresponsibility are deep-rooted in our society, not just in children and young adults, but also in an older generation of adults who have been brought up to blend into a culture that was at the time assumed to be tolerant, at the very least, of these personal characteristics?

    Just as if regular churchgoing was seen to be the way forward, it’s absurd to think that the adjustment of attitude required to change mainstream behaviour can happen overnight, or that, by imposition, it can happen at all.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    ‘Hm. Move to where, Rhoda? South Kensington? Tuscany?’

    Well, you may have missed it, but it is not Rhoda’s job to say where. Somewhere that isn’t a shithole, presumably. And, do you know, people do it all the time, move from shitholes to somewhere better. Taking control of their lives, not waiting for the government to come in and do it for them. Why? because the government can’t do it. They subsidise shitholes, they enable the underclass. Successive government have tried to fix this sort of thing with money, ‘investment’, community leaders, special treatment and so on. It never works, or if it seems to have worked in a geographical area it is because the shit has been shovelled elsewhere. How long must we follow failed policies before we realise they do not work? Never mind ideology, never mind ‘fairness’, never mind ‘inequality’, if the things we have been doing just plain do not work we have to try something different. Something pragmatic. My idea is responsibility. For yourself. You are responsible for what happens to you. No excuses, no exceptions.

  • Theo

    The Metropolitan Police and its lack of intervention to stop looting, should contribute (to the Insurance industry) to pay for the shop damage and theft.
    Isn’t it high time we used water cannons?????????

  • John Hall

    Yes, let’s encourage copycat rioting by rewarding those areas that indulge in them. If you mess up your bed, then you should sleep in it. What about all those deprived areas that don’t riot? Some of them are rural and so less well established on the radar of the body politic. I don’t see any special help being offered for them. Let Tottenham rot, for once.

  • Fred Taylor

    “Here’s Rhoda’s top tip. If your place is a shithole, move!”
    Hm. Move to where, Rhoda? South Kensington? Tuscany?

  • Ricky

    The Liberal Elite led by the Blair-Brown-Cameron axis have consistently neglected two key groups – the white working class and urban blacks.

    Both groups have been taken for granted by the Liberal establishment, who despised both in equal measure, ignoring appalling schooling, gang culture, community cries for help, long term unemployment, poor healthcare and third world housing.

    The National Socialists and Blu-Labour both focused on the emerging media middle classes and the flood of Islamo-Asians now dominating our inner cities. Muslim votes count more than ageing Jews, disaffected non voting blacks and poor forgotten whites. As Hugo replaced ‘Arry in Dalston, the poorer communities became disassociated from mainstream society.

    The result: it can only get worse – with the prospect of a major 1930s Depression and predictable social unease on the horizon.

    As for your comment that we are losing our youth….who is really to blame?…Tony Blair, Millionaire of course and his shallow love of wealth & fame….his farcical educashun, educashun, educashun mantra….a hatred of our history and consequential rootlessness…..and most guilty of all is your Party Mr Bright…the National Socialists. It was under their watch that the child poverty gap grew even faster than many a Labour Minister’s own off shore bank account…

  • revolution

    Most of the rioters are black or Asian third world immigrants who will never work while the benefits keep coming in.

  • Observer

    The people to blame are the politicians who decided to ignore Enoch Powell’s warning over 40 years ago. Importing low skill migrants with no connection to the country is always risky and can lead to hostile enclaves as seen in Paris.

  • Baron

    Rhoda @ 5.33, that’s why you’re one of Baron’s gurus.

    Martin, you aren’t that old, but old enough, what did young people do before the government had ‘a strategy’ for them, ha? Were they totally clueless, disoriented, lost? Did they sit on their young arses dealing in dope, smoking it, rioting? Were they pleading for the Government to take their hand, guide them through life or what?

  • Mossytoddler

    You and I are paying for 11 years of education, minimum, but it seems to be money, sweat and tears down the drain. Mainly because there is no discipline in the classroom, so even those who are willing to learn can’t. Get that sorted soonest. Cherish those who want to learn and give the rest merry hell (I’ve just been rereading *Captains Courageous*, so tarry rope ends are what come immediately to mind). Retrain ex-service personnel as teachers. Retrain teachers as social workers and have them monitor problem families till those families spend their lives instinctively looking over their shoulders.

    Follow the Dutch example and put single mothers in comfortable but disciplined and well supervised hostels or let their parents look after them. Put policemen on the streets, mob-handed if necessary. Make it a really, really serious offence to offer threats, never mind violence, to police or emergency service personnel.

    Recreate the concept of marriage as follows: 1) any group of people can choose to designate themselves as a household (e.g. an unmarried couple, hetero or homo, but equally a parent and child, siblings, or just unrelated people who want to have the right to their home when their companion dies); 2) having a child together is a joint legal bond that can only be broken by legal action, with the presumption that the parents will live together unless one of them obtains a legal injunction to the contrary.

    Above all, he who calls the piper calls the tune. If we are paying for every mouthful that goes into a person’s mouth and every watt of electricity that a person uses, we have power over that person’s behaviour if we would only choose to exercise it. We should be making serious demands. All but the headbangers would soon shape up, and the headbangers would still be under control if the law was vigorously enforced.

  • andrew kerins

    Martin Bright should have given a bit more thought before posting here.
    His statement that ‘the government is fast losing the youth of this country’ is simply incorrect.
    At the core of his thinking is the belief that the success/failure of young people is dictated by the state rather than by themselves, their family and their local community.
    The idea that the future of the young people in this country is dependent on the government having a ‘youth strategy’ is seriously mistaken.

  • Mark Glanville

    Tories not to blame? From my friend Bob Goldsmith:

    ‘I was working for Haringey Council in our Neighbourhood Management Service, trying to create better understanding and dialogue between local communities (including youth) and the Police. Until I was made redundant, bceause my services were apparently no longer required.’

  • Raymond Lunn

    “As I have written before, this government is fast losing the youth of this country.”

    They only ever listen after the damage is done. Remember the Bradford riots in 2001. Afterwards the authorities listened (for a little while).

    I ask any hack/politician (whomever)to visit the labour heartland of East Leeds, lets just say things are much worse than they were in 1990. The youth hate us, they hate what Britain is and what it now stands for. Welcome to the UK, where the youth are unemployed, in debt, drugged and pending liver disease.

    If only Standard & Poor rated us on our response to our youth, we would have been bankrupt years ago.

  • Kenny

    They were rioting because of cuts in the EMA?

    Middleclassicus Naivicus at its best…

  • E R Ball

    I hope the elite soon realise how sick the English are of the media making excuses for black minorities. This country has twisted its education system to suit them, made it virtually impossible for a white person to join the Met. Paid for a special police group (Operation Trident) to focus on black on black violence. Dumb down education, provide a generous benefits system, supported single mothers, turned a blind eye to minor crime and still we have the same old problems. Its only if Muswell Hill and Hampstead gets burned will we see any action.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    This is offensive opportunist special pleading. And I rather think you know it.

    Here’s Rhoda’s contrarian take: Why the hell should ‘we’ rebuild it? Why don’t you realise that all that voting Labour didn’t do them any good when Labour was in power. Lammy, and Bernie Grant before him, haven’t succeeded in fixing anything. What that means is, none of the convention sops work. How much longer do we have to try them? Here’s Rhoda’s top tip. If your place is a shithole, move!

  • GW

    “Guardian country”?

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