I PREDICT A RIOT
This month the National Liberals are promoting a recruitment campaign. We are promoting five policy areas. We shall feature them on our website next week. In the meantime our National Secretary Glen Maney reflects upon last month’s disturbances and suggests there are as many answers as there are reasons to them. Join us in finding solutions! Go to http://nationalliberal.org/?page_id=72
I PREDICT A RIOT
2011 is likely to be remembered for the being the year when a small demonstration of the shooting of Mark Duggan by the Metropolitan Police sparked a mass riot that spread across Britain, particularly in some inner city areas.
RIOTS OR LOOTING?
Sadly I’m old enough to remember the Brixton riots in 1981. Wikipedia describes that event as “a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Lambeth, South London, England, between 10 and 12 April 1981. The main riot on 11 April, dubbed “Bloody Saturday” by TIME magazine, resulted in almost 280 injuries to police and 45 injuries to members of the public; over a hundred vehicles were burned, including 56 police vehicles; and almost 150 buildings were damaged, with thirty burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved. So we can see that recent events aren’t anything new. One difference however was ably condensed by my fellow National Liberal, Graham Williamson, when he said “The difference is in 1981 there was rioting with a little bit of looting and this time there was looting with a little bit of rioting”.
So why was this?
There’s no one root cause for the riots across the country, but a range of social and economic indicators often associated with social unrest have been on the rise for some time.
Britain is undergoing an enormous demographic shift – the consequences of which few people yet understand. There are a million more 15-24 year olds in Britain today than a decade ago, and it’s striking that those taking part in these riots are almost all in this age range. Keep in mind that the last time this group was so large was in the early 1980s, a million people higher at that point.
The number of unemployed young people (which excludes those in education) is at the highest level since such records began in 1992.
This isn’t just a 2008 recession problem because youth unemployment has been on the rise for many years, though this was heightened by the crisis.
Yet London isn’t the worst-affected by youth unemployment, the figures are far worse in parts of Wales and the North East. On the other hand however, London is Britain’s most unequal region by far, in terms of the income gap.
According to the definitive report from the New Policy Institute, 19% of the population of Inner London is in the top tenth for income nationwide while 16% are in the bottom tenth. In inner London 20% of people have 60% of the total income.
Add this to the fact that overall UK inequality levels have risen to the highest levels since the 1960s (or alternatively the 1930s, depending on whose statistics you trust).
It’s notable that many of the areas affected by the rioting are within touching distance of poorer areas, as is the case in Tottenham where the rioting began.
Also keep in mind that London has a high and growing proportion of families entirely dependent on benefits and according to a recent European Union study, there are 600,000 people under 25 in Britain who have never had a day’s work in their lives. These individuals and families can largely to be found in the inner city north and eastern areas, many of which have been hit by the riots. It’s not worth burying our head in the sand. People need to get out of the ‘benefits culture’ and need a slight push but they also need to have hope and the incentive of a better life for their efforts.
I suggest that the latest influx of EU migrants, who are largely unskilled, has made the situation much worse as not only have they put a strain on the country’s infrastructure; they’ve taken (and consequently suppressed) lower wages and worse working conditions (see my report at http://nationalliberal.org/?p=1918). This has given employers the chance to achieve higher profits but British, especially low skilled, workers of ALL colours, very little incentive to do so (by keeping wage rates so low)! I sometimes wonder if this was a conscious decision by the British Government to keep the poor poor and therefore controllable?
Another possible cause, or I should say contributory factor, is that London’s local authorities have taken much of the brunt of the Government’s austerity package. Their grants from Whitehall fell by 11.3% this year and will drop a further 7.6% in 2012/13.
The first non-essential services to be cut include youth services budgets. Haringey’s was slashed by 75% leading to the closure of youth clubs. Now, clearly there are plenty of other factors behind the riots, none of the above explains precisely why this chaos has erupted when it did, but they underline the fact that in economic and social terms, London has been a tinderbox for some time.
The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan on that fateful Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially in the eyes of the black community, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment. With the best will in the world such policies will breed resentment amongst the innocent and the guilty seem to keep on thriving!
FREE UNIVERSITY EDUCATION
Now there are two sides to every story and the predominantly black gang mentality, born perhaps out of the feeling of hopelessness and the experience of poverty, needs to be addressed by greater parental control (with outside help if lacking) and by giving people of ALL colours a sense of hope. I suggest a FREE University education for those BORN IN BRITAIN of British parents would be a start.
NATIONAL CIVIC SERVICE
On the flip-side we clearly need to address the lack of personal discipline many of these youth exhibit. We would introduce a year-long National Civic Service for ALL youth to introduce the discipline and respect for others plus give them an opportunity to learn a trade and help their community. Our idea received a boost in a recent survey (see http://today.yougov.co.uk/life/national-citizen-service)
BREAK THE CYCLE
We need to take away the excuses, although some are rooted in fact. Because of the Government “flooding” policy on immigration there was no attempt to integrate. Black and Irish DID feel alone. Segregated and racially abused when they first came to our Island in the 50’s and 60’s the memory’s and folklore persists.
INTEGRATION AND A FRESH START
MOST white British have looked at this and amended their thought patterns and do not discriminate and now black, Asian AND white youths need to do the same and put aside feeling of victimization. This of course can only happen if we have a fair society and everyone has HOPE.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised just how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.
SUSPICION AND RESENTMENT
Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty (Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London) and large unemployment (Haringey has an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough), and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear.
WE ALL HAVE A PART TO PLAY
Those condemning the events in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
Next time you walk into your bank, you can think to yourself, ”These people helped fuel the riots, with their poor management borne out of greed that WE are now paying for”. Next time you see a coalition Member of Parliament on your television you can think to yourself,”They helped fuel the riots with their nonsensical approach to cutting the costs at the expense of the poor instead of the rich”.
MANY REASONS MANY ANSWERS
You see there’s no one reason for the disturbances but ALL the reasons CAN BE ADDRESSED. Much of it will be a ‘carrot and stick’ approach. For example, Free University Education plus a National Civic Service, breaking the benefits and gang culture plus more Apprenticeships and less cheap migrant labour, and breaking the sense of alienation by greater integration.
If we National Liberals can see the answers why can’t our ‘professional’ politicians?