Monday, 26 September 2011

What can a poor boy do, except loot from a Poundland store?

Poverty caused this? It’s certainly desperate…

So the summer’s gone and apparently some people saw that the time had been right for fighting in the street.

Street Fighting Men?

I missed the chance to post anything about it at the time, due to having no internet connection because of BT and I’m sure BT would like to apologise for that…

The aftermath is just about remaining in the news, except for the economic mess. The issue will long remain relevant; the riots were symptomatic of the fine mess the Labour party have helped create.

Labour are not alone, the Tories had a good crack at it as well, but the current Government and the cuts can’t be blamed for the depths this went to. While previous Tory Governments should take their share, the New Labour Government should take the lion’s share of the blame for their failure to make fundamental changes when they had the chance. And for their incessant use of spin, propaganda and downright bulls**t to cover up their inaction, while attempting to make people believe they had changed society for the better.

Labour failed in all of the most important areas; the economy, education and crime. These affect the whole of society and in 1997 the country was crying out for fundamental reform. There was some superficial change but basically they did very little, their ideas were few and thin and the action was limited. Times were good, the economy was ‘booming’ and they can bang on about the NHS all they like; they threw money into that pit for sure. But other than maintaining some semblance of a functioning service, the NHS, no matter what some might say, does not affect the fabric of society like the three areas mentioned above.

As it’s been the main topic of discussion since last year’s general election, the economy has been the main area for my criticism of the Labour party, but I have been meaning to mention crime at some point, as well as education because it is linked. So now, in the aftermath, the time seems right to slate the clueless cretins that formed the last Labour government.

Both parties have been equally superficial and insufficient, when apportioning blame and pontificating about the reasons behind the troubles. Cameron blaming simple ‘criminality’ and ‘gangs’ while Blair popped up, again (obviously feels he can now Brown’s f***ed off) and blamed a ‘disaffected’ section of society, condemning Cameron while managing to give an equally cursory explanation for the riots. But it is easy to see why he is saying it and the error of his motives; it is fundamental to the nature of New Labour.

He would claim he is trying to differentiate the perpetrators of these riots from other law abiding members of the same communities and in doing so avoid demonising a whole section of society and of course he mentions not wanting to “trash our own reputation abroad”, as if the pictures aren’t enough alone.

Welcome to London...

An every day scene in the UK...

Not the fire, the p***head wandering about with a can of Special Brew

In offering his analysis he is both trying to offend as few people (voters) as possible and also reduce the amount of responsibility the Labour party should take for the situation, all classic New Labour spin. But all he does is simply attempt to ring fence and point a finger at a what he claims is a particular group (even in the light of examples of individuals involved who do not fit the standard rioting profile, as with the Poundland incident) and excuse so many other groups in society, and of course his government, for their failures. He offers a view that is actually even more simplistic than Cameron’s (the BBC article about his comments notes the similarity) and with his ‘specific’ solution, ignores the need for change in wider society. It is all characteristic of his politics and his government; all talk no substance and ultimately, no action.

As he clearly knows exactly what the problem is, it’s such a shame he only came up with his ‘specific solution’ as he was leaving government, he must have been pondering it for the 10 years he was at Number 10… “Intervention family by family”, that’s a lot of families and a lot of resources. I would have liked to have seen him try…

I mean he must have left the details in Number 10, next to his plans for Middle East peace. And Gordon probably threw them out. Such a pity…

'If only that man didn't keep getting in my way...'

Whichever way you look at it there is failure in Government. Either the problem developed or worsened under his stewardship or, as is the reality, it highlights both his inability to identify the problem and the lack of effective action for 10 years.

He was right you know

And what did we get?

Were they right all along..?

Cameron’s ‘criminality’ and pointing the finger at gangs is simplistic. It’s probably true that gang members were involved but to accuse them of being the root of the problem is possibly more to do with having an excuse to launch targeted action against them. But Blair’s analysis is beyond simple, it’s just more empty propaganda, in part aimed at protecting his own legacy and his beloved party. All very easy for him to say when he has no power or obligation. It’s just makes you glad that is the case.

The Left are keen to offer simple divisive generalisation about the rich and the poor, haves and have-nots, them and us, etc, but usually steer clear of labelling and finger pointing within the ‘lower’ social classes. They tend towards highlighting the complexity of social problems within poorer groups; things are rarely black and white. Blair says it’s a specific group completely detached from normal society. No wonder the Lefties ain’t so keen on the Old Warmonger anymore…

What's your point...?

Nothing grey in his assessment, it seems to be simple ‘right and wrong’ for him, whatever the causes. So where do the likes of the EDL fit into his very specific view of the situation?

They were out on the streets apparently acting as vigilantes and trouble flared with police. Normally they’d be viewed by the likes of Blair at least on the side of wrong and often in criminal terms. And here, though apparently organising to prevent rioting, I have no doubt Blair would be far from condoning their actions.

Where does such a group fit into his view of society? Are they not symptomatic of wider problems?

EDL Demonstration in Bradford

The fact that apparently random people from varying social groups got involved in what is clear and extreme criminality, isn’t that incongruous with Mr Blair’s view of the problem?

The majority had criminal records, but certainly not all.

As always the reasons behind the disorder are complicated and somewhere in-between, sometimes quite far, from the claims made by politicians. They’re always looking for the sound-bites and the simple solutions palatable to the public and media alike. It’s what Blair is all about, but here he might be showing a lack of understanding of how any society works? Maybe he doesn’t understand and that would make sense…

I didn’t start writing this intending to only criticise Blair, I wanted to slate the Labour party as a whole and also look at the wider reasons behind the trouble, largely speaking accentuated by their Government, but it’s enjoyable attacking Blair. He represents New Labour and therefore all that was wrong with that Government. Well, almost as much as Mandelson.

Smug p***ks..?

Of course there hasn’t been a complete moral collapse in this country; the problems are fortunately limited. Cameron plays into the Left’s hands with such sound-bites and the debate descends quickly, Blair then contradictorily chooses an equally simple analysis. However, both Right and Left identify widespread problems in their reasoning and with social problems there’s always a gradation through society. It isn’t like a school with one bad group or one kid leading a group, but that’s effectively what Blair is saying. It’s vastly more complex and he says if they miss the ‘specific solution’ we miss the chance to deal with the problem. I think if we were to follow his advice and focus only on very specific groups and actions, we’d miss the chance to improve society as a whole and it’d be like 13 years of Labour all over again.

The rioters showed the depths that society can go to, but do they have no contact with anyone else in society? Are they not related to other members of society? More than simply immediate family, some who may spurn their relatives for their actions, others that would try to defend them. Do they not have friends and contacts and a variety of relationships with wider communities? Were they not ‘educated’ in schools, however rudimentarily? Few are ‘isolated’ in British society, so a problem is not and cannot be isolated.

The small minority ruining it for the rest is true to an extent, but even following the school analogy, wider groups are still complicit in creating and allowing a situation. From providing the audience, or even goading inappropriate behaviour, to other pupils and teachers failing to intervene when necessary, there is always wider culpability.

A group of individuals or even a ‘gang’ may have been involved directly but they don’t know others who may not have been there at the time, but would have joined in? There were people who stood by and watched, hardly looking on with outrage, let alone fear.

What a picture..?

Nothing better to do?

Random spectator...

'I say, that's really not on...'

There were others that tried to incite trouble using the internet and those prosecuted are only going to represent the surface. The problems do permeate through large sections of society; the indications are many and clear.

Trouble flared in Gloucester of all places, hardly a major urban centre, known for severe economic deprivation and gang activity. Not to say there aren’t social and economic problems there, but so many of the examples do not fit easily in the simplistic analysis.

Bristol experienced riots earlier in the year which related to protesting about the opening of a Tesco Express in an inner city area and the resulting police tactics.

So just don't shop there..?

This happened on more than one occasion and in truth the groups that rioted were not necessarily the same people that rioted in Bristol in August. The motivations were more akin to anti-globalisation action, more so than the rampant materialism that was apparent in August. Probably more alike the trouble that has followed some of the recent student and anti-cuts protests. It seems there are currently a lot of groups disposed to public disorder.

Exciting times when you're young and clueless...

Yes, you were there...

Even the motivations to riot in August, and the extent to which it went from such triggers, have to be questioned and again indicate far worse problems. In one area of London, there was a specific incident of the police possibly using excessive force, but other areas of London and the other cities quickly descended into looting, because an apparent opportunity arose, it was hardly solidarity for a fallen comrade.

These weren’t even the same as the LA riots in the early 90s. Not even the same as the riots that occurred in Britain in the early 80s and early 90s, with racial tension and economic deprivation being much clearer causes during those periods.

Complete disorder is fortunately uncommon and riots occur in particular circumstances, for one thing it usually requires a certain critical mass of people. However, minor disorder is more common place, from football violence to the average city centre or even housing estate on a weekend; usually it is a police presence that stops things from going too far. Too often it seems the presence of other law abiding citizens isn’t enough to prevent problems. Thankfully the vast majority do have at least some understanding of the need for order and there is a tacit agreement with the state that order will be maintained (there shouldn’t be any need for ridiculous police pledges) I wasn’t really intending to go into the political and social theory of law and order, I happened across this BBC article - Viewpoint: Why doesn't rioting happen more often?

Blair makes out as if the people causing the trouble were isolated and relatively few, but there are other people who may not go to those particular depths yet are certainly not averse to committing very serious crimes; drunken, drug related or otherwise. Going into all the permutations would take a long time and be completely unnecessary; the point is the many thousands that were involved are just the depths of a particular problem, paradoxically the visible surface of very deep problems. The tip of this iceberg is the worst of it, to ignore this sign, as Blair effectively suggests, would be insanity.

What does Blair know about any of it? What do the Labour party know or any politicians???

Blair, Brown and other Labour politicians have long scoffed at the ‘fear’ of crime, being so out of proportion with their figures. Figures showing such a steep decline in overall crime, I swear there should no longer be any crime in this country! But anyone who has lived on or near an economically deprived area in any town or city in the UK, or in declining post industrial regions, would know that crime is still commonplace and anti-social behaviour prevalent. Not everything is recorded or included in the figures, police methods have changes, as well as public attitudes towards crime and certain behaviour, almost more acceptant of certain activities.

Crime is very much concentrated in certain areas and that should be a concern, but violent crime, while still concentrated, has also become more widespread and random. There are many examples of violence in apparently surprising circumstances, by seemingly unusual perpetrators and in random areas.

Just for a few examples:

The three young professionals who attacked a man on a train for asking them to be quiet
A wealthy businessman kicked to death by a gang of youths outside a part-time police station in Henley-on-Thames
Teenager beat a man to death with a fire extinguisher after innocent banter between youths and men turned nasty

And for a bit of Daily Mail sensationalism...:
Random attack by thugs every 30 seconds as 'stranger assaults' soar in binge Britain

There is rage, bad attitude, anti-social behaviour and ultimately a lack of discipline and respect, it pervades through modern society. You see it and feel it if you live and work in an average town or city; Tony Blair doesn’t, few politicians do. They only have their figures and reports to go by.

If you have been a victim of crime it is hard to know what to believe about the figures, as always there are contradictory reports:


I’m not going to say things have definitely got worse, the figures obviously have substance, certainly things have been worse in the more distant past and as one gets older there is a tendency to view changing standards as declining standards. But I believe that considering the circumstances things have got little better, particularly in terms of the underlying problems.

Considering the opportunity, time and conditions Labour had from 1997 up until quite recently, there has not been anywhere near enough improvement and the riots have exemplified this.

Blair’s claim in 1997 was that they would be “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”, one of many neat sound-bites that typified the New Labour movement, but from the way they handled the situation it is not certain that they understood the causes.

Economic factors have long been understood to be the most significant fundamental cause of crime, particularly in Left wing circles. Of course Labour had a good 10 years of economic growth, so there’s one ‘cause’ sorted.

Poor education is also seen as cause of crime and Labour ploughed money into education, as they did with many other things.

However, Blair admitted they were ‘lucky’ with the economy and all they did in terms of education was use the money generated in the economy to build schools and provide facilities and equipment, that’s not actually ‘education’. Nor do the targets that continued to drive the seemingly inexorable rise in grades, equate to an ever improving system of education.

We all know what happened with their economic record and for just one example to question their record on education; you simply have to look at the recent youth unemployment statistics, alongside the testimony of so many employers, as well as universities. This issue can easily link back to the problem of crime and the recent public disorder.

Kids these days…

Looting from Poundland shows ‘desperation’ and also an alarming level of stupidity...

And in terms of employment, there was a consistent level of unemployment through the boom years under Labour. Long term unemployment remained a significant problem and this is clear when you look at the significant issue of households where no-one has ever worked

It’s not clear that Labour were at all “tough” on the causes, bit of luck and throwing some money around. They failed on the economy and their record on education is at best questionable.

What they did was lock up more people than ever, so perhaps they were ‘tough on crime’. Maybe the plan was to kill two birds with one stone, tough on the causes, well what is a cause of crime? Criminals… So they locked them up. And who can say it didn’t work? They’re not out causing crime. But it’s not very “progressive” and doesn’t really improve the situation in the long term.

There are other potential reasons for the apparent decrease in crime that occurred under the Labour government, generally they have little to do with their policies and most are seldom considered. Probably the most significant factor which does relate to the economic situation at the time was the availability of cheap goods, electrical or otherwise. It’s long been considered that burglary became less worthwhile as electrical goods, amongst many other things, became cheaper and subsequently lost their resale value. This also means that in the first instance if there are cheaper goods available there is less need to go out and steal them or raise money to buy them outside of normal income (let’s say; generous benefits…).

Improved technology has also provided a reason not to get involved in crime and this has been suggested recently (mentioned here amongst other reasons for a drop in crime in the US). Video games certainly keep people in doors, perhaps committing serious crime in a virtual world, much better for everyone… But also the internet is rarely mentioned as a reason for occupying people and there can be no doubt that it does.

Of course the internet has spawned its own crime and the details of this are never fully clarified, but surely the internet has drawn in certain people from other criminal occupations. Financial crime on the internet is significant but the full extent probably can’t be confirmed, in the past the police have asked that banks, etc, handle the cases themselves without reporting them.

In terms of solving and preventing crime the police have greater technology at their disposal; for instance, DNA in forensic evidence and CCTV for both prevention and detection. And you’d hope that as time goes by their understanding of crime and methods would improve, but you never know…

Labour had a strong economy and they did at least talk about moving towards inclusion and opportunity for all, as well as improving social services and intervention. With all these circumstances and all the good fortune that Labour had, there should have been no crime at all! But when you look at all of it, the reality is that all of these factors were superficial. They kept people in pocket and there were cheap goods and distractions, it was tantamount to keep a child distracted with TV and sweets.

Significant problems were not addressed and festered as Labour rode their luck. And now here we are; an economic mess with a fragile social structure.

When he was home secretary, Alan Johnson once admitted in an interview that although Britain had a record prison population, as a nation the number of convicted criminals that were actually sent to prison was only average. Well what does that say about the amount of crime?

Labour failed on crime as well.

Blair was in charge when they were locking up most of these people and perhaps he thought that way they could eradicate crime, he is delusional (between him and Brown the megalomania is pretty spectacular). If his assessment was correct and it is a very specific group then surely we could just lock them all up and job done?!

In the days and weeks following the riots and after so many rioters were caught, did crime drop to nothing? I doubt it.

Labour have already took us some of the way but we don’t want to follow the US model. Simply locking people up doesn’t work.

And what of the other countries, the ‘developed nations’ Blair mentions have the same problems? Again, being simplistic.

That is the nature of the man and the tone of his argument is as poor; “well it’s not just us, they’re as bad”. It’s an attempt to divert and gloss over.

He almost sighs and rolls his eyes, when questioned about Iraq, terrorism; “do we have to go through this again..?”…

He talks of depressing ourselves unnecessarily, while trashing our reputation abroad in a typically glib statement. Depress ourselves?? The scenes of violence and robbery are fine but the debate is just getting everyone down…

Let's not talk about what happened last night...

He talks as if the ‘nation’ has a sense of self-esteem and it is this exact kind of rubbish, based on image and spin (basically propaganda and indoctrination) that highlights the fallacy of the New Labour agenda. If you say something enough, people will believe it and then hopefully it will come true. Tell people there is no crime and the rest will follow…

And our reputation? People will make up their own minds, in this country and abroad.

Malaysian Student attacked during London Riots

And please, come again...

If we don’t appear to be assessing and dealing with the problems effectively then people will wonder what has happened to this country. It needs to be seen that the problems are taken seriously and not swept under the carpet, with a ‘very specific solution’… He’s probably concerned about tourism and rightly so, potential visitors would want to see swift action, but also long term change.

Do other developed nations all have the same problems? Certainly it’s true to some extent, but not exactly the same. France’s problems are well documented and have seen recent occurrences, and despite similarities with the recent trouble in the UK, the French unrest did have a more specific racial context. The problem of crime in the US is well known but it is such a different country in its social make up, no matter our cultural similarities. They view law and order differently as well as social problems and it is a much more diverse population, whereas here we are more densely populated. The differences are too many for Blair’s comparison. And you could go through the G20 and say the same things. And I’d like to see him point out these same groups in the likes of the Scandinavian countries and particularly Japan.

And if these nations do all have the same problems as he contends then surely they’d be more understanding of the situation here??? And our reputation wouldn’t suffer and we wouldn’t all get depressed, everyone milling about in the streets, not looking each other in the eye…

His rhetoric is empty, nothing’s changed there.

Even forgetting any of things he’s said about the Iraq War, this is the man who believes that Western military action since 9/11 has not incited further terrorism against the West, despite, well, everything that’s happened. We should ignore this man…

The summer has ended and we head into winter after a year of protesting and rioting. To what end? It isn’t 1968. The challenges faced are completely different and the West is not going to dominate as before. The protests in the 60s were about power and freedom and carried out in vastly different circumstances; the underlying theme of recent unrest has been money. How times have changed… And I’m not sure these people fully understand the situation.

Do they really understand, at any age...?

There are dark uncertain times ahead for all Western nations, monumental change is afoot and it is not clear how our economies and societies will come through these times. Maybe what we actually need is a smooth talker like Blair in power to ‘manage expectations’…

'This guy?! Seriously..?'

With men like this running the country, who knows what lays ahead...?