There’s been much made of the social reasons riots kicked off across England, including perceived police racism, joblessness and a more general sense of disaffection in the areas trouble was found. There have been a queue of politicians and media types asking whether the cuts are to blame. The answer is both yes and no, but blaming cuts is simplistic and myopic.
The youth of areas such as Tottenham, Salford and West Bromwich do feel let down by the Coalition’s decisions to drastically reduce EMA, and also to get rid of the Future Jobs Fund, and communities with already high unemployment are struggling to cope as the economy staggers onwards, with high inflation impacting those on fixed incomes. These things have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, along with local government and charity cuts just filtering through.
But that isn’t the whole story. Labour has its part to answer, too. Misuse of stop-and-search laws has alienated black and Asian communities. Black men are “over nine times more likely” to be searched than their white counterparts, and unemployment remained stubbornly high in these places even during the boom years under Labour. These are people largely abandoned by all major parties, even if the Tories have taken it a step further.
The police have complained loudly that concerns about human rights were impeding their ability to stop the riots. Given that the initial disturbance was triggered by police shooting dead a young man, I’m surprised they didn’t just use the force of sheer irony to blast the assembled crowds away. For the Met, its credibility dragged through the mud of late over phonehacking and bribery allegations, this has been a godsend. A facebook page in support of the Met now has almost a million likes, in a spillover of the ‘Our Brave Boys’ mentality, as far as I can see.
Finally, in the interest of taking looking back further in search of the disaffected youth’s root cause, allow me to close with this quote from fifth-century BC philosopher Socrates:
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.