Monthly Archives: August 2011

Commodifying misery: The Coalition’s answer to helping ‘troubled’ families

Private investors are to be asked by the Government to fund intensive programmes focused on helping ‘troubled’ families. This scheme will centre on Cameron’s fabled 120,000 families, with ministers hoping philanthropists, charities and a plethora of other private organisations will provide financial backing to the project.

In fact, private investors who put their money into one of these ‘social impact bonds’ are to be paid a dividend for any successful projects they support. Known as ‘payment by results’ (Buzzword alert), success will see benefactors paid by taxpayers. Although all targets will be agreed in advance, this return (on top of initial investment) could range from 2% to as much as 13%. On a more digestible side note, benefactors will not get any of their investment back should targets be missed.

On Friday, Nick Hurd, Civil Society Minister, announced a number of proposed trials of this scheme. Due to commence next year, these will be based in Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham in London, as well as Birmingham and Leicestershire. Suggesting these trials could raise up to £40m, Hurd added, “Social impact bonds could be one of many Big Society innovations that will build the new partnerships between the state, communities, businesses and charities and focus resources where they are needed.”

Nick Hurd, Civil Society Minister.

Despite Hurd’s faith, it’s hard to envisage how this policy will be practically applied. Even though, perhaps in essence it has a laudable objective in reality the scope for skepticism is just far too high. Tessa Jowell best summed this up when she said, “The devil is in the detail.”

Launching into this ‘detail’ seemingly opens up a Pandora’s Box of stumbling blocks. How will the government ensure they select suitable financial backers? How rigorous will the criteria be to select these investors? How will the Government check these backers have any real interest in tackling the problems affecting these families? When does a project become successful? In fact, when is a ‘troubled’ family turned around? Their first payday? After a few months of work? Two weeks without drugs? These questions go on and on.

This is when the nonsensical and frankly repugnant nature of this scheme is laid bare. In allowing private investors to fund these ‘troubled’ families the government is opening them up to market forces and in many ways commodifying their unfortunate circumstances. It has been said before and I shall heed the warning once more, whenever market forces become involved in any sort of social project the well being of those receiving ‘help’ goes out of the window and instead profit becomes the main focus.

For Cameron to succeed in his ambitious aim of transforming the fortunes of 120,000 families by the 2015 general election, he needs to recognise families aren’t just smoothly and simply ‘turned’ around, on the contrary these projects will be arduous and have to be long-term.

Worryingly, ‘payments by results’ opens the door for the rapid turnover of ‘troubled’ families, with little attention given to fixing the problems encountered by these families beyond short-term profit. This concern grows depending on how success is perceived in this scheme. For example, if to attract financial backers the Government sets low standards for ‘success’ then we could see financiers achieving little but being rewarded handsomely for their short-term efforts. This speculation lends itself to visions of private investors skipping down the road, profits lining their greedy pockets, as the wheels come off their ‘philanthropic’ work mere moments after their turnaround project concludes.

As a result, this is policy making at its laziest with the Government once again shirking its responsibility to aid those most in need of help. This government have gone out of their way to not only continue but speed up this country’s unwavering march towards complete privatisation. In fact, it seems not a day goes by without something new being taken from government control and given to private financiers. But with this scheme, we could see taxpayer’s footing the bill twice. Once for the short term-success of investors, and then perhaps again in the long-term as failed projects result in the same families returning to square one.

Placing this concern to one side, the whole notion of ‘payment by results’ is one that innately lends itself to cherry-picking. Private backers are likely to choose families deemed low risk and easily fixable. Basically, those who guarantee financial gain. This could lead to ‘high risk’ families being left behind with slim chance of being supported. This is the true reality of allowing market forces to interfere with social projects. High risk becomes loss making and illogical, in others words- a bad business decision. For this reason, little good can come from mixing financial profit with morality. The Government should be looking for solutions not on the basis of cost, but in the interest of society as a whole. After all, if these 120,000 families are such a stain on our society then it’s in our collective interest to address their problems efficiently and with great care. Corner cutting is not an option. It will take serious time investment, great patience and pure determination to turn these families around for good. This envisioning of ‘social impact bonds’ fails to provide this.

For more- Nick Hurd on ‘Social Impact Bonds’

Kenneth Way.

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Libyans first

Statue of Gaddafi's head under a rebel's boot.

Libya.

The Western backed rebels overthrow a dictator hated by so many of his own countrymen and women. The dictator’s compound is overrun and symbolic violence is rife. Heads of statues, luxury items, destroyed in an overwhelming display of liberty. The actual dictator himself can’t be found, but that doesn’t matter anymore! It is too late for him now! Freedom!

Sound familiar?

Libya is entering into its most dangerous time, and not a single world leader, nor single Libyan citizen should detract from the outstanding (and frankly terrifying) worry of a collapse in unity from the rebel camp. This is to take nothing at all away from the people of Libya, and we must all rejoice in the end of such a brutal dictatorship. But in order for this to be exemplary in the region, a few warnings are probably best heeded. When a certain Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and statues and idols were desecrated, the West envisioned a smooth transitional period into a fully fledged democratic arena. The potential for in-fighting is absolutely crystal clear. With the overthrowing of Gaddafi comes the end of a unifying raison d’etre. For this reason, there needs to be a huge amount of effort, from various actors, in varying fields.

The West, but in particular Messrs. Obama and Cameron, must immediately provide financial aid to the NTC. The US is supposedly prepared to release frozen Libyan funds (of roughly $1.5 billion) in order to get the process underway. This is a great start, but more importantly, it is only a start. Here is where Western involvement should cease. It is not for the US, or the UK, or NATO to impose any predominantly ideological will in this transition. This would be absolutely disastrous, as it would provide a tipping point to ordinary North Africans and Middle-Eastern people. Iraq proved this. Afghanistan has proved this.

Here is where the AU, Egypt and Tunisia must step in. Guidance is crucial, but must remain only guidance. The Libyan people must decide the fresh direction the country should take, but they should heed the pitfalls of history, avoid them, and come out stronger at the other end. There needs to be relatively localised support in this sense, as it is obvious that when it comes to regime change, the West is at a loss in understanding the independence of the citizens of the country.

Finally, if Gaddafi and/or his sons are caught, it is imperative, perhaps even of paramount importance, that he is sent to trial at The Hague. Libya has been completely rocked by this rebellion, and the judiciary will be revamped in any circumstance that prevails. As this is the case, it is important that the trial be completely fair, and sadly this will not be possible in the country for a number of months or possibly even years. Gaddafi must face justice. However, Libya must provide the region with an example of how to successfully transition a country from unjust to just.

Rebel troops inside Gaddafi’s compound.

Nico Leon.

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And the courts shall strike down upon rioters with great vengeance and furious anger for they are those who attempt to poison and destroy our society.

While, the riots may have left our streets, the fallout has well and truly taken over our courtrooms. By Tuesday evening some 1,300 people had been brought before the courts, with 64% of these being remanded in custody. This itself is a staggering figure, made even more noteworthy when you consider that in 2010 only 10% of people were remanded at magistrates courts for serious offences – the full list of cases and convictions so far.

This highlights one of two growing concerns in the aftermath of the riots. For one, the perpetrators are being punished far more harshly than they would be for committing a similar crime at any other time. In fact, an independent analysis by The Guardian has revealed that convicted rioters are receiving sentences 25% longer than usual. Facts such as this show there is a real sense of retribution in the air, with the Government undoubtedly attempting to influence the judicial process, determined to prove the courts will not go soft on those involved.

The second major concern is the disparities that seem to be emerging in much of the sentencing. It’s true that every crime has a different background, a different set of circumstances and a different person at the helm, but in this unique incident of mass crime, where cases are so easily comparable, the courts should be sending fair and consistent messages.

Take the example of Nicolas Robinson from south-east London. Nicolas’ heinous crime was stealing a £3.50 case of water from a Lidl supermarket. Obviously, partaking in any incident of thievery is wrong, and so on… however, Nicolas has received a six-month prison sentence for his act. He had no prior criminal record and pleaded guilty to his crime. Hardly the hardened criminal or ‘youth’ looting and burning down Foot Locker.

But perhaps as Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, said, “We need to understand that people for a while thought that this was a crime without consequence – we cannot have people being frightened in their beds, frightened in their own homes for their public safety.” Pickles could be right, a huge deterrent may act to stop a similar event happening in the future. Although, this does not explain the huge variations that we have witnessed in some of the sentencing.

For example, while Nicolas got six months for stealing £3.50 of bottled water, David Atto, who like Nicolas pleaded guilty and had no prior convictions, was sentenced to a day in custody for stealing two Burberry T-shirts, worth around £60. It’s only natural to question how these two acts warrant such different punishments.

Claims such as those made by Jeremy Dein QC, who suggested sentences are as consistent as they can be, seem difficult to comprehend with such an obvious example of inconsistency staring you in the face. But as Mr. Dein points out, “Judges and magistrates are individuals, and there will always be a margin of difference between them.” Again, this is a valid argument, but in allowing such disparities in sentencing our justice system is failing many individuals, who fair enough should have known better but hardly warrant major constraints placed upon their future lives. After all, it’s common knowledge that, a criminal record can severely limit your future prospects from employment, to housing, to education, a person becomes limited in what they can aspire to do, regardless of the regret they feel for their actions.

This brings me to the cases of Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, who were both sentenced to four-years in prison for inciting riots through Facebook despite the fact that neither of these riots actually happened. As Alan Travis, The Guardian’s home affairs editor, points out many do not even realise this to be a crime.

Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Kennan

It’s important to contextualise this, in fact as Travis notes, in 2010 to receive a four-year sentence an individual would’ve had to kidnap somebody to be sentenced to 47 months in prison, killed someone while drink driving for 45 months or carried out a sexual assault for 48 months. Somehow the ‘incitement’ to riot, without any level of success pales in comparison to the real crimes committed and punished every day.

The courts have an important and necessary duty to stay level headed in the aftermath of these riots. They must not and cannot heed to pressure from the Government to imprison every individual guilty of the most negligible incident during the riots, nor must they react to calls from those who would like perpetrators hung, drawn and quartered. The public can afford to be emotional, the courts must be rational. We as a society have consented to the courts being our moral level head, able to see beyond the emotional and free from the prejudice that blights many of our perceptions. If they choose to abandon this responsibility, we are going to end up with countless individuals sentenced to serious prison sentences for minor crimes.

Regardless of this, it will be interesting to see how these court cases develop, whether the eye for an eye mood will subside and how many of these severe sentences will eventually be overturned. But fair and proper sentencing now will better facilitate the rebuilding process for our cities and our country as a whole, and perhaps with greater hindsight we can begin to truly understand why these riots happened in the first place. However, if we continue to punish with irrational minds, this is a privilege we shall not be afforded.

Kenneth Way.

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Feature: Midwifery Matters

The recent revelation that in 2010 over 1000 women paid for a private midwife to care for them throughout their pregnancy and birth prompts an array of questions about the current state of NHS maternity services within the UK. It has been well publicised that there is a vast shortage of midwives at present and that maternity services are buckling under the pressures of providing for a rising birth rate with limited numbers of midwives. A recent BBC Panorama documentary detailed the devastating consequences these issues have had on women and their families; namely the preventable deaths of women and babies either shortly after birth or in pregnancy. The programme featured a particular couple who painfully retold their devastating experience of losing their first baby at a London hospital; the couple made it explicitly clear that the night their baby died was a night when the maternity ward was dangerously understaffed, to the point where there was not a midwife available to them throughout labour. An independent body investigating the death of their child concluded that it could have been prevented had there been adequate and safe staffing levels on the maternity ward. This is a tragic and completely unacceptable occurrence.

With the birth rate in the UK currently standing at a 40 year high, having already risen by 2.4% since 2009, it seems obvious to suggest that increasing numbers of midwives are required in order to support the rising numbers of pregnant women. Cathy Warwick, the General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has acknowledged that around 4700 more midwives are needed in order to allow maternity services to meet the vast demands being placed upon them. This is a shocking figure and goes some way to highlight the circumstances and working conditions that midwives are working amongst. Cathy Warwick also recognises that the situation majorly contributes towards midwives feeling deeply dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and increasingly disillusioned about their careers.

Prior to the 2010 general election, David Cameron pledged to increase the numbers of practicing midwives by 3000. This promise is yet to be fulfilled and the Government confirmed in January this year that there is currently no intention to raise the number of midwives. This is an almighty disservice to maternity care and a worryingly signal that harder times are still to come.

Adding to this, in January, a spokesperson for the Department of Health stated that there were a ‘record’ number of midwifery students currently in training across the UK. In itself, this is excellent news and signifies the sustained interest and uptake of midwifery as a career choice. In reality, this record figure only matters when there is confirmation that the current students will be able to secure a job at the end of their training and make the transition from student to qualified healthcare professional. In order for midwifery positions to be available, there needs to be continual investment in maternity services by the government, thus making jobs available. It is not nearly enough to cover up a shortage of midwives with maternity support workers or health visitors; whilst these two professions have very real and valuable roles, it is midwives that are so desperately sought after.

Midwifery is a continually underrated and undervalued profession, covering an area that remains a mystery to most until personally experienced either as a pregnant woman or an expectant father. For this reason, many overlook the positive impact midwives have upon a women’s health and wellbeing as well as the overall health of families. Midwives are often positioned at the heart of women’s care throughout pregnancy as the lead healthcare professional. They are ideally placed to liaise with other maternity care providers, instigating any necessary or appropriate referrals as well as remaining a ‘professional friend’ to the woman throughout, supporting and encouraging her during the transition from woman to mother and the extensive lifestyle changes this brings. During the 40 weeks of pregnancy, a midwife has the privilege of caring for the woman throughout this time as she experiences many changes physically, emotionally and socially. Although for most a joyous experience, pregnancy brings with it many questions and worries, some trivial and some much more far-reaching and long term. These may revolve around key social concerns such as domestic violence and abuse, sexual and mental health, drug and alcohol misuse and adoption and fostering. With midwives being the main care providers for pregnant women (as opposed to doctors and other professionals) it is impossible to not acknowledge the awareness midwives must possess of wider social concerns and how this relates to the pregnant woman and her family.

It would be irresponsible for me to imply or claim that midwives are heroes, capable of changing the world, and there are undoubtedly some situations that cannot be improved by midwifery care alone and require input from other professionals with specific expertise in certain areas; for example, drug rehabilitation workers and smoking cessation advisors. However, it remains the role of the midwife to engage with all women with regards to their general health and wellbeing, explaining the importance of good health in pregnancy for both the woman and the unborn baby, as well as implications poor health may have later in life and after pregnancy. Health promotion initiatives can also extend to the woman’s immediate family, such as smoking cessation and healthy dietary changes, and these are examples of the midwife’s vast contribution to bettering outcomes for not just the pregnant woman, but the family unit too.


Pregnancy presents a unique situation for health professionals in that there are two lives being cared for at the same time. For a woman, carrying an unborn baby within her body is a fulfilling and special experience; providers of maternity services must realise that for some women, pregnancy may be the only time in their life that they have actively sought health advice or care and that this is an opportunity to provide valuable support and education, potentially improving overall awareness of health issues and contributing towards greater social outcomes. Midwives are able to participate hugely in this opportunity and are the main professionals involved with many public health initiatives such as breastfeeding, healthy diet promotion and folic acid supplementation in early pregnancy as a means of preventing brain and spinal defects in the developing baby. Breastfeeding in particular has vast health benefits for both mother and baby including a greatly reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and eczema for the baby and reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancer for the mother in later life.

Well organised maternity services that function efficiently and effectively are essential in order to enable midwives to carry out their role and reach their full potential as healthcare professionals. As aforementioned, the current shortage of midwives in the UK is impacting hugely upon the safety of maternity care and the extent to which midwives can look after women successfully. This is an ongoing issue that restricts women’s access to midwives and places great constraints on maternity services as a whole. With regards to the increasing number of women seeking and paying for a private midwife, it is a sad day for NHS midwifery when women are seeking care elsewhere and are willing to pay high rates for it if it means that they are provided with the service they want. This is a dangerous and downward spiral. Independent midwives currently charge between £2000 and £4500 for their services throughout pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Clearly, this is not attainable by all women and it is unacceptable that those who cannot afford the standard of care they deserve and should be provided with free of charge are having to experience the substandard circumstances currently being seen on maternity wards up and down the UK. Women should be able to access and receive gold-standard maternity care that makes them feel valued and takes into account their individual beliefs and wishes for pregnancy, regardless of social class or income.

At its best, midwifery care is empowering, inspiring and exceptionally fulfilling for both the woman and her midwife; being able to develop a continuous, trusting relationship with a midwife throughout pregnancy is both reassuring and motivating for a pregnant woman. It enables her to receive vital information about her health and the health of her unborn baby, encourages her to make informed choices and decisions about her wishes for pregnancy, labour and birth, empowers her to trust in her body’s natural and powerful ability to nurture a developing life and bring it into the world, improving her self esteem and sense of self worth and often prompts her to think more broadly about her personal health and how her choices can affect her long term wellbeing.

Midwives are highly skilled healthcare professionals who, through caring for pregnant women, have unprecedented access to a range of prominent social issues affecting the general public as well as the ability to enhance the health and other outcomes of women and their families. The Government need to honour the ongoing work of midwives by ensuring sustainable investment in maternity services; creating jobs that are available for current students upon qualification, ensuring vacancy rates are filled and recruiting the midwives that services are so desperately crying out for. This will work to support a workforce that has become increasingly tired and overstretched and will soon become a liability if something drastic isn’t done. By failing to do so, not only are maternity services being put at huge risk, but so are the lives of women and babies and the health and happiness of families across the country.

Rose Syrett.

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A well measured Ed calls for a ‘national conversation’

In the aftermath of last week’s riots which shocked London initially, and later England as a whole, many people have queued up to have their say on, why, how, and what they would do in response to the carnage that engulfed our streets. Some have blamed the impending spending cuts, while others have chosen to focus on this idea of a ‘broken society’, calling for drastic measures such as bringing in the army, and the eviction of any convicted rioters from social housing. Most recently, we have heard historian David Starkey’s outrageous, borderline racist comments on Newsnight, in which he effectively blamed ‘black culture’.

Today we heard from the Prime Minister David Cameron and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband on what they believed was the necessary reaction to last week’s events. Whilst, David Cameron’s stance was to wage ‘war’ on gangs and declare that the ‘broken society’ is back on the top of his agenda, Ed Miliband in contrast focused on the recent ills we have witnessed from the higher echelons of society, as well as the need for a community based inquiry. Undoubtedly one of the most important speeches in Ed Miliband’s brief reign as Labour leader, he should be congratulated for understanding the need for the public to engage in a ‘national conversation’. This conversation, as he rightly put it, needs not to be ‘a standard judicial inquiry, made up of elites,’ but an inclusive conversation with the wider public.

Admittedly, I doubt many of the rioters that caused mayhem last week were politically motivated; most involved were probably seeking a petty thieving thrill. However, what certain people in this country are failing to grasp is that this problem is only going to get bigger, more widespread and more violent if we don’t take careful measures to combat it now. We can’t do this by removing people’s benefits or evicting them from their homes, these are merely reactionary short-term solutions. Politicians ought to sit down and engage. Not only with young people who have been on the wrong path of crime and are now turning their lives around, but with local youth workers, community leaders, parents and successful young people from all walks of life.

Importantly, Miliband made the point about the ‘greed, selfish and immoral’ nature of the rioters, but he also highlighted the actions of the bankers, who almost took us to the point of financial ruin, the MPs who fiddled their expenses, and the journalists who hacked phones for a cheap story. This erosion of morals, and in some cases illegal practices from those who should know better, should not be forgotten. As Miliband and ironically Peter Oborne, The Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator, noted the greedy and immoral nature of some in our society is arguably as ‘bad at the top as the bottom.’ After all, while what we witnessed last week was undoubtedly shocking and abhorrent in its nature, surely it can be argued that fiddling your expenses for an £8,000 T.V. is at least comparable to those people who looted Currys for a 32” Plasma.

Nevertheless, in the aftermath of all this, what is needed is an open debate with all sections of society, and thus the emphasis should be on rehabilitation and increasing the opportunities for young people to find stable, paid work, rather than Cameron’s phony idea of a National Citizen Service for 16-year olds. The emphasis for those ‘Not in Education, Employment and Training’ (NEETS) should be to help them find apprenticeships and paid work rather than making these people feel excluded from society and fueling this need to loot our streets. Finally, we need to engage in properly educating people of the differences between right and wrong and furthermore the value of education itself, rather than knee-jerk reactions such as throwing people out of social housing.

Daniel Durham.

Ed Miliband’s speech Part 1/2 –

Part 2/2 –

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David Starkey – “The whites have become black.”

The words above are those of well known historian David Starkey who, in an appearance on Newsnight, made the claim that white ‘chavs’ had become ‘black’, stating ‘a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic culture has become the fashion’ and suggesting this cultural ‘blackening up’ was a contributing factor for the past week’s riots.

An obvious response to this would be, what does it mean to become black? Starkey outlines a highly selective, dangerously stereotypical, wholly negative and deeply offensive depiction of Black Britons and ‘black culture’ in a wider sense. In the process, choosing to overlook the heterogeneous nature of black communities within Britain and also displaying an ignorance of truly mammoth proportions.

In simplistically labelling ‘white culture’ as good and ‘black culture’ as bad, Starkey goes some way to deepen this conception of ‘us’ and ‘them’, which has for far too long polluted the British political mindset. In fact, perhaps this notion has never entirely disappeared from British politics, burrowing under the surface with these sentiments of dissociation rearing their ugly head whenever an event is deemed ‘unBritish’.

At the centre of the storm- David Starkey

Worryingly, for a man of supposed great intelligence, a complete derision of not only an entire culture, but language too (Starkey referred to Jamaican patois as a wholly false language) has highlighted a move into irrational territory in the aftermath of the riots. Such ideas, coming from a man of seemingly respectable standing, are only likely to fuel tension between communities at a time when this country should be looking forward together, united and in hope of averting similar incidences in the future.

While, for many of us Starkey’s comments do not warrant further debate, perhaps the left should face up to the fact that we have not done nearly enough to encourage British society as a whole to stop these archaic classifications of identity and this unfortunate propensity for placing an alienating dissociation between the ‘positive us’ and ‘negative them’.

In my opinion, the problem with the left is that we too often scoff at any opinion we deem unenlightened or ignorant, and while in our minds this may be the case, the left has proven unable to convince the general public, the right and perhaps even itself, of the merits of a truly multicultural society. In frequently displaying this high and mighty tendency, those on the left arguably rub people up the wrong way and in the process make the left synonymous with aloofness and self righteousness.

For this reason, the left has to do better. There is a very real duty to ensure that the debate in the aftermath of these riots does not descend into mindless nationalism and cultural isolationism from those who feel Britain has been ‘taken’ from them. To do this, the left needs an articulate and coherent message, to truly state and believe the benefits of a multicultural and multinational society and to highlight the fact that race/nationality has no place in this debate. If the left fails in this task, views like Starkey’s may continue to crop up across the political mainstream and unjustly steal the focus from addressing the deep social problems within Britain.

Kenneth Way.

The full clip of David Starkey’s Newsnight comments –

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Riot City.

A man questions the actions of the rioters outside of a looted building.

London has felt the full force of what is undeniably outrageous rioting. This article is being written on the second night of there being 16,000 police officers on the streets of our city. The rioting has spread to Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands. It is important to get this next statement out of the way. I (and we as a blog) do not condone the actions of any of the rioters. At all. Not one little bit. There, now that is out of the way, we can properly begin to examine and attempt to EXPLAIN (not EXCUSE) the actions, and the reactions of the wider public as a whole.

The Tottenham riot itself is a completely separate entity in that it was fuelled by the death of Mr. Duggan last Thursday. For this reason, the main focus will be on the “copycat” events that spread throughout the city in the following days.

It is clear to anybody that the geography itself is a huge arrow pointing in the direction of the problem. Hackney, Lewisham, Croydon, Clapham Junction… These are historically and systemically poor areas of London. These riots did not happen in Fulham, or Chelsea, or Kensington. They happened in poor areas, with large unemployment figures. If this is not an obvious warning sign then I really don’t know what is. The young people that took to the streets in these areas are largely deprived of the projected wealth they are subjected to continually, and systematically everyday through social media, 24 hour news, newspapers, TV shows, politicians and celebrities. The anger has been brewing for quite some time now. EMA has been cut, Connexions has been dismantled, job prospects are bleak. There is no chance at a real education because the schools are deprived of the resources and the quality of teaching they so badly need. The family unit is non existent, and its logical solution is not an outpouring of altruistic community support as I have previously suggested, but gangs become the family, the support and friendships that are craved by young people.

It is a desperate state of affairs and a man with nothing to lose is a very dangerous one indeed. To create an even more toxic mix, the relationship between the police and these communities are strained at best. Constant stop and searches, berating and provocation are going to cause a reaction. This was an outpouring of desperation.

Of course, this is not to say that 100% of the youth on the streets over the last few days have been doing so with political intentions. In fact a large proportion, or even the majority, have been taking to the streets in a purely materialistic and apolitical way. In any sense, whether it be political or apolitical, to loot and steal and rob and burgle, to burn down the local businesses and residencies of their own communities is abhorrent behaviour. It can’t be tolerated and there has quite rightly been a fierce public backlash. However, as Albert Einstein once said, insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting to see different results. If we are truly going to rid this country of this sort of behaviour, we must tackle the causes. We must tackle the unemployment, we must provide community support to young people growing in deprived areas, educate them.

Instead, we are met with calls for the Army to get involved, plastic ammunition (which incidentally killed 17 teenagers in Belfast), and shockingly, according to a YouGov poll, 33% of adults would like to see the Police armed with LIVE ammunition in these situations. This is a complete overreaction. The world would take a step back in disgust at images of 14 and 15 year old children face to face with Soldiers and armed police. There needs to be a robust police response, yes. Perhaps even kettling or other non violent means of containment, but the lengths people are calling for the government to go to are over the top and the small group of racist outpourings can only be described as horrific. Many bigoted individuals not even being able to distinguish between religion and race.

Police walk past another Arson attack.

The escalating racial tensions must be avoided at all costs because the large majority of people in this country are not racist. The uneducated bigots are as much a blight on this country as the rioters themselves in the way they conduct themselves with such intolerant hatred. It doesn’t take a genius to point out that the current Manchester riots are almost entirely being committed by white people. The racist comments, and any bandwagon that is to follow should be ignored. Enough said on this issue. It isn’t worth my time or yours.

Put quite simply, the summation is easy to comprehend. Nobody with half a brain can justify the actions over the last few days. Nobody can help but feel angry at the devastation and loss to property and business. What we must do is ensure that a generation of people are not instantly converted into reactionary bigots, and more importantly still, examine the real underlying issues at hand. The poverty, the lack of educational facilities, the lack of any community support. Hope and a future need to be promoted to these young people, to prevent this happening again.

Nico Leon

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