The Riots – Iain Duncan Smith Is Tackling the Causes


Discussing welfare reform with Sainsbury's staff
Image by the Prime Minister's Office via Flickr

Iain Duncan Smith Discusses Welfare Reform with Sainsbury’s Staff

The BBC today reports a study by the LSE for the Guardian newspaper into the summer riots.

The study interviewed 270 rioters to try and understand why they took part in the rioting.

Their conclusion is that it was above all “anger at the police” that drove the rioters.

Of the 270 people interviewed, 85% said policing was an “important” or “very important” factor in why the riots happened.

They repeatedly expressed frustrations about their daily interactions with the police, saying that they felt hassled, bullied and complaining that they were not treated as equals.

Seventy per cent of the rioters said they had been stopped and searched in the last year.

And time and again interviewees described the violence as a chance to get back at the police.

Well, if 70% of the sort of people who get involved in riots were stopped and searched during the previous year, it seems at least that the police stop and search is targetting the right people. Is it really surprising that the sort of people who are happy to smash shop windows and loot the contents have little respect for the police?

It is, I suppose, also not surprising that the Guardian would seek to blame rioting on the police. The BBC article duly drones on about “police tactics”.

The results of this survey actually go much deeper than that.

The police are a symbol of the society in which the rioters live. The rioters are, in fact, alienated from the whole of society, and not just from the police. At the time of the riots, well-meaning chattering class types spent a lot of time wondering why anyone would choose to smash up their own communities. I suspect the people involved actually do not think of those places as “their” communities, any more than they think of the police as “their” police – as people in more peaceful kinds of places normally do.

The reasons for the alienation are many, and go back ultimately to what the Prime Minister has described as our “broken society”.

The dynamic is one of broken homes, families without fathers, and a culture of welfare entitlement. The latter goes with the rest of it. In normal societies, people see a link between work, income and providing for your family and yourself. Never mind if you are “only” a shelf stacker at Tesco – if that job provides the money that feeds your kids, then your life has a worth and value, and you can derive a pride and a place in society from that.

Socialists will say that there are no jobs. The truth is different. Companies cannot get the employees they need, and sometimes prefer immigrants to local people. Why? Because the local people have the wrong attitude. They don’t really want those jobs. Why not? Because in their minds, there is no connection between the obtaining of possessions including necessities like food, and working. Food is a right; a job is just an alternative way of obtaining it.

If all material possessions come from State handouts by entitlement, then the connection between obtaining those things and working for them is broken, and one of the bonds that hold families together is broken.

If a father (or indeed a mother) is not responsible for the material well-being of their children, because the State provides, then one of their key roles in the family is removed – indeed, one of the purposes of the family itself is removed. The State has then usurped the role of the family, but carries out that role without any love or personal involvement, according to bureaucratic processes and forms.

In turn, fathers especially become irrelevant – mothers supply love and the State supplies money. That’s fine – until the kids grow up and notice that the people who do work have more than they do.

If all that you have comes from a State handout, it is easy to believe that possessions and material wealth are an entitlement rather than something to be earned. If you then see other people who have much more than you, you will see that as unfair. You will not imagine that those other people’s material well-being came from working for it; you will believe it came from an unfair decision to award those other people extra that you don’t have.

And then the problem spreads out. Those from better backgrounds see “welfare scroungers” getting handouts from the State, while they, who work for a living, get none and pay high taxes to boot. They too get the message that society is unfair, that there is no connection between the work they do and the possessions they have or even their ability to obtain the necessities of life.

In turn, their commitment to the rules that bind us together as a society is weakened. They may even find themselves deciding that if those scroungers have big-screen televisions – whether through rioting or otherwise – well then, they who work should certainly have the same.

Finally, of course, one of the prime functions of the police is to protect property, and to protect society in general. If society is unfair, and the possession of property is allocated at random, then the police automatically become an agent perpetuating the unfairness.

This problem is not a policing problem. It goes much, much deeper. We have a very nasty underclass, especially in our inner cities, for whom society and community mean nothing. That is not their fault. They have grown up amidst the wreckage caused by the decline of morals, religion, the family and everything that holds our society together. But the root cause, the very root cause, is the welfare state itself. For too many people, it has destroyed the link between work and material possessions, destroyed the family and destroyed the bonds that hold communities together.

It is easy to be pessimistic, to give up and say that our society is in terminal decline, as many on the Right do. It is also easy, as the Guardian and many on the Left often do, to go for glib and quick answers like blaming police tactics.

Neither of those has much appeal for me. Let’s at least try and sort this mess out. We need to get the Left to understand that their welfare state has caused these problems. We also need to get the Right to understand that simply writing off the underclass, and using force to keep them under control, is a recipe for ultimate collapse.

I do not belong to his Party, or even support it, but listening to Iain Duncan Smith in many interviews, I believe he understands what needs to be done, and is trying to make a start doing it.

His welfare reforms will not tackle the hard core of disaffected youth who took part in those riots. But they will start to nibble away at the margin, at the edges of the problem, encouraging people on the edge of worklessness to get out and work – and ultimately it is the concept that people need to work for a living that will stop future riots.

It is a bit like “no tolerance” policing. If you always tackle minor crimes like vandalism, you end up with less murder and armed robbery. Similarly, if you can nudge a few people to get out and work who would otherwise be on the dole, the core problem will diminish. It is social pressure to work that gets people to work instead of scrounge; the more people are out at work, the greater that social pressure will be.

In future, the government (of whichever party) will need to build on Mr Duncan Smith’s plans and go much further. The Guardian will not like that, and they will rant against it, but it is the only way to put things back together again. “Making work pay” has been a slogan of both parties for years – but truly making work pay actually means making not working not pay. And that is the hard part.

We should therefore support those reforms. Sure, there is a much simpler way to do the means testing, via the tax system, and the civil service petty turf wars between the Deopartment for Work and Pensions and HMRC stop that even being considered. Sure, as a result of that, Mr Duncan Smith’s civil servants have told him they need a massive new IT system to implement the reforms. But the reforms are the first attempt since the War to do what needs to be done.

Mr Duncan Smith is in the front line, fighting against the greatest problem of our age – greater even than the government deficit. We should be in the trench beside him.

New Sentencing Guidelines Clearly Break the Law

Image by John Linwood via Flickr

The Telegraph reports that magistrates have been advised to ignore the standard sentencing guidelines and impose harsher penalties for offences committed during the riots.

Courts are being advised that the scale of last week’s civil disobedience means that offences committed during the riots should be dealt with more harshly.

I wonder how long it will be before somebody uses Human Rights legislation to hit back at this. After all, somebody who committed an identical offence the previous week would have got a lighter penalty.

What’s more, the advice is retrospective. This applies to crimes that have already been committed.

Here is Article 7 Section 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights:

(1) No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.

(My italics.)

So the new sentencing guidelines are a clear infringement of the Convention. And the Convention has been incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act, which David Cameron’s government has refused to repeal.

It may well make Mr Cameron “sick to the stomach”, just like it did when he was ordered to give prisoners the vote. But expect his government shortly to be in the dock once again.

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Lord Tebbit on Radio 4

Norman Tebbit giving a talk for the Edinburgh ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lord (Norman) Tebbit – Still a Class Act

The Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning had an interview with Lord Tebbit. It is well worth a listen.

The interviewer started off by trying to push Lord Tebbit to draw parallels between the riots of the 1980s and the recent ones.

Lord Tebbit said that some of the reasons were very different.

He listed the problems that led to the riots in the 1980s. But then he quietly pointed out some of the differences this time.

This time, for example, it was “a multicultural affair”, as he put it. In the 1980s, in contrast, it was overwhelmingly black people rioting against a police force they hated.

Lord Tebbit pointed out that some of the rioters this time had good jobs.

And then he dropped his bombshell, in his quiet and measured style:

There’s the collapse of education for example – we’re now producing far more illiterate and innumerate kids at the age of 16 leaving school virtually unemployable.

Much greater welfarism. Much greater welfare dependency. Far more families where, not only – like my family – before the War, where we’d had fathers out of work for a time, but families in which nobody has ever worked and nobody ever seems likely to work – they don’t want to work.

“The collapse of education.” “Welfarism.” “They don’t want to work.” Yikes. That didn’t fit the BBC script, did it?

80 year-old Lord Tebbit certainly is a class act. As he has grown older, his tone of voice has become calmer, quieter and more thoughtful – and is all the more effective for that. The sentiments he expresses are as forthright as ever.

He left that BBC interviewer floundering. Music to my ears!

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Defying the Hooligans with Community Spirit

Post Riot Cleanup: Heroes

The Big Broomfest – Photo by MattjHerring via Flickr

The BBC has a piece about local communities coming together to clean up after the rioting.

It is a useful reminder that the huge majority of our people are not on the side of the rioters.

Nicole Wevers waited patiently with hundreds of other residents while police forensics experts combed the streets around the looted Debenhams in Clapham Junction.

“It was the most hilarious scene with everyone wearing marigolds and children holding mini brooms.” There was a Mexican broom wave and spontaneous applause for the police and fire brigade,” she says.

When the police cordons finally came down it only took 10 minutes to leave St John’s Road spotless such was the turnout. “I was so upset in the morning about the riots,” Wevers says. “But it was the most amazing day with a real spirit of togetherness.”

We do have a problem with a small section of our society who are feckless, disconnected from their communities and effectively outlaws. They are the rioters – selfish, mindless and immature. But they are a small minority.

Thankfully, the voices, like Ken Livingstone’s, claiming that the riots were caused by the recession have been extremely subdued. People seem to be converging on a view that the problem is much deeper than that – that a small proportion of young people are being brought up in broken and dysfunctional families and therefore have no respect for other people, their communities or themselves.

The issue is social breakdown, not economic breakdown. We do need, of course, to tackle that (although we also should not be down-hearted or overdo the extent of the breakdown). The solutions will not be quick or easy. Certainly glib and silly suggestions like restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance would have absolutely no effect on this. The solutions will lie in the restoration of social fabric, of a feeling amongst people that they have obligations to each other.

In turn, that means the welfare state needs serious examination. It has fostered the dependency culture that has been a part cause of the riots. We need to make it very clear that if you get handouts from the State, then the taxpayers who pay for those handouts have a right to expect that you will discharge obligations in return. Like making a serious attempt to find a job and get off the welfare.

It also means, though, that we all need to remember that we live in communities, not as isolated actors in a free market. However, you cannot foster community spirit by government action. Those cleanup operations being reported by the BBC were not organised by local councils or well-meaning social workers. If they were, they wouldn’t have happened for months, if ever, and even if they did happen, they would have been done in a sullen and resentful way.

Only free individuals can freely choose to build a community. The government cannot do it – but it can easily prevent it, if it is so minded, by senseless interference.

I think that is what David Cameron has been groping towards with his “Big Society” theme. Unfortunately he has been completely unable to articulate it clearly, or explain what it means in concrete terms. Well, now we have had an example of what it means. It doesn’t mean charities taking over from local councils. It means ordinary people forming human barricades to see off rioters, and Mexican broom waves afterwards as ordinary people clean up the streets they live in.

I have also been struck by the amount of humour I have seen in the response of ordinary people to the criminality. The best yet was something I oversaw on my son’s Facebook wall, posted by one of his friends. It went something like:

There’s only one explanation for all the riots. Voldemort is back!

And we all know what happened to him.

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