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Cameron and Blair both muddle-headed on cause of riots

Well, well, well. Who said “there are deep problems in our society that have been growing for a long time: a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense that individual rights come before anything else”? Cameron. And where does he think the selfishness and fixation on individualism came from, if not from Thatcher who claimed society never really existed and made selfishness and greed the cardinal aims of life? Yet still he insists that the problem was “criminality, pure and simple” and obsesses about the “moral decline of Britain” as though society and economy were not the issue, only the misbehaviour of individuals.

Blair is equally muddle-headed when he puts the riots down to alienated, disaffected youth outside the social mainstream and argues there’s no social or moral decline, only a need for intense family intervention and dealing with anti-social behaviour and gangs, as though the social and economic structures he championed had nothing to do with creating the alienation and disaffection in the first place.

Does Blair seriously believe that the rest of society was fine and it was just these perverse pockets that needed mopping up? Does he not think that the huge increase in inequality (Mandelson’s signature line that “New Labour is very relaxed about people becoming filthy rich”) had no impact on life chances and life perceptions at the bottom? Or that the collapse in social mobility left more and more people feeling trapped? Or that the manic consumer materialism which became symbols of respect and success from which the jobless and poorest were excluded would not have left a rankling resentment? Or that high youth unemployment in an economy which lionised finance and the City but neglected manufacturing, sacrificing 100,000 jobs a year, would not have created the alientation and disaffection he noted?

What mark if left on society and on the psychology of its classes when social housing for poorer people who will never be able to support mortgages is decimated almost to the point of invisibility, social housing being built during the Blair years at a rate of half a house per constituency? Or when so-called welfare reform produces by far the lowest unemployment benefit (job seeker’s allowance) in Europe, a major closure of workshops for the disabled, and a big cutback in incapacity benefits on the grounds that many disabled people could work when they lived in regions where there was no work? Or when the economy is run to suit the interests of Big Finance and Big Business with trade unions kept under lock and key and employment rights curtailed?

Cameron and Blair are both the victims of their own myopia, the purveyors of a wilful blindness that ignores all the abundant evidence that conflicts with their own narrow ideology. It’s time that they, and all of us, faced up to the fact that Britain’s problems go far deeper and wider into the structure of our society and economy than to be palmed off with simpliste explanations about moral decline, pure criminality, or ASBO treatment for alienated and disaffected youth.

One Comment

  1. Mike Killingworth says:

    And it is also time that we faced up to the fact that the difference between Britain and Greece is that we have a casino economy called the City of London. A few thousand high-rolling gamblers support the life-styles of the rest of us. No one else can do any form of work that couldn’t be done for a small fraction of the price in Asia or Latin America. As and when they up sticks to Cape Town we’ll be left looking like Kyrgyzstan, with people either starving or scratching about in a crony culture.

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