Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 19 August 2011

I have deliberately said little in recent days about the riots that swept through our big cities, preferring to consider more deeply what we can do to tackle the problem.
There has always been an underclass that has no stake in our society. Was this any different in 18th century Britain, or the Victorian era or the last century? Some human beings are tragically born into chaos and sadly never receive the love, discipline or constraints that produce responsible behaviour. You don't have to teach a child to be bad; it can do that on its own. You have to teach a child to be good.
In earlier periods those missing constraints were partly put in place by the wider community, sometimes neighbours, sometimes school teachers, sometimes police and justice system, sometimes the army. In 21st century Britain much of that no longer happens.
We have allowed a significant number of young people to grow up in our midst who have no stake in our society and we have given away our ability to constrain them. There are over one million young people in this country who are not in work, education or training. It is a minority, but a significant one. They were the hard core of those who rioted last week, with other opportunists jumping on the band wagon.
Social history does not flow in a straight line, but is more like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the opposite. We have been too tolerant and it is time to change.
I favour a zero tolerance approach to the kind of anti-social behaviour we have had to tolerate on our streets and the abhorrent gang culture.
But we must also be constructive. For all of those who reach the age of adulthood with no credible plan for their lives involving training, education or work, we need some form of useful character building skills-providing national scheme that can help them become useful citizens. I will be advocating such an approach at Westminster.
The police have been criticised for their role in all this. I certainly do not blame the rank and file officers. They have to police riots with cameras rolling, the IPCC on their shoulder and the ridiculous Human Rights Act lurking around the corner. We send them into battle with one hand tied behind their back. This too has got to change.
It was a wake-up call, so it is time to wake up.

posted by Gary @ 09:31