Generally, in the wake of the dreadful rioting, looting and arson of the last few days politicians of all parties have acted responsibly and not sought to score political points. Whatever the reasons and motivations of the rioters the responsibility and fault cannot lie with individual politicians or one administration . But cue Harriet Harman MP, whose command of Orwellian double speak never fails to rise to the challenge. Seeking to score political points she said, in an exchange with Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that she was not justifying the violence looting and arson but then went ahead, with bull headed determination, and attempted to do precisely that, managing to face in two different directions, at the same time. She said:
“there is a sense that young people feel they are not being listened to. That is not to justify violence. But when you’ve got the trebling of tuition fees, they should think again about that. When you’ve got the EMA being taken away, when you’ve got jobs being cut and youth unemployment rising and they are shutting the job centre in Camberwell – well you should think again about that”.
So, we are to assume, using Harman’s logic , that our disaffected youth have reached a tipping point since, that is, the Coalition Government came to power . However if you look at youth unemployment, NEET and Truancy figures under the last Government there has been only marginal change in the first year of this government . In any case you look at figures over a number of years to determine trends and evaluate policy effects and outcomes . When Labour came into power in 1997, around half of 16- to 17-year-olds were working. Now it’s just 23.3%, the lowest since figures were collected. This is self-evidently part of a longer term trend most of which was played out under the last Labour government of which she was a member. It is deeply unfortunate that Harman chose this line of attack. Presumably she is regretting it now.
David Goodhart of left leaning Prospect is probably the most insightful on the rioters possible self-justification
“The nihilistic grievance culture of the black inner city, fanned by parts of the hip-hop/rap scene and copied by many white people, has created a hardcore sub-culture of post-political disaffection. The disaffection is mainly unjustified. It’s as if the routine brutalities and racist humiliations of 30 to 40 years ago have been lovingly preserved to provide a motor of real anger for what is really just a kind of adolescent pose.”
Or Danny Kruger a former Cameron aide (in FT) has this take:
‘The intifada of the underclass, as someone called it on Monday night, bears a pathetic comparison with the uprisings elsewhere around the Arab world during this year. Young people in Egypt and Tunisia had something to lose from their protests – their lives – and something to gain – democracy and justice. Our young people have nothing to lose and nothing to gain, except thrills and new trainers. They are simply confirming, in the most disgraceful terms possible, their own disgrace’