How do we stop the riots happening again? I agree with Iain Duncan Smith that locking young people up is no solution and exposes them to career criminals. Fining guilty kids and removing benefits is pretty pointless: how are they supposed to save up and pay for their mistakes? Since the rioting, there have been over 1,800 arrests, two-thirds of which are of kids aged between 11 and 24 – the vast majority young men who are unemployed and unemployable.
Last week, two sets of statistics revealed the huge scale of the social problems we're facing. Unemployment went up again (by 38,000) and one in five young people is out of work – nearly a million with bugger all to do except loaf about, play computer games or hang out on the streets causing trouble. The lack of university places means that the number will be even higher in four weeks' time.
We can't create jobs for kids born in this country on any meaningful scale, but we're really good at filling prison cells. Last week, the number of inmates hit an all-time high to 86,654. One more riot, and where will we put those responsible? In unwanted town halls? Empty factories that have gone bust since the recession? There's no shortage of unused space in business parks up and down the land as the economy shows little sign of life.
The stuff a lot of people nicked in the riots shows how threadbare their everyday existence is – trays of doughnuts, bags of ice and sweets. One bottle of wine. It's all very well to complain about a "moral vacuum", but where do young people turn for guidance? Big Brother is back on television, and the hapless inmates are earning huge sums for lying around spouting drivel. Forget about finding role models in the world of football or pop.
The bottom line is this: schools have got to radically change and take over from parents in deprived areas. John Bird, who founded The Big Issue, has calculated that it costs three times as much to keep a child in care as it does at Eton. So how much is it costing to keep 86,000 people banged up this week? And what will they learn? As for paying people who can't find a job, Bird says the benefits culture supports a subculture of petty drug dealing, fast-food outlets and betting shops, and stops people thinking for themselves. He wants the Government to cut it back radically .
He's right – but we have to make people fit to work. Forget courses, and little local initiatives: schools in our poorest areas have to change into year-round community centres, providing an evening meal, teaching practical skills and crafts in the evenings. Forget A-levels: focus on the attributes you need to join the workforce such as time-keeping, literacy, politeness, willingness to help and being a team player.
These schools have to replace youth clubs, the church, and piecemeal charity projects. Pupils need to be kept busy from breakfast to bedtime. We need to learn from the best boarding schools and adopt an immersive approach. Young people are the biggest asset this country has. A million must be now be rescued. We need to unlock their talent and show them how to think for themselves.
Last week, a young man was stabbed to death in a busy park in Enfield, north London. Local people thought it might have been because he strayed outside his postcode. We don't need to lock up deprived kids: they are already prisoners three times over. Condemned to remain within a safe bit of territory, their postcode, they might as well be in a maximum security jail. Condemned to be out of work because school failed them. Condemned to eat and drink crap, and know no better because they have no money unless they deal in drugs.
How can so many older people, who have so much, turn their backs on this huge problem? Every one of these kids needs support within their community. Local businesses and banks used to adopts litter bins and roundabouts. Now they need to adopt thousands of kids. Otherwise, the gang culture will continue to ruin young lives and I guarantee there will be more rioting.
Banned by Abercrombie& Fitch? Sounds great
Mike Sorrentino, a huge star on US television, is the buffed male bimbo from the downmarket Jersey Shore series who's made millions from lucrative endorsement deals. You'd think that sportswear manufacturers would be queuing to sign "the Sitch", as he's known to millions of fans, as a brand ambassador, but one snooty company is offering to pay him NOT to wear its stuff as it considers his image detrimental to its brand.
Abercrombie & Fitch makes preppy casualwear, and has been accused of pretty ruthless tactics when recruiting its sales assistants. One female employee took the company to court in London when it suggested that her prosthetic arm made her more suitable for a job in the stockroom, out of sight, and it boasted of recruiting glamorous models as sales staff.
As for chic – have you ever visited an Abercrombie & Fitch store in the US? It's hardly Hermès or Gucci – piles of over-sized T-shirts, baggy jeans, distressed cotton and skimpy tops. Hard to believe there's anything classy about this stuff. I bet we'll find that A&F dreamt up its potty "ban" on Mike Sorrentino as a marketing strategy to boost sales in an overcrowded marketplace.
Farmer Alex's cheese? No whey!
Blur bass player Alex James is passionate about cheese, and has spent the past few years writing and broadcasting the saga of his long struggle to develop a great new variety in the Cotswolds. I was really looking forward to trying his new range, which is about to go on sale at Asda.
How has Alex brought cheese into the modern world? By packaging it in bread-shaped slices and flavouring it with tomato ketchup, tikka masala, and salad cream, which represents all that is repulsive about British food.
Last month I bought goats' cheese, tasty Comté and Brebis in a market in France. Now I'm home, I'm offered ketchup slices. And are we too lazy or unskilled even to cut cheese these days?
Jeremy Irons really Borgia
Jeremy Irons made a bit of a fool of himself the other week with his stupid remarks about touching women's bottoms, but at least he got a huge amount of coverage for his latest telly outing as the star of Sky Atlantic's expensive new historical drama The Borgias.
Written and directed by Neil Jordan, this is risible stuff. Jeremy turns in his usual tortured performance as the Pope who is busily shagging a very young mistress, Giulia Farnese. Sadly it wasn't even remotely erotic, which was a bit of a disappointment.
These days Mr Irons is about as sexy as an antique clothes peg. One critic complained that the brothel scene could have been shown on Blue Peter. It reminded me just how naughty and nasty the BBC's I, Claudius was, all those years ago.