Why, oh why? The week the pundits ran riot

The disorder of recent days has provoked a torrent of pontificating from the nation's opinion formers. Here is a sample from across the political spectrum

Tom Peck,Alice-Azania Jarvis
Friday 12 August 2011 00:00
A police officer in riot gear stands near a burning car in Hackney
A police officer in riot gear stands near a burning car in Hackney

Ken Livingstone (on Newsnight)

If you're making massive cuts, there's always the potential for this sort of revolt against that...

For the first time a generation are growing up completely uncertain about their future. They're not certain they can get a job. They're not certain they can get a home, and they see politicians who don't engage with them.

You can't get over the fact that the last time we had rioting like this was in the early 1980s when we were in the depths of recession. You've got to give the young generation the hope of something for them.

Plan B (writing in The Sun)

I deserve the things I have because I work hard for them.

Kids on the street aren't going to see that.

They're going to see I've got more money than them, they're going to feel like they deserve to take it.

The real thing that's going to help these kids is some knowledge and some education about how to live, because what's the point of getting arrested and put into jail for a pair of new trainers or a f****** microwave?

This is definitely because of the way the Government and this country – us as a society, as a nation – have treated the underclass. Not giving them the support they need.

I don't think that they're doing this as anger towards the Government. I don't think that they're smart enough to even realise that could be an excuse.

I think they're doing it because they want some free stuff because they ain't got any and they're angry at that.

They're angry at not being able to buy the things they want to buy because they can't integrate into society properly, so they feel stuck and alone, with criminal records, no future in the white man's world.

Camila Batmanghelidjh (Founder of the Place2Be and Kids Company, in The Independent)

Young, intelligent citizens of the ghetto seek an explanation for why they are at the receiving end of bleak Britain, condemned to a darkness where their humanity is not even valued enough to be helped. Savagery is a possibility within us all. Some of us have been lucky enough not to have to call upon it for survival; others, exhausted from failure, can justify resorting to it.

Our leaders still speak about how protecting the community is vital. The trouble is, the deal has gone sour. The community has selected who is worthy of help and who is not. In this false moral economy where the poor are described as dysfunctional, the community fails. One dimension of this failure is being acted out in the riots: the lawlessness is, suddenly, there for all to see. Less visible is the perverse insidious violence delivered through legitimate societal structures. Check out the price of failing to care.

It costs money to care. But it also costs money to clear up riots, savagery and antisocial behaviour. I leave it to you to do the financial and moral sums.

Reveal (rapper, on Newsnight)

The real question that should be asked is why are these kids behaving in this way? The police force rule through the use of force. The police have systematically acted as the biggest gang in the UK and now they are being dealt with by young people in the same way.

Harriet Harman (on Newsnight)

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 (Educational Maintenance Allowance paid to encourage 16-to-18-year olds to encourage them to stay in full-time education) being taken away.

When you've got jobs being cut and youth unemployment rising and they are shutting the jobcentre in Camberwell – well, you should think again about that because this is going to cost money. All of this does not help reduce the deficit.

Christina Patterson ( The Independent)

Race didn't cause these riots, but it played a part. Why else do you get three black men talking about them on Newsnight, when you almost never see a black man talking about anything on Newsnight? And asked questions about "the black community", as if the people who had had their livelihoods destroyed would have the same views on anything as the 12-year-olds waving iron bars?

Too many black men have been killed by the police. Too many black men and women have been treated like criminals when they're not. This is not the cause of these riots, but it's there in the mix.

Seumas Milne (The Guardian)

If this week's eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago? The criminal classes, as the Victorians branded those at the margins of society, are always with us, after all. And if it has no connection with Britain's savage social divide and ghettoes of deprivation, why did it kick off in Haringey and not Henley?

Zoe Williams (The Guardian)

Just because there is no political agenda on the part of the rioters doesn't mean the answer isn't rooted in politics... This is what happens when people don't have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can't afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it.

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (in the House of Lords)

"Over the last two decades, many would agree that our educational philosophy at every level has been more and more dominated by an instrumentalist model; less and less concerned with a building of virtue, character and citizenship... one of the most troubling features, as I think all would agree, of recent days, has been the spectacle of not only young people, but even children of school age, children as young as seven taking part in the events we have seen. And surely, high on our priorities as we respond to these circumstances must be the question of what we are to do in terms not only of rebuilding the skills of parenting in some of our communities, but in rebuilding education itself."

Paul Routledge (Daily Mirror)

The mayhem erupted overnight, but it has been building for years... I blame the pernicious culture of hatred around rap music, which glorifies violence and loathing of authority (especially the police but including parents), exalts trashy materialism and raves about drugs.

The important things in life are the latest smart phone, fashionable trainers and jeans and idiot computer games. No wonder stores selling them were priority looting targets.

David Miliband (writing in the Evening Standard)

These were individual criminal acts. But the question we have to ask is why we have people in our society who are willing to go out and commit these acts? How do we have people among us who think it is OK to go and harm and despoil their communities in this way? Just as excusing criminality on the basis of social factors is quite wrong, we would be failing Londoners if we did not seek to understand and remedy the deeper reasons for it.

Darryn Lyons (founder of the Big Pictures agency, on Sky TV)

All of these factors – a cauldron of anger, poverty and disrespect – if not put under control could be the start of total anarchy unless the Government takes decisive action. This whole situation began with the politicians neglecting to take proper control of the bankers and our economy. Let's just hope [it] now moves quickly to take control of this situation.

Allison Pearson (Daily Telegraph)

There's no use blaming the police; it's the parents, stupid... Of the 805 violent looters arrested, how many come from homes without a father? I reckon we can guess the answer...

Behind these riots lies a vast, endemic crisis in the raising of British children...

Given limitless freedom, and without adults to show them better, children will run riot. That is the lesson of the past few days.

What our young people need is adults to stop abdicating authority. They need police to police, teachers to teach, parents to parent, politicians and clergy to give moral leadership, and, above all, they need more people like Pauline Pearce, the jazz-singing Jamaican grandmother who fearlessly took on rioters and saved a white man from the mob.

Christina Odone (Daily Telegraph)

The majority of rioters are gang members whose only loyalty is to the group and whose only authority figure is the toughest of the bunch. Like the overwhelming majority of youth offenders behind bars, these gang members have one thing in common: no father at home... rioters would not stop in their tracks if their local authority were to reinstate their library. They would, however, feel very differently about life and about themselves if their father were to spend time with them, cheer them on to do better, and warn them about bad friends and dangerous substances.

Jon Gaunt (ITV1's This Morning)

These results are the results of both Labour's and the Conservatives' governments allowing the police force to become a service [with] namby-pamby policing. We need tougher policing on our streets... The police are having to fight these yobbos with one politically correct arm up their back.

David Cameron

"For me, the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing that I have spoken about for years. It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel that the world owes something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities, and that their actions do not have consequences."

Danny Kruger (Financial Times)

London has an underclass (a hateful word to the people in it, but no worse, and more accurate, than "the poor"). To generalise brutally, they are un-nurtured, brought up in a microculture of neglect, erratic discipline, and love without its concomitant need for boundaries and good behaviour. Meanwhile the wider culture – that is us – has abandoned virtue and adopted the ethics of indifference, dressed as liberalism. We have substituted welfare payments for relationships, rights for love, and the sterile processes of the public sector for the warm morality of living communities.

Melanie Phillips (Daily Mail)

The violent anarchy that has taken hold of British cities is the all-too-predictable outcome of a three-decade liberal experiment which tore up virtually every basic social value. The married two-parent family, educational meritocracy, punishment of criminals, national identity, enforcement of the drugs laws and many more fundamental conventions were all smashed by a liberal intelligentsia hell-bent on a revolutionary transformation of society. Those of us who warned over the years that they were playing with fire were sneered at and smeared as right-wing nutters who wanted to turn the clock back to some mythical golden age. Now we can see what they have brought about in the unprecedented and horrific scenes of mob violence, with homes and businesses going up in flames, and epidemic looting.

Clive Crook (The Atlantic)

The cultural conditions for this orgy of criminality have long been apparent on the streets of many British town centres every Friday and Saturday night: areas simply given over to menacing gangs of feral teenagers roaming around as if they own the place, which they do.

David Aaronovitch (The Times)

A certain kind of right-winger fits the riots into the pattern of moral and social decline that she imagines has afflicted British society since the 1950s ... Vicars blame materialism. I ... rail against identity-obscuring head and facewear and am inclined to demand more CCTV and a rethink of the scrapping of identity cards.

Max Hastings (Daily Mail)

[The rioters] are essentially wild beasts... They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others. Their behaviour on the streets resembled that of the polar bear which attacked a Norwegian tourist camp last week. They were doing what came naturally and, unlike the bear, no one even shot them for it...

At the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call 'lives': they simply exist. Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community. They do not watch royal weddings or notice Test matches or take pride in being Londoners or Scousers or Brummies.

Not only do they know nothing of Britain's past, they care nothing for its present. They have their being only in video games and street-fights, casual drug use and crime, sometimes petty, sometimes serious. The notions of doing a nine-to-five job, marrying and sticking with a wife and kids, taking up DIY or learning to read properly, are beyond their imaginations.

Kelvin MacKenzie (on Newsnight)

To try to politicise all this is absolute nonsense. These are vile people who have had no discipline at home, no discipline at school. They don't like police officers, they don't like the law. We should allow the army to protect our policemen, to protect our firefighters. There is nobody speaking for the majority. All we hear is about these scumbags on the street.

Shoot them. I would be in favour of shooting them. I would be in favour of plastic bullets.

Rio Ferdinand, @rioferdy5

This isn't a 'race' thing either this is about all of the youths out there + the powers that be finding a way to engage them into getting an education,working + building a life for themselves...

Piers Morgan, @piersmorgan

This is Britain's wake-up call. Time for action, Mr Cameron. Your country needs you to wield the stick then the carrot.

Wayne Rooney, @WayneRooney

These riots are nuts why would people do this to there own country. Own city. This is embarrassing for our country. Stop please

Professor Green Rapper, @professorgreen

Neither my music or that of my peers is to blame for society and its faults. we didn't create the tiers.

Lily Allen, @MrsLRCooper

People aren't born evil. Yes, these kids might be past the point of help, but we need to take responsibility for future generations.

Joey Barton, @Joey7barton

Violence always comes from a place of misunderstanding and low to zero self-worth, well mine did anyway...#educatethem

Billy Braggr

I'm in US, appalled by reports of violence and destruction at home. You can't change the world by smashing up branches of JD Sports.

Sally Bercow, @SallyBercow

While I condemn riots utterly I do agree that there are underlying causes.... :)

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