David Cameron was a member of a gang. As were Boris Johnson, Sebastian Gregg (Goldman Sachs) and Ewen Fergusson (Herbert Smith). In fact, the Bullingdon Club is quite similar to the rioters in some ways – for example, as it is a tradition for the members to trash premises, property owners fear them just as much. But, to be fair, there are some differences: such as identifying members with specially made tailcoats instead of hoods and the consumption of Bollinger instead of Lambrini.
It seems that if you can afford a private school education then you can go ahead and riot as much as you like. And then, when you have used your economic standing to buy your way into OxBridge, and force yourself into a position of power, you can continue to live above the law and above the poor. It doesn’t even matter if you fiddle your expenses and commit fraud against the nation; you’re too powerful to be evicted from your home… and probably your second one too.
Mind you, maybe kicking people out their homes is justified. I mean, the rioters did commit the cardinal sin of being frustrated with their lack of social opportunities and pre-determined hierarchical place. In fact, the money saved from inconveniences like housing the poor could be useful in covering the cost of the inevitable rise in the prison population. So much for hug a hoodie – it seems the post-election mantra is now ‘incarcerate a hoodie’.
It is blindingly obvious that kicking people out of their council homes is going to cost more – both economically and socially – in the long run. But apart from that, do we really want to be aiming for a US-style ‘retain not reform’ approach towards the criminal section of the underclass? The Americans have used zero-tolerance punishment on the poor for decades – and all they have to show for it is increasing gang membership and the largest penal population in the world.
Instead, how about the politicians – and the rest of righteous middle-class England – stop being so damn ignorant and face the fact that these riots had a cause (and, no, I don’t mean the explanation offered in mainstream media that anti-social behavior is somehow inherent in under-privileged people.) We live in a society where elites flaunt commodities (and politicians flaunt holidays to Tuscan villas) in the face of the poor who are then encouraged to acquire the same ends whilst being denied any realistic social means to achieve them. Keeping people off the street by kicking them onto the streets is simply ludicrous and will only lead to an extension in the rich/poor divide. These policies will not only fail to stop disorder happening again; it will almost certainly provoke a repeat.