An Unnecessary Role

embracing false choices


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When I recently got back from holiday (very nice thank you for asking), it was to my profound satisfaction and joy that I found a new article from Tony Blair (look, I get the post-holiday blues, ok?). In a measured, precise approach to “the riots”, Blair swats aside all the verbiage and hand-wringing of previous weeks and gets down to business.

However, the big cause is the group of young, alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream and who live in a culture at odds with any canons of proper behaviour. And here’s where I don’t agree with much of the commentary. In my experience, they are an absolutely specific problem that requires deeply specific solutions.

In the age of the Big Society and the Promise of Britain, it is strangely radical to talk of problems that need solving, rather than causes that need understanding. In his own way, Blair has become that thing he probably resented when in power – the commentator able to craft a neat solution without the inconvenient responsibility of having to carry it out. But his analysis of the problems created by particular chaotic families is persuasive, and, as he freely admits, not exactly new. And it’s even reinforced by something his most frothing critics would never credit him with – a bit of self-reflection.

In 1993, following James Bulger’s murder, I made a case in very similar terms to the one being heard today about moral breakdown in Britain. I now believe that speech was good politics but bad policy. Focus on the specific problem and we can begin on a proper solution. Elevate this into a high- faluting wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally and we will depress ourselves unnecessarily, trash our own reputation abroad and, worst of all, miss the chance to deal with the problem in the only way that will work.

Notebooks out, wannabes, school is in session.


Written by samelliot

August 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

Posted in "The Riots", Labour, London

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